Sometimes a detail in a Bible passage really hits home. I was reading Jeremiah 3 and was struck by the fatherly feeling expressed in verse 19. It’s easy to forget that our God who is inestimably powerful, who rules the heavens and the earth with splendour and majesty, has the heart — the very real heart — of a father. He loves as a father and he is not beyond feeling.
19“I myself said,
“‘How gladly would I treat you like sons
and give you a desirable land,
the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’
I thought you would call me ‘Father’
and not turn away from following me.
20 But like a woman unfaithful to her husband,
so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,”
declares the Lord.
21 A cry is heard on the barren heights,
the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel,
because they have perverted their ways
and have forgotten the Lord their God.
22 “Return, faithless people;
I will cure you of backsliding.”
“Yes, we will come to you,
for you are the Lord our God.
23 Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills
and mountains is a deception;
surely in the Lord our God
is the salvation of Israel.
The Father genuinely does feel the pain of his people turning away. “I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.” Here is a father reeling from the reality that those he has loved, blessed, provided for, have shunned him in the most callous, cold-hearted way. The rejection cuts him to the heart.
Surely the God of justice, glory, power and might would have every right to give up on this unfaithful people, to cut them off from his fatherly love? Surely he owes them nothing, having given so much already? Yet …
“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.”
No. He still gives; he still loves, at great cost to himself, in order to win back wandering hearts. The promise given here has nothing to do with the worthiness of the people and everything to do with the fatherly, self-giving heart of their Lord. But what we’re seeing here is not weakness — a push-over father at the mercy of his ungrateful children. Nor is it neediness in a lonely father. No our God has no need for us and no need for our worship. The Father lives in perfect joy and oneness with God the Son and God the Spirit. What we’re seeing here is a glimpse of the glorious heart of God — of the fatherly heart of God.
Great God, in public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood. Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the
realm of unceasing praise. Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worshipping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.
I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice. I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the least sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give Thee no rest until Christ shall reign supreme within me in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.
Heavenly Father, if I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty,
make my heart prize Thy love, know it, be constrained by it, though I be denied all
blessings. It is Thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants, for by these trials I see my
sins, and desire severance from them. Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows,
temptations, if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil, and be delivered from it with
gratitude to Thee, acknowledging this as the highest testimony of Thy love.
When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin He became more dear to
me than sin had formerly been; His kindly rule replaced sin’s tyranny. Teach me to
believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued I must not only labour to overcome it,
but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it, and He must become to me more than
vile lust had been; that His sweetness, power, life may be there. Thus I must seek a grace
from Him contrary to sin, but must not claim it apart from Himself.
When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me that in myself I am
a dying, condemned wretch, but in Christ I am reconciled and live; that in myself I find
insufficiency and no rest, but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace; that in myself I am
feeble and unable to do good, but in Christ I have ability to do all things. Though now I
have His graces in part, I shall shortly have them perfectly in that state where Thou wilt
show Thyself fully reconciled, and alone sufficient, efficient, loving me completely, with
sin abolished. O Lord, hasten that day.
This is true. In Jesus.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.