For the week of January 23, 1999 / 6 Shevat 5759
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 10:1-13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28

I Am With You

"Do not fear, O Jacob my servant, for I am with you," declares the Lord (Jeremiah 46:28).

Jeremiah lived during an extremely difficult time in Israel's history. Much of his writings speak of judgement and destruction. From time to time we even find him struggling with the very message he was giving.

Yet God also brought words of hope and consolation through Jeremiah. It was during this time that Jerusalem was destroyed for the first time and most of its inhabitants either killed or taken into captivity to Babylon. And yet through it all, God says, "Do not fear, O Jacob my servant, for I am with you…"

People understand in different ways this concept of God being with us. There are those, of course, who reject this outright, believing that God probably doesn't exist at all. Others see God's presence simply as a motivating force, an aspiration calling us beyond the scope of our immediate, dismal life situations. For these people, God is just a spiritual concept.

Others understand God being with them as justification for their ideas - philosophical or political. God is their grand justification for their attitudes and actions.

But this is not what Jeremiah is saying. God, the Creator of the universe, had pledged himself to the nation of Israel. He made a commitment to Abraham and his descendants. The Master of the Universe is loyal to his commitments. While the nation of Israel would go through great judgement because of continued unfaithfulness to God, God promised to stay with his people.

God was pledging to go with them as they learned the difficult and humiliating lessons ahead.

And because God is who he is, he would continue to be involved with them. He would love them, provide for them, correct them, speak to them, teach them, and eventually lead them home again.

It is easy for us to look at our circumstances and interpret God through them. But if we do, we are not being fair to him.

Israel was to go through great difficulty because they had not been living in accordance with the lifestyle given to them by the One who rescued them from slavery in Egypt. God patiently endured centuries of unfaithfulness, apathy, immorality, idolatry, injustice, and violence. It was now time to deal with the situation in no uncertain terms. But even this judgement was for the purpose, not just to appease some heavenly wrath, but to teach his beloved children a much-needed lesson. God also said through Jeremiah, "I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished" (Jeremiah 46:28).

Through these hard lessons of discipline, God would continue to walk with his children.

And so it is important not to interpret God's love and presence based on our circumstances, but upon God's word. Did not the Messiah say to us, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33)?

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