17 Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 18 You show steadfast love to the thousandth generation, but repay the guilt of parents into the laps of their children after them, O great and mighty God whose name is the Lord of hosts, 19 great in counsel and mighty in deed; whose eyes are open to all the ways of mortals, rewarding all according to their ways and according to the fruit of their doings. 20 You showed signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all humankind, and have made yourself a name that continues to this very day. 21 You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror; 22 and you gave them this land, which you swore to their ancestors to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23 and they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or follow your law; of all you commanded them to do, they did nothing. Therefore you have made all these disasters come upon them. 24 See, the siege ramps have been cast up against the city to take it, and the city, faced with sword, famine, and pestilence, has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has happened, as you yourself can see. 25 Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans.
The author of Jeremiah writes of God’s promises and actions in a dualistic nature: God shows steadfast love yet enacts revenge generations later; God brought the people out of bondage in Egypt, only to send them into exile in Babylon 800 years later. Jeremiah blames the Israelites for their own downfall because they did not live according to God’s commands.
Jeremiah describes God as the almighty creator who begets heaven and earth—God frees the Israelites from enslavement and then sends them to captivity when they disobey. But you can argue that God set the Israelites up for failure. Laws are hard to follow—we struggle with them today thousands of years later. We take the Lord’s name in vain; worship money and success beyond our love for God and at the expense of the people we love; we are overcome by pettiness and let our vanity blind us to God’s glory. And maybe we are each living in our own kind of exile right now, too, but instead of geographic exile from our homes, it’s an exile of the heart–separating us from the full potential of our hearts.
God’s law is a path by which we may develop relationship with a loving God. We may find the commandments redundant or constraining, but they are meant to be freeing. To free yourself from sin allows you to find peace and love in God’s presence and share that peace with others.
Here’s a prayer for today: Dear God, help me follow your commandments not so that I may be restrained by them, but so that I may be freed by them. Amen.
Today’s devotional comes from Immanuel member Liz Pruchnicki.