The Agony of Love

“Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 2:19)

People disappoint. God understands that gut-wrenching condition perfectly. His chosen ones regularly fell short, broke his heart, spurned his love. His ache and agony for his people as they tripped, fell over their sin, and refused to repent of their rebellion is a chord that runs through Jeremiah and, much later, reverberates through the Gospels.

Jesus’ parable of the loving Father with the prodigal son is an echo of God’s breaking heart: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness and became worthless…for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:5,13).

The sound of Christ condemning the Pharisees for their hypocrisy sounds like Jeremiah’s prophecies of warnings to God’s rebellious Israelites: “Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart…They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns; they have tired themselves out but profit nothing. They shall be ashamed of their harvests because of the fierce anger of the LORD” (Jeremiah 12:1b-2&13).

God weeping for Jerusalem’s indifference to his love was heard long before Christ walked on earth: “So I made the whole house of Israel, and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen…But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart’” (Jeremiah 13:11 & 18:12).

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Jehovah had been seeking his children for a long time before God took on flesh. He called, but they refused to listen. He begged, but they ignored his love. He warned of impending destruction, but they laughed in his face and continued in their folly. Not much has changed. Mercifully, God hasn’t changed! He is still seeking, calling, saving, and he won’t quit! His love is like that! It agonizes for us still.

Elizabeth A. Mitchell

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