The more I read and study the Bible the more I find the love of God to be beyond imagination. The children of Israel never stopped complaining and rebelling against God’s directions and leadings throughout the wilderness experience. Yet God never gave up on them or turned his back on them. Once they entered the promised land there was nothing but idol worship, rebellion, and indifference towards God. The final insult was their demanding a king to rule over them instead of the presence of God.
Over and over Israel rejected the voice of God’s prophets and instead put their trust in treaties with pagan nations instead. This, of course, led to division and civil war and eventually as these powerful nations turned on Israel they found themselves caught between the Devil and the deep blue Sea. No matter how much they depended upon or tried to please one nation, another would take offense and attack Israel. Eventually, Israel spiralled so far downhill that they faced the real possibility of going into captivity and losing their homeland.
Instead of abandoning the people God sent them prophets to plead with them to repent, turn around from their evil ways, and come back to Him. Reading through Jeremiah we soon get the point of why he was called the weeping prophet. As God lists the sins of Israel and Judah we want to cry with him. How could these people end up burning their children alive to pagan gods and bowing down to images made of wood and stone when they had experienced the grace and love of God throughout their history?
Yet, for all their sins and all their indifference and even deliberate sin against God, He loved them all the same.
3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
4 I will build you up again,
and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
and go out to dance with the joyful.
5 Again you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
and enjoy their fruit.
6 There will be a day when watchmen cry out
on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’” Jeremiah 31:3-6
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” How is it possible that God could say this to such a rowdy and rebellious people? Ah! That’s the nature of God’s love – it is beyond explainable.
In the New Testament we see it at the cross where Jesus carries out the ultimate act of love on behalf of the Father’s love, but the reason for that love goes way beyond our imagination. You and I are not really much different from Israel. We sometimes compare ourselves to people who act out more than us and think we aren’t so bad. But the truth of the matter is we spend most of our lives fooling ourselves about how wicked we really are. I use the word “wicked” on purpose because that is what we are.
I have become so tired of the perfectionist movement within Christianity. People striving to live perfect sinless lives and then bragging about it. Is that not sin in itself? Back to Jeremiah again for a moment; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 The New Living Translation states, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Romans 3:23 couldn’t be clearer, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
The whole point of the Bible, the reason it exists, is to inform us that we are not the people we think we are. We are sinful, rebellious, and full of wickedness. Even if you could live all your life without committing an act of sin you still are wicked and sinful because of your nature. Remember, sin is not so much about actions but rather the condition of humanity. The Bible points out that it is because of our sinfulness that we need a redeemer.
If we could reach perfection or live beyond the constraints of our sinful natures and sinful actions we would be like Adam and Eve striving for Godhood, wanting to be as God. And that in itself is sin because God is one and there is no other like God.
In Micah 7 we have the gospel in a nutshell.
18 “There is no other god like you, O Lord; you forgive the sins of your people who have survived. You do not stay angry forever, but you take pleasure in showing us your constant love.
19 You will be merciful to us once again. You will trample our sins underfoot and send them to the bottom of the sea!
20 You will show your faithfulness and constant love to your people, the descendants of Abraham and of Jacob, as you promised our ancestors long ago. Micah 7:18-20.
There is no other God like Him—why? Because God forgives the sins of His people, He does not stay angry forever, and takes pleasure in showing us constant love. But, there is even more, He “will trample our sins underfoot and send them to the bottom of the sea.” And Micah still isn’t finished, “You will show your faithfulness and constant love to your people.”
What a picture of God! How can any human dare to pronounce that they have reached that Godlikeness in their lives? Instead of striving for the unattainable goal of perfection let us instead worship and adore the one who is perfect. Let us rejoice in the wonder that no matter how far we have fallen, no matter how sinful our heart, God is always waiting to receive us and take us home.
In the story of the Prodigal Son the Father sees His son a long way off and comes running to him and even before the boy can blurt out how sorry he is for his rebellion the Father throws His cloak of righteousness over him. He puts His ring upon the boy’s finger accepting him as His heir and His Son and He puts sandals upon his feet as a sign that he is no slave, no servant but instead, the son of the Father.
Instead of ringing our hands every day over the progress of our sanctification let us instead rejoice that we are saved men and women by the grace, the love, and the wonder of God. Let us lift our hands in thanksgiving and worship for the mercy and salvation that has poured out upon us, in spite of our rebellion, by a gracious God.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how far away from God you’ve fallen. Just bow your head and tell God, like the prodigal son, you want to come home, and God will cover you with His cloak of forgiveness, love, salvation, and peace. Yes, things in your life will change, old ways will drop away and new loves and actions will fill your life instead. You will grow as a Christian but you will never be more saved than the moment you called out to God, “I accept your love.”
Let’s go back to Jeremiah 31:3 one last time. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” God’s love is everlasting and it is an “unfailing kindness.” But it is even more than this; it is a love that draws us to Him. When we give God a chance, when we open our heart to Him we will never be disappointed. His love will draw us close to Him and that changes everything.