This week as I read my Bible, sparks flew off the page. It happens once in a while. This time the ignition point was Jeremiah 16:14-15. You can turn there yourself, but have a fire extinguisher handy. Here’s the context. God is about to bring judgement upon Judah – severe, unrelenting, devastating judgement. God will employ the Babylonians to tear down His own city, demolish His temple and march His people as captives into a foreign land. The causes of such extreme measures are scattered throughout Jeremiah’s book; but hope is also planted by the prophetic voice. God’s judgment is not void of mercy. The Lord promises that He will bring His people back home. There is a dawn to this darkness.
That’s where the sparks flew. Israel used to boast of how God brought them out of the land of Egypt. The 10 plagues, Red Sea miracle, Sinai covenant – these were emblems of His great redemptive grace. But Jeremiah says Israel will change their boast. Instead of pointing to the exodus as the epitome of grace, they will speak of their return home from Babylon. The proof of His love is this – “God brought us back.” In other words, the mercy of restoration speaks louder than the mercy of redemption. So, you can understand the singe marks on my Bible.
We focus on our redemption as the unshakeable demonstration of God’s love for us. The cross declares His grace and I cling to it. To be rescued and forgiven – this is mercy! Of course, even redeemed people mess up. Forgiven people fail and need even more forgiveness. Followers wander, disciples disappoint, and God’s children can rebel. So, when we have stormed out of the house, slammed the door and turned our face from God, is there a way back? My own logic whispers, that if I have willfully disregarded the grace of redemption, there’s not much chance for a welcome home. God ignores my logic. He promises a grace of restoration. There is a reception of love for children who mess up. An open door and open arms receive those with self-inflicted wounds. There is a place for the broken to be healed. The story of His mercy in my life is not confined to a single point of redemption but a repeated mercy of restoration. In fact, this grace of restoration teaches me what the grace of redemption is all about. A love with no fine-print conditions. No expiration dates. No thin ice period of probation. It’s the mercy of restoration that proves the kindness of redemption. In a manner of thinking, it is better to be broken. The mercy of restoration meets the redeemed in the midst of their failure – proving afresh the grace of our Lord. And the sparks jump off the page, landing in my chest. They flame into praise and gratitude.