More than once as a kid, I received grace from my parents. Many more times than once.
But occasionally, I pushed it too far. I pushed them too far. In my stubbornness, rebelliousness, inability to learn, or to do what was truly best for me, I would put my parents in the unenviable position of having to issue forth appropriate punishment.
It seemed unbearable and even unfair at the time, but I can see it now, how I left them no choice. Well, they had no choice if they were going to continue to love and care for me. I guess they could have just kept letting me off the hook over and over, never allowing me to suffering consequences, punishment, or discipline for my stupid and self-defeating ways. But, see, they did loved me. Enough to do things that "hurt" me, in order to bless me.
Now, when I pushed them to this point, it did not matter what I said, what I tried, how much I repented or promised to change. It was too late. My true character had been exposed, and any loving parent would see clearly how it needed to be confronted, and hopefully transformed, in the fire of memorable and difficult punishment.
As we continue our way through the Old Testament book of Jeremiah in our 2020 Southwest Bible Project (join us!), we have arrived at the point where the remaining people of God - the Nation of Judah - have finally put God in the same position. Their stubbornness, rebelliousness, unfaithfulness, and inability to learn what was truly best for them was so incessant and consistent - for centuries, mind you - that God was left with no choice but to confront, and hopefully transform, then in the fire of memorable and difficult punishment.
It came in the form of exile. Do you know what exile is? Exile is defined as "the state of being barred from one's native country". God used King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to invade, overcome, and then enslave the people of Judah. They were taken from their home country and were forced to live in native land, in a culture that did not match with God's Kingdom values.
Today we look at Godís instructions to His people as they live in exile. While they were being punished, it is not the end. Endless exile was no more God's plan for them than endless grounding was my parent's plan for me.
I hope it is obvious why we are taking a closer look at this. Jesus' disciple Peter suggested that we Christians are living in a form of exile, too, when he said that we are "aliens and strangers" in this world. We are the imperfect†people of God, longing for our homeland, learning to live according to God's will, surrounded by a culture that cares little for that. How do we do it?