Project 119: Hope in the Upheaval | Jeremiah 16

 |  Project 119  |  Ben Winder

Jeremiah 16

“The Wages of Sin”

God takes sin seriously. God being holy and perfect invites us to be holy and perfect, and when we fall short of the glory of God—in action or inaction—we sin. The hard-to-hear news is that God cannot abide our sin. Our sin separates us from him. Cut off from the source of all life, we wither and die. As Paul bluntly reminded the Romans, “The wages of sin is death.”

Thanks be to God this is not the end of the story! Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah in today’s passage, the Lord makes clear the sins of his people. Having forsaken God and turned to other gods who could not offer life, God’s people have dug their own grave. Their sin has consequences. In this case, the bad news is that they would find themselves exiled; the Promised Land would be ripped from them as just punishment for not upholding their end of the covenant with the Lord.

This picture of God’s wrath might at first be uncomfortable for us. Yet if we understand the basis of God’s wrath being his holiness paired with his deep love for humanity, we come to see that exile is a tool God uses to draw his people back into covenant relationship. As theologian Jurgen Moltmann reminds us in his work The Crucified God, “The opposite of love is not wrath, but indifference.” God loves us too much to allow sin, death, and exile to be our end and will use whatever extraordinary tools required to demonstrate love and invite restored relationship.

Jeremiah points this out for us in revealing God’s promise to restore the people to the Promised Land. The punishment and the promise go hand in hand. The Lord will banish the people to exile as a just punishment for their sins, but they are not left without hope. The promise is that the Lord will work amid their exile to draw them back to the Promised Land, and even more importantly to reestablish their covenant relationship with him.

As we walk through this season of Advent, we are reminded that God still takes sin seriously. Yet God still loves us too deeply to allow us to wither and die in our sin. And so, in fulfillment of his promises, God made a way for us. While we were still sinners, while we were still in an exile of our own making, Christ came, lived, and died, and was resurrected to restore our covenant relationship with God. The promise the ancients awaited has been made manifest for us: God incarnate in Christ Jesus. The promise we await—the full restoration of all creation—is coming, too. Come, Lord Jesus, come.