God’s Special Possession.
“I have abandoned my people, my special possession. I have surrendered my dearest ones to their enemies. My chosen people have roared at me like a lion of the forest, so I have treated them with contempt.” – Jeremiah 12:7-8 NLT
Sometimes when we read a book like Jeremiah, we become calloused towards God as we read of His anger, wrath, and warnings of eminent destruction. We begin to see God as a vindictive and vengeful deity with a short temper and unrealistic expectations on His people. And it’s easy to reach those conclusions when you read phrases like, “On all the bare hilltops, destroying armies can be seen. The sword of the Lord devours people from one end of the nation to the other. No one will escape!” (Jeremiah 12:12 NLT). Or how about, “I myself will strip you and expose you to shame”? (Jeremiah 13:26 NLT). It would be easy to build a case from those verses that God is uncaring and heartless, eager to bring destruction on the disobedient. But that would be a wrong conclusion and a dramatically false understanding of God.
Woven throughout all the messages of destruction are the clear indications of God’s unfailing love. He repeatedly refers to the nation of Judah with phrases like my people, my special possession, my dearest ones, my chosen people, and my vineyard. These are not the words of a dispassionate, uncaring deity with destruction on His mind. They are expressions of love and affection. God cares for His people. He longs to bless them, but because He is holy and righteous, He must deal righteously and justly with their sin. He cannot overlook their sins. He must do what is right. He must punish those who break the Law. But He does not do so joyfully. Like a proud and loving father, He is having to punish His disobedient children. He chose them from among all the nations of the world. He grew them from nothing – from one man, Abraham, to a nation that numbered in the millions. He had rescued them out of captivity in Egypt. He had led them across the wilderness for 40 years, tolerating their disobedience and sin, then leading them into the very land He had promised to give them. He gave them victories over superior foes. He provided houses and cities to live in that they didn’t have to build and vineyards they didn’t have to plant. He gave them His Law to guide all their daily activities and the sacrificial system to provide forgiveness and restoration when they failed to keep the Law. He had given them judges and prophets to guide and redirect them when they strayed. All along the way God had proven His love for them. But enough was enough. Their sin had become too great to ignore. Their rebellion had become intolerable.
But God was not pleased with what He was having to do. To prove it God gave Jeremiah a visual illustration of what this meant to Him. He had Jeremiah buy a linen loincloth. This was an intimate undergarment that was worn close to the skin. Jeremiah would have had to have sacrificed financially to buy a linen one. Then God told Jeremiah to put it on. But before long, Jeremiah was instructed to take it off and hide it in a hole in the rocks down by the river. After a long time had passed, Jeremiah was told to go and retrieve the linen loincloth. But it was ruined. It was rotting and falling apart – it was good for nothing. Jeremiah could not wear it any longer. It was useless, wasted, and no longer able to function as it had been intended. And God says, “This shows how I will rot away the pride of Judah and Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 13:9 NLT). God compares Judah to the loincloth. Because they refuse to listen to Him and stubbornly follow after their own desires and worship other gods, God says, “they will become like this loincloth — good for nothing! As a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me, says the Lord. They were to be my people, my pride, my glory — an honor to my name. But they would not listen to me” (Jeremiah 13:10-11 NLT). God had chosen the nation of Judah to have an intimate relationship with Him. They were to be His special possession. But instead of enjoying their place as His people, they turned against Him and turned to other gods instead. They spurned God’s love and attention. They refused His affection. They rejected His gracious favor. And how do you think God felt? God, who is perfect love, was spurned and rejected. He was rejected. The one who was love, was unloved. But God was not punishing them because they refused to love Him. He was punishing them because of their sin. And yet, in spite of their sin, God was not washing His hands of them altogether. He would bring punishment, but He would also bring restoration. Not only to Judah, but to the nations as well. He promised, “afterward I will return and have compassion on all of them. I will bring them home to their own lands again, each nation to its own possession” (Jeremiah 12:15 NLT). He will punish, but He will also have compassion. He will rebuke, but He will also restore. He is a holy, righteous, just, and demanding God, but He is also a loving, merciful, gracious, patient and forgiving God. All He asks is that we return and repent. He always stands ready to forgive and restore. Because that is who He is.
Father, even in your anger, You are loving. Everything You do is bathed in love – even when I can’t see it or understand it. You love us more than we could ever know. You discipline us in love. You restore us in love. Everything about You is love because You ARE love. Never let me lose sight of that fact. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men