Longing for Love
Jeremiah 23:1-8 NIV
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David 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 Righteous Savior.
So then, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.”
Corruption has a way of twisting all that we love and long for.
It takes power that has been entrusted, manipulates it for personal gain, and cultivates fear among the powerless.
We are created for community. For mutual flourishing. For love.
But when our governments, religious institutions, families, and societies become corrupted, we find ourselves to be suspicious of love. Suspicious of goodness.
We put up walls of fear to guard ourselves from getting hurt.
We become isolated, self-protective, and lonely.
Fear becomes a way of being.
Into a world of corruption, God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah to make a promise to His displaced, terrified and disoriented people. Jeremiah’s voice cuts through at a time when Judah’s last four rulers have not been faithful in exercising their kingship within the bounds of God’s loving covenant with Israel. They have been neglectful and careless in their duties, and as a result, the nation is fractured, scattered, and languishing under the burden of worshiping foreign gods.
But God’s promise through Jeremiah is clear.
The rulers of the day, those meant to lead and protect, will be brought to justice.
The corrupt shepherds of the day, those meant to nurture and guide, will be humbled.
A Righteous Branch, from the house of David, will undo the curse of fear and death.
There will be new life with new fruit.
Justice will rule.
Right-ness will reign.
And a day will come when right relationship will be restored with the land, with each other, and with God.
A day has come and is still coming when Jesus, the perfect King, will bring about a full restoration of community, of mutual flourishing, and of love.
John reminds us that there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. Jesus has already taken the punishment for all the ways our good world has become corrupted, and He invites us to live with Him in ways of justice and rightness. He invites us to live loved.
Advent reminds us that we have nothing to fear. There is no darkness that Light cannot overcome.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal where you might be lacking hope in your life.
Name your fear. Write down the specifics – memories, words, phrases, lies, attitudes.
Spend 5 minutes in silence with the following posture:
Jesus, I wait for your love.
Take some time to submit your fear. Be specific.
Jesus, I give you my fear.
Allow Jesus to make the exchange of your fear for his love.
Read Psalm 27 in a posture of gratitude and adoration.
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.