Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God . . . Jeremiah 3:12-13
I can’t read today’s passage without remembering my own childhood experience with discipline. I hated that feeling of being chastised for wayward behavior. As far back as I can remember though, I always knew that feeling would not last forever. As much as I didn’t like discipline-dad, I always knew that the discomfort of his disapproval wouldn’t last long and would soon be replaced by a hug, an I love you, and restoration of the relationship. Looking back, I can see that he loved me in the discipline too, but at the time, I didn’t feel love until, in my repentance, our relationship was restored.
This seems to be God’s tone in today’s passage. After referring to his wayward people as whores and prostitutes, God softens his demeanor and beckons them to repent and return to a loving relationship with him. I won’t stay angry forever. I love you and I long to live in a right relationship with you. Just return to me. Repent, and our relationship will be restored.
What occurred to me in reading today’s passage, and in my own fatherhood, is that God, like my dad, doesn’t enjoy the times of discipline either. I may not like discipline-God, but the fact that I am encountering him is entirely my doing. God desires to live in a mutually loving, father/son relationship with me. My wandering and subsequent consequences are painful not only for me, but for him as well.
Like my dad, our heavenly father allows us to make choices that cause our own misery. Though it hurts him as well, he allows it, for a time. Often then, he intervenes and, out of love, disciplines us, causing us to return to him. When we do repent, we find that his anger doesn’t burn forever. When we return to God, we always find open arms, a hug, an I love you, and a return to grace.