God of Judgment OR God of Mercy

This was my devotional for the September 2010 newsletter from our Reynoldsville church…

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Jeremiah 9:3-9 (New Living Translation) God explaining why Judah ought to be destroyed:
“My people bend their tongues like bows to shoot out lies. They refuse to stand up for the truth. They only go from bad to worse. They do not know me,” says the LORD. “Beware of your neighbor! Don’t even trust your brother! For brother takes advantage of brother, and friend slanders friend. They all fool and defraud each other; no one tells the truth. With practiced tongues they tell lies; they wear themselves out with all their sinning. They pile lie upon lie and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,” says the LORD. Therefore, this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: “See, I will melt them down in a crucible and test them like metal. What else can I do with my people? For their tongues shoot lies like poisoned arrows. They speak friendly words to their neighbors while scheming in their heart to kill them. Should I not punish them for this?” says the LORD. “Should I not avenge myself against such a nation?”

As I write this devotional, the Mix house is in full swing getting ready to head back to school. There are preparations to make and things to buy: new clothes, crayons, pencils, a bookbag, and more. But ultimately, the most needed preparation for school cannot be purchased at a store: an eagerness to learn. As my son begins first grade, there is an abundance of that commodity, so we’re just about set!

This morning though, this idea of being an eager learner came back to me while getting ready to have my own devotions. I try hard to NOT have my own personal devotional reading of the Bible be the same as searching the Bible in preparation for a sermon or a Bible study, so as I poured my coffee and headed to the table I was thinking: “OK God, is there some passage you want to lead me to this morning?” And as I laid my Bible down on the table, it fell open to the ninth chapter of Jeremiah.

I started reading through the chapter and was literally drawn to the short little Hebrew poem in verses 23 and 24:

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love

and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,

and that I delight in these things.
I, the LORD, have spoken!’”

God warns that there isn’t a good enough reason in ourselves to boast to others. The only reason we ever really have to boast is that we know Him! And then He gives us another peak at what He’s truly like: a God of never failing love and mercy who will none-the-less make sure there is justice and righteousness. By our choices and actions, we determine which way He’ll respond to us: mercy & forgiveness for those who have repented of their sin and judgment in order to establish justice for those who do not.

Did you catch that? God WANTS to be known to you and to me as a God of mercy and forgiveness MORE than as a God of judgment!

The phenomenal thing about this little poem about God’s real desires is that it follows a very hard passage (Jeremiah 9:3-9) where He is laying down the law so to speak. It’s like He’s in a courtroom detailing for the jury (which is also Him) why judgment and destruction are appropriate for the people of Judah based on these horrible actions they’ve committed.

THAT’s when He throws in this reminder that even though they may deserve judgment and vengeance, HIS hope is that they will repent, turn their back on their evil intentions, and ask for forgiveness. Because God would rather be gracious and merciful.

And in the midst of this I am reminded it’s not just our school kids that need an eagerness to listen and to learn… it’s ALL of us!

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