Summary: God’s promises of faithful forgiveness to a fallen world are suprisingly refreshing
GOD GENUINELY SURPRISES US!
Several years ago my sister-in-law threw a surprise birthday party for her husband. It was a good one. I have to admit my brother was completely caught off guard. He never saw it coming. The best part was knowing that my brother was genuinely surprised.
To be surprised means that you expect one thing to happen, but then you experience the complete opposite. Today, God proclaims a message that catches us off guard. GOD GENUINELY SURPRISES US! 1) With Unbroken Promises and 2) With Unfailing Forgiveness.
1) With Unbroken Promises
If anybody knew about surprises it was the people of Israel. God had pleasantly surprised them time-and-again. The Lord promised to make them his people. He promised to protect them. He promised to provide for all their needs. God had proven that he was faithful to his promises. He graciously took Israel by the hand, the way a father would, and led them out of slavery in Egypt. He served as their faithful husband. He led them to the foot of Mount Sinai and said, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." (Exodus 20:2)
After doing all this for his people, God established a covenant, or agreement, with them. It was a covenant between God and the nation of Israel. It was a covenant based on a certain understanding. God called Israel to be different – to be a light to the other nations, a magnet to attract their neighbors to the Lord. Every detail of an Israelite’s life was prescribed under law given at Mt. Sinai. This covenant was two sided. God would be their God if they would be and act like His people. This covenant was sealed, or ratified, with the blood of a sacrifice by Moses. He even sprinkled the people with the blood of the sacrifice signifying that they were bound to this promise. But, even before the ink was dry, Israel went back on their word. As Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments, the people were bowing down to a hunk of gold in the shape of a calf. This was their “baal”, the very word God chose to describe himself. Baal basically means, “Husband.” The Israelites chose to make that idol their “baal”. It was their leader, their provider, and their protector; in short, they wanted this idol to be God. Well, what happened to that old covenant? It was destroyed, broken. The people rejected the Lord.
What kind of people did Jeremiah find in 600 B.C.? He found the same people. There was no surprise. Israel’s kings were weak and corrupt. Its priests were cheats and drunkards. They were still worshipping Baals; following the sleazy fertility cults of the nations around them. They had temple prostitutes, practiced black magic, and even sacrificed their own babies to these idols. There was no surprise for Jeremiah. When you think about it, much of the Old Testament is a record of how Israel destroyed the covenant God established with them. He was faithful, but they were faithless.
Still, there were those who tried to fix it. Many of the religious leaders of Israel knew there was something wrong in their relationship with God. And so they tried to repair this broken relationship with God by attempting to mend the people’s hearts. Very soon man-made laws were established which were meant to take the place of God’s broken laws. People soon got the notion that they could win God’s favor in this way. What’s so sad is that this is not something mere humans can accomplish.
We cannot fix what is broken. The Israelites couldn’t and we can’t. Yet, there’s something in us that has this desire. We want to fix things. Quite often, we’re tempted to repair things that we shouldn’t touch in the first place. We all know amateur plumbers, carpenter, or electricians, and we’ve all heard the horror stories. Talk about surprising! There’s nothing more surprising than trying to fix something you have no understanding of.
That’s the point the Israelites failed to see. God handed down his law with all it’s regulations and rules. The covenant God made with Israel affected every aspect of their lives, from the food they ate to how they dressed. This old covenant required endless animal sacrifices, day after day, year after year. All of this regiment --the regulations and the sacrifices --pointed to two things: 1) there is a high price for sin, and 2) no amount of sacrifice on our part could pay that price.
There’s no surprise that we are sinners. We break God’s law everyday. No surprise there. We all have greedy, selfish, adulterous hearts and minds. Quite often our sinful hearts and minds compel our hands and mouths to carry out their deception. The fact is that we are sinful in thought, word, and deed. We break every single one of God’s commandments everyday.