Jeremiah 3:19-22 (the message)
“I planned what I’d say if you returned to me: ‘Good! I’ll bring you back into the family. I’ll give you choice land, land that the godless nations would die for.’ And I imagined that you would say, ‘Dear Father!’ and would never again go off and leave me. But no luck. Like a false-hearted woman walking out on her husband, you, the whole family of Israel, have proven false to me.” God’s decree.
The sound of voices comes drifting out of the hills, the unhappy sound of Israel’s crying, Israel lamenting the wasted years, never once giving her God a thought.
“Come back, wandering children! I can heal your wanderlust!”
“We’re here! We’ve come back to you. You’re our own true God!”
As I read this yesterday morning I thought how much it sounded like a love story. And then I realized it is.
A love-sick Creator pining away for His people. God planning what He will say when those He longs for return to Him…Imagining this sweet reunion between Creator and created.
From my own life experience, I can honestly share that I imagined something quite different while I lived through my wanderlust. I knew, like the people of Israel, I had abandoned Him. I became false-hearted and hard. But beneath it all, over top of it all, and in between it all I was so ashamed. I couldn’t see how to face Him. Could only imagine myself sinking and slipping away beneath the shame and condemnation…the disappintment I had become…if I dared return to Him.
But then one Sunday, out of suffocating desperation, I slipped into a back row seat. Forgiveness was the message. Goodness. Within a few weeks I dared move a bit closer, in my heart and in my seat, and the music played…Better is one day in Your house, Better is one day in Your courts, Better is one day in Your house than thousands elsewhere…and like the people of Israel my tears were unstoppable, could be heard all around me, and I began lamenting the wasted years. So much of me gone…couldn’t go back…my First Love abandoned. And the lyrics pounded inside of me. For all the days I had spent “elsewhere,” it turned out there was in fact no place like His courts, His presence.
My God did just what I can now believe He had been planning every day of my wasted years…He told me how He was bringing me back into the family. In time He convinced me He still had a wonderful inheritance in mind for me. As I swallowed past the lump in my throat, a scratchy whisper made its way past my trembling lips…”Dear Father! I am here! I’ve come back to You! You are my true God!”
It’s an epic love story, my friends. This life of searching and choosing. And no matter how false we prove to be, no matter how many times we walk out on Him, no matter how long we stay away, the words God longs to speak to us remain on the tip of His tongue. Creator is the greatest lover of all. The greatest soul-filler. The most passionate pursuer.
Perhaps you wear the heavy cloak of shame. Perhaps you have worn it so long you barely notice the weight, so used to it you have become. Maybe you, like me, simply can’t dare to imagine Creator still wants you. After everything. After all this time. Yet herein lies His sin-wrenching, heart-mending message. You are His beloved. He wants you for all time. He waits to slip His gentle, nail-scarred hand around your heart as He slips off the heavy weight of shame. To stand with you on the horizon and point out the rich inheritance He has been saving all along, just for you.
The greatest love affair of all time. Creator of oceans deep and mountain peaks breathless for your return.