Tough Love

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 15:10-21; 16; 17:1-18

When Jeremiah first began to preach, the people insisted, "I am innocent; he is not angry with me…. I have not sinned." (Jer. 2:35). God pleaded with them, "Only acknowledge your guilt" (Jer. 3:13). Confronted with the truth, they finally realized that what they were doing was wrong. "O Lord, we acknowledge our wickedness…; we have indeed sinned against you" (Jer. 14:20). Nevertheless, God was still angry. Even though they had changed the way they viewed their sin, they were still unwilling to change their behavior and choose the right way. God had instructed them, "Stand at the crossroads and look; …ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls" (Jer. 6:16). They stood at the crossroads, looked at the good way, and said, "We will not walk in it" (Jer. 6:16).

They thought they could cleverly hide their deeds, enjoy their little secrets, and avoid any negative consequences. But God said, "My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes" (16:17). "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve" (17:10). God knowingly said of his people, "they greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet" (Jer. 14:10). For over 800 years, God had patiently "warned them again and again, saying, 'Obey me.' But they did not listen or pay attention…" (Jer. 11:7-8).

They're still not listening. They still won't obey. Like a parent who has tried everything to bring a wayward child to her senses, God finally says, "I can no longer show compassion…. I will bring bereavement and destruction on my people, for they have not changed their ways" (Jer. 15:6-7). "I will show you no favor" (16:13). It is time for God to demonstrate "tough love."

Still not totally convinced that they have done anything all that wrong, the people ask, "Why has the Lord decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the Lord our God?" (16:10). God answers, "Each of you is following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying me" (16:12; c.f. 15:7).

Though God must punish his people now, he promises that the days are coming when he will restore them (16:14-15). He gives them a vision of what their lives can become when they finally choose to walk in the good way, where they will find rest for their souls. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit" (17:7-8).

I stand at the crossroads and look. Where is the good way? Which road will lead to peace? Which way is God asking me to turn? Will I listen? Will I obey?