Restoration and ReturnSaturday 05 September 2015
Some notes on David Parker’s address on Friday night of the Bible Week. The key texts are Jeremiah 30:1–10, James 2:13 and Habbakuk 3:1–2.
In the midst of Jeremiah’s unrelenting and utterly piercing prophetic judgement against Judah’s sin, the Lord also speaks to His people about a future of promise and the hope for restoration. “In wrath remember mercy” the prophet Habakkuk prayed (Hab 3:2). The Lord’s answer through Jeremiah in chapters 30–33, known as ‘The Book of Comfort’ is a resounding “yes, I will remember mercy”.
When we are confronted with the consequence of our sin and the destructiveness of our path, we experience the just hostility of God against what is false (“wrath”), but it is wrapped up as discipline with the offer of mercy. Jeremiah speaks to the people on the Lord’s behalf about the hope and promise of restoration after crushing failure, telling them to counter fear and despair with faith and expectation of restored:
Purpose and place: Clearly the people have lost their homelands, their nation. They have been driven from their land which is an utter catastrophe. There is no promise without place in an agrarian society in the ancient world and you are vulnerable to all kinds of negative things. This promise of place comes as a lifeline, that there is life beyond disaster. This never happens to other displaced peoples in ancient history but Judah will come back in future generations. God says through Jeremiah that they are going to come back but his purpose would be worked out for them in a different way.
And for us too, our place and purpose are intertwined. Place is not just somewhere to be defended, nor is it somewhere where we can separate ourselves from a world going to hell. We are placed and blessed because God has a purpose for us.
Freedom and responsibility: ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them. Instead, they will serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.’ Jeremiah 30: 8–9
Here we see the messianic thread that winds through the book. David is dead but serving the Davidic king Jesus will be like serving God himself. He’s saying, you’re not free to simply be free but to take responsibility.
When a person loses their freedom one of the greatest aspects of their suffering is to lose the ability to be responsible. This ability to be responsible is attached to the new covenant. We are set free; forgiven; born again; God sends his Spirit into our life; he gives us gifts – all so that we can make a difference and change the way things are in the world.
In recent years a staggering amount of resources have gone into discovering what makes human beings happy. In the end, their findings agree with the Bible. If you reach for happiness and only serve yourself, you won’t find it. Contentment lies in making someone else better off. As Christians we get both!
Justice and security: Jeremiah tells the people that they will get justice; that those who devour them are going to be devoured. This the most basic scale of justice. ‘If we’re going to get ours they’re going to get theirs!’
What’s really on offer in the promise of restoration to come is a new scale of justice. We won’t get what we deserve but instead we will get mercy. In this new scale, I should want you to get justice too. But we don’t, do we? We don’t want others to get mercy. Jesus hits the point home with the story of the man with the unpayable debt refusing to show mercy even though it has been shown to him (Matt 18:22–34). “. . . judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” James 2:13
Even if we could live by this scale of justice the world would be a better place, but we are called to an even higher scale of justice that Jesus lived by. He experienced injustice and gave mercy. There is no security without justice. For the people the promise of having justice in the future promised security. In Christ we have a security that transcends anything the world can throw at us.