The Lord Is Good
By Rich Carmicheal
"Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; His love endures forever" (Jeremiah 33:11).
As you read through the Book of Jeremiah, you discover that it is with good reason that Jeremiah is known as "the weeping prophet." Because of the judgment that had already partially fallen on God’s people, and the greater judgment of 70 years of captivity in Babylon that was certain to come upon them, Jeremiah was filled with deep sorrow: "…my heart is faint within me…. Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people" (Jer. 8:18 – 9:1).
And yet, in the midst of great sorrow, Jeremiah declares, "Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; His love endures forever" (33:11).
One might not expect such a call to thanksgiving for the Lord’s goodness, given the deplorable condition of His people in Jeremiah’s day and His sentence of judgment upon them. Their relationship with Him did indeed seem forever broken and their situation without any hope: "This is what the Lord says, ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you…. I have struck you as an enemy would and punished you as would the cruel, because your guilt is so great and your sins so many" (30:12-14).
Without question their guilt was great and their sins numerous and terrible. They had turned away from the Lord and began doing all the evil they could (3:5; 5:28), and even forgot how to do good (4:22). They lost all shame and forgot how to blush (6:15). Truth had perished (7:28) and deception was rampant (9:4-6). The people had become fools, without sense or understanding (4:22), and were rebellious (2:8) and unrepentant (8:6). They stole, murdered, committed adultery, swore falsely (7:9) and became greedy for gain (6:13). They oppressed the alien, the fatherless, the widow and the poor, and filled the land with innocent blood (2:34; 5:28; 7:5-6; 19:4). They built high places to burn their sons and daughters in fire (7:31). The Lord described Jerusalem as a city "filled with oppression. As a well pours out its water, so she pours out her wickedness. Violence and destruction resound in her…" (6:6-7). Their conduct was horrible, detestable and loathsome (8:12; 13:27; 18:13), and they went "from one sin to another" (9:3).
While their sins were numerous, the greater underlying problem was that they had forsaken the Lord and turned to worthless idols and foreign gods. Though the Lord had been as a faithful husband to them, they were unfaithful to Him and committed spiritual adultery, defiling themselves as a "prostitute with many lovers" (3:1). "…Like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to Me, O house of Israel" (3:20). They turned their backs to Him (2:27), and rejected His word and His ways. The prophets and priests tried to pretend the situation was not so despicable: "They dress the wounds of My people as though it were not serious" (6:14). But the Lord, who searches and knows men’s actions and hearts, knew the depth of their sin.
Their rejection of Him and His ways, coupled with their love for other gods and their embrace of evil, provoked Him and aroused His anger and wrath (32:30-32). In response, He warned them of impending judgment: "I am bringing a distant nation against you.... Their quivers are like an open grave; all of them are mighty warriors. They will devour your harvests and food, devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees. With the sword they will destroy the fortified cities in which you trust" (5:15-17). Judgment came indeed as the whole army of Babylon marched against Jerusalem, destroyed it, and carried God’s people into exile (39:1-9).
How, in the midst of such sin and judgment, could Jeremiah proclaim, "Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; His love endures forever" (33:11)?
The answer lies in the nature and character of God. Though Jeremiah gives us many descriptions of how pathetic the condition of the Lord’s people can be, he also gives us many reminders of how wonderful the Lord is. No matter how sinful His people, and no matter how dark the hour, the Lord is always good, and His love and mercy endure forever. Consider just a few of the glorious truths about the Lord’s goodness and love that are woven throughout Jeremiah’s message:
1. The Lord is not eager to send judgment, but sends it only as a last resort; and even then to redeem. Although the Lord is the Righteous Judge who has every right to judge His people for any and all sin, He is not eager to judge and punish. In Jeremiah’s day, the Lord sent judgment only because their sin left no option: "Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you" (4:18); "Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of Me..." (2:19). As the Lord considered the depth of their sin, He was left with no choice: "Should I not punish them for this?" (5:29).
The Lord’s longsuffering is displayed in the way He warns His people again and again before sending judgment, hoping they will repent and avoid the need for judgment. "From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you My servants the prophets" (7:25). The Lord raised up Jeremiah to serve as one of these prophets, warning God’s people and calling them to repentance. The Lord told him to tell all the people "… everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done" (26:2-3). The Lord gave His people many years to repent under Jeremiah’s preaching: "For twenty-three years…the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened" (25:3). The Lord was grieved that "…though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline" (32:33). He does all that He can to keep from sending judgment. It is only when His people refuse to heed His repeated warnings and calls to repentance that judgment eventually comes.
And even then, the Lord is not eager to destroy His people, but He works in judgment to restore His people to spiritual life: "How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it. ‘In that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them. Instead, they will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. So do not fear, O Jacob, do not be dismayed, O Israel,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will surely save you out of a distant place…’" (30:7-11).
2. The Lord is eager to forgive. Although His people may resist and rebel, the Lord longs to forgive. "‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever’" (3:12). Even before sending His people into captivity, the Lord was looking forward to the day when He would be able to extend forgiveness to them: "…I will heal My people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring back Judah and Israel from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against Me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against Me" (33:6-8).
One picture of the Lord’s eagerness to forgive to avert judgment is seen in this word to Jeremiah: "Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city" (5:1). Though the Lord’s main point may have been that everyone was corrupt, He also reveals His willingness to forgive and spare the city. In Abraham’s case, when pleading for Sodom, he had the courage to ask the Lord to spare the city if ten righteous people could be found there. In Jeremiah’s case, the Lord was willing to forgive and spare the city on behalf of just one righteous person.
The Lord also, in the midst of the great sin of the people, looked forward to the day when He would send His Son to save His people from their sins: "…I will raise up...a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness" (23:5-6). Already in the time of Jeremiah, the Lord had in mind the new covenant that would come through the blood of Christ: "‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be My people…they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’" (31:33-34).
3. The Lord gives us hope and the promise of a glorious future. At one point, Jeremiah sent a letter to exiles which included this message from the Lord: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart" (29:10-13). What a wonderful God we have! Even when we may find ourselves in the midst of judgment and captivity because of sin, the Lord has plans to prosper us, to give us a hope and a future, and to restore our relationship with Him. Take to heart these additional passages which reveal the wonderful things the Lord has in mind for our future, no matter how bleak the present may seem:
"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint" (31:25); "But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to his own inheritance..." (12:15); "My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up…. I will give them a heart to know Me…" (24:6-7); "…I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow" (31:13); "I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble…" (31:9). Because of all that the Lord has in mind for us, He offers this assurance: "So there is hope for your future" (31:17). Praise the Lord!
One of the pictures the Lord gives us of the hope of restoration is His instruction to Jeremiah to buy a field before the people went into exile. This was a most unlikely time to buy property, and the Lord used this act to symbolize the truth that the time of exile would one day end, the people would return, and "Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land" (32:15). In the Lord we always have hope and a future!
4. The Lord is able to do wonderful things for His people, things that seem impossible. At one point the Lord describes how hopeless and impossible the situation was for His people: "Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing…" (30:12). But He goes right on to say, "But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds" (30:17). What is impossible from man’s perspective, is possible for the Lord! Jeremiah offers this burst of praise for the Lord’s power: "Ah, Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You…. O great and powerful God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, great are Your purposes and mighty are Your deeds…." (32:17-19). He "…made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding. When He thunders, the waters in heaven roar; He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from His storehouses" (10:12-13). As the Lord Himself declares, "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?" (32:26).
5. The Lord’s love is awesome, vast and eternal. He is forever faithful to His people. The Lord shares these beautiful words with His people, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness" (31:3). He refers to the fixed order of the sun, moon and stars to illustrate how fixed His heart is upon His people: "He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord Almighty is His name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from My sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before Me’" (31:35-36). He also points to the vastness of the universe as a comparison for His love for His people, even in their sin: "Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done" (31:37).
6. The Lord is good. No matter how bad people may become, the Lord is forever good. Even in the midst of His anger and wrath, He ultimately seeks our good and desires to share His whole heart with us. Consider this wonderful promise that beautifully illustrates how the Lord longs to shower us with goodness: "I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in My furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be My people and I will be their God. I will give them a singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear Me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear Me, so that they will never turn away from Me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all My heart and soul…" (32:37-41). The Lord loves to share His goodness: "…I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight" (9:24).
Our God is a holy God whose Word is true and whose ways are good. He is eager to forgive us, to give us hope and a future, to display His mighty power in our lives, to reveal His deep love to us, and to show His goodness to us. Why? Because we are deserving? No. But because this is the very nature and heart of who He is. He is "the spring of living water" (2:13). No wonder Jeremiah could say: "Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; His love endures forever."
Let’s turn our hearts toward Him. Let’s seek His goodness, His forgiveness, His purposes, His power and His life. "Lord, we turn our hearts toward You. Send the revival we so desperately need."