Praying Through the Bible #84
TEXT: Jeremiah 36:1-7
From the last two messages in this series, we are already familiar with the context of this passage. Jeremiah is God’s man prophesying to the rebellious nation of Judah which, thus far, has refused to listen to God’s call for repentance. Now, the Lord tells Jeremiah to write down all of the messages that he has delivered over the previous 23 years. Jeremiah has his scribe, Baruch, record these messages on parchment. Baruch was a member of an important family in Judah, and archaeologists say that in excavations around Jerusalem, they have found signet rings bearing Baruch’s name. The signet ring would have been dipped in hot wax or in ink and then stamped on the parchment in order to identify the writing as genuine.
As we see from this passage, the nation of Judah is still in rebellion against God, and God has warned them that judgment is coming in the form of being conquered and taken into captivity by Babylon. In fact, approximately a year before the events of chapter 36, the Babylonians had subdued Judah, and the first wave of captives — which consisted of the royalty and the members of the noble families including Daniel — had been marched off into the desert.
One would think that that alone would be enough to grab the attention of the children of Israel — to get them to see the error of their ways and get them to repent. And that is what God calls them to do. In light of our focus on prayer, let’s look at this passage and see the proper response to God’s chastisement.
1. Notice the two sides of God. When God tells Jeremiah to begin writing down his prophecies, He says, “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” We see here God’s desire for the children of Israel to repent of their sins and turn back to Him. God wants to forgive them of their iniquity and their sin.
Now, this is the very same God who told Jeremiah three times to no longer pray for his people because they were too far gone in their sinful ways. This is the very same God who said He would allow the Babylonians to conquer them, put them in chains, and force them into captivity. This is the very same God who gave Jeremiah fiery pronouncements of impending doom for the past 23 years. Yet, we see in this verse that even though the people have not taken heed to all of that, God’s desire is still to forgive and bless them if they would just forsake their sins and turn back to Him.
To understand this fully, we must come to grips with the two sides of God. Some people think that God is all loving and all merciful all of the time. Others think that God is hard and eager to judge us all of the time. However, in this passage, we see the reality — God is both. In verse 2, God expresses his desire to show love and mercy to His people if they would repent. However, in verse 7, we read that “great is the anger and the fury that the Lord hath pronounced against this people.”
God’s love and God’s wrath go together. In the midst of our sin and our disobedience, God is both loving in His desire to show us mercy and He is righteous in His requirement that sin be punished. D.A. Carson wrote these words: “There is nothing intrinsically impossible about wrath and love being directed toward the same individual or people at once. God in His perfections must be wrathful against His rebel image-bearers, for they have offended Him; God in His perfections must be loving toward His rebel image-bearers, for He is that kind of God… Do you wish to see God’s love? Look at the Cross. Do you wish to see God’s wrath? Look at the Cross.”
God expresses the same love and wrath toward us today. As with the children of Israel, God wishes to show us mercy even when we sin, however, if we do not repent and turn to Him, God will have to judge us. Thus, it would behoove us to repent and turn to Him while we have a chance. And that is what we are going to look at next week.