For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:18-19 ESV]
Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah God condemns Israel for their sin of adultery with false idols. For hundreds of years God’s Prophets declared His displeasure with His people because of their continuous rebellion. God banished the Northern Kingdom and still Judah did not learn. Three times Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and carried off people and temple artifacts. He finally destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous. There is none to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant. Why do you cry out over your hurt? Your pain is incurable. Because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant, I have done these things to you.
Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured, and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall be plundered, and all who prey on you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD, because they have called you an outcast: “It is Zion, for whom no one cares!” [Jeremiah 30:12-17 ESV]
Yet, in the end Jerusalem will be restored and Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom will fall. Jeremiah’s words in 30:16-17 are reminiscent of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 12:2-3 ESV]. God does not forget those who are His.
But, are these verses really speaking about Judah and the nation of Israel? Look at some of the phrases.
- Your hurt (or bruise) is incurable
- your wound is grievous
- for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe
- because your guilt is great (twice)
- because your sins are flagrant (twice)
- I have done these things to you.
All of this happened to Jerusalem and to Judah. God determined to punish His nation, removing from it those who were false prophets, tyrannical leaders and all idolaters. They were killed or banished to never return. Yet, Jeremiah also prophecies the return of the nation after a period of 70 years. Read Ezra and Nehemiah.
More importantly these phrases describe the passion of Christ as He stood before His accusers and was murdered by the Romans.
Wait! Christ was perfect. He did not sin. He was innocent. There was no guilt in Him. How can these words describe what happened to Christ?
Do you not remember His agonized cry while on the cross? “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” [Matthew 27:46 ESV; see Mark 15:34 and Psalm 22:1]. He endured a separation from God, the deepest mystery, as He died. Death is not simply physical. Spiritual death is separation from that which sustains life. Spiritual death is continued existence gasping for sustenance.
Do you not know and have you not memorized the verse “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” [2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV]. Our sin is imputed to Him and His righteousness is imputed to us. This is another mystery. When God looked at Christ on the cross He saw the sin of the world. Not one person’s sin but everyone’s sin. Jesus, who is eternally sinless, became sin.
But it doesn’t end with death. Nor does Jerusalem end with destruction. God determined to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, first physically, then spiritually. God brought the people back to Jerusalem for a time, yet they continued to rebel. God promises to create a new Jerusalem which will never face corruption.
Jesus referred to His body as the temple. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [John 2:19 ESV]. Jesus was raised from the dead. His wounds were healed yet His scars remain. Do we try to understand and regularly contemplate the implications of His ultimate sacrifice?
We like to know God sees us as righteous. We thank God for His grace and mercy. How can we love God when we forget or ignore the sacrifice of Christ? Jesus did exactly what He determined to accomplish from eternity.