Jeremiah 41 stands out to me as a chapter that takes things from bad to worse. The evil displayed by Ishmael toward the people at Mizpah is overwhelming at times. Reading this chapter had me at a loss for words as to how to even tie these events into Advent. During this season of glad tidings and cheer, this chapter is a reminder of the depths of human depravity and where we would be without Jesus. What Ishmael does here is so much more detestable because there seems to be no other motive than the proposition of the king of the Ammonites. The Ammonites opposed Babylon, and so they opposed Gedaliah, the governor Babylon had put in place over Judah. If we are to look at patterns in Scripture, it seems as though God’s people tend to find themselves in these downward spirals quite often. Yet we also see another pattern, one of God constantly calling his people back to himself and looking on them with compassion.
In Jeremiah 41, Judah can be seen in the midst of reaping the consequences of their sin because of their actions against God. For the sake of this devotion, though, I don’t want our focus to be on Judah’s situation. Yes, there are certainly implications to be made here about God’s position toward sin, but let us instead focus on the certainty of God’s promises to his people then and now. As I’m sure you would agree, it would have been easy during this disastrous season for Judah to take their vision off the promises that had been made to them. (How easily we also take our eyes off Jesus and let the worries of this world take hold.) But had Judah paid attention to Jeremiah’s full message, they would have known that God would still have compassion on them. Not only that, but God’s greatest act of compassion was still to come!
The sin on display in Jeremiah 41 is just like the sin we all have in our own hearts, sin that is deserving of punishment. But God would send his only Son to earth to die for the sins of all people, and ultimately his Son would take on the punishment that we deserve. Not only this, but as Wayne Splawn pointed out to me, Advent is a time when we look forward to Jesus’ second coming. We await the day when good triumphs over evil forever. God’s compassion is neverending. Let his Word testify to who he is, that we might believe it. Amen.