Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:20)
For many of us, it’s really tempting to skip reading the Old Testament. Or, if we brave those waters, it’s relatively easy to let the eyes glaze over all the names and historical events. However, if we’ll navigate these pages with our eyes wide open, we’ll see the beautiful heart of God, and His original plan of salvation throughout.
Such is the case with the verse above. In short, Jeremiah had been sent by God to prophesy against Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel). Because of their waywardness, God was going to discipline them via captivity in Babylon. They were guilty and deserving of whatever came their way.
Yet, look at the heart of our Heavenly Father as He thought about His people (here called by the singular tribe, Ephraim). Despite their ungodliness and idolatry, God still saw them as His dear children in whom He took great delight. Yes, He saw their sin, and He spoke against it. But that’s not all He saw. He continued to think of them as His children for whom His heart yearned. We don’t use the word “yearn” much today, but in that day, the reader would have understood it to mean that God’s heart ROARED for His people. It was so full of love and devotion that it could not be contained. Instead, that love had to overflow into action.
That action on God’s part then, was the extension of mercy upon an undeserving people that led to their salvation. That’s the nature of our God, and it hasn’t changed over time. Though He sees our sin and will move against it, His love for us has provided a merciful way of escape. Spend some time today thanking Him for His yearning, forgiving heart. –Dave
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