Today’s reading from Jeremiah is the longest warning of the whole book. Turning from the warnings against Israel and Judah, Jeremiah has been warning the surrounding nations – Moab, Ammon and the like – and now turns at last to Babylon itself. As the source of Judah’s punishment, God has used Babylon against Judah, but even in this Babylon has sinned and now will be punished itself. “From the North will come your doom,” is Jeremiah’s foretelling of the coming of the army of the Medes, and sure enough, under Cyrus and later Darius, the Medes conquer and decimate Babylon and it’s surrounding regions. Jeremiah is proven true by history itself.
But in the midst of this woe, as always, we find grace, peace, and mercy. For Jeremiah tells us God’s word about His children Israel, “‘In those days, at that time,’ declares the Lord, ‘search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.'” And again in our Hebrews reading, in v.12, we find God’s grace and mercy: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
I was talking with a friend recently and was reminded once again of this great truth: “God plays the long game.” In our impatience and short-sightedness, we often see only the immediate turmoil while God sees the long-term blessing. For Israel, in one of the most exaggerated examples of this, they see their exile while God sees their return and blessing. For us, maybe we see our current desolation and fear it will never end. But God always plays the long game and sees much further than we can.
I almost left the ministry a decade ago, and as I sat weeping inconsolably on my kitchen floor, I had no perception of the spiritual growth that was going on, or the maturing I was having to endure. But as I look back – and no, I don’t think this is just unrealistic optimism – I see God’s plan a bit better. Did He cause my pain? Not exactly, but He always uses what we give Him in our lives to remind us of His redemption and love for us.
It may take a while for us to see it, but always remember that God plays the long game.