The Children of Israel. Ah, yes. The little rebellious nation that complained, murmured, and was generally faithless over and over, to the point of making false idols. When I become frustrated with my continual failings I think of the children of Israel and wonder why I can’t learn from their mistakes. God was so faithful to them in spite of their shortcomings.
That’s generally been my take away from the time Israel spent in the wilderness.
Turns out, God has a different view of the whole experience.
Jeremiah 2:2 “Go and proclaim the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.”
At this point in Jeremiah, Israel had rebelled and to the point God viewed it as adultery. The book just before Jeremiah, Hosea is a heartbreaking allegory describing Israel’s unfaithfulness in spite of God’s merciful and continual faithfulness. In the midst of God’s judgement is tucked this little nugget of a verse.
God looked at the wilderness experience as a time when Israel saw God as their bridegroom. They were devoted, in love and willing to trust Him and follow Him where ever he lead. (**Insert Screeching of a record**) What?! God saw their faithfulness? Not all their mistakes and screw ups?
God saw their repentant hearts. In Exodus 32 we see one example of Moses pleading for the forgiveness of the nation after they made a false god to worship. Then we see the children of Israel repenting – mourning and removing all jewelry. Exodus 33:4 “When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments.”
Israel later became rebellious, Ezekiel 3:7 “But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate.” God was disappointed and bringing judgement on Israel because of their deliberate chasing after other gods without any repentance or sorrow for their faithlessness towards Him.
When their hearts loved God and desired to follow Him, God was gracious and loving towards them, quick to accept their repentant heart even when it was a reoccurring theme. Numbers 14:18 “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.”
How easy is it to get caught up in the sins of our past and let them define us? What freedom comes from realizing that when we are truly repentant God forgives us each and every time. We are no longer defined by our past. Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
Each day is a new day. A new start. Lamentations 3:22-23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”