The pandemic continues to take lives on the scale of a world war while we cry out for salvation
But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,' declares the Lord, “because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.”
Jeremiah 30:17 NIV
THIS IS a promise spoken to God’s people who have, at various times, found themselves facing difficulties and feeling like outcasts.
The original exiles that Jeremiah knew had plenty of reason to feel that way. They had been deported to a pagan land to live in servitude, owing to their longstanding record of rebellion against the agreement, or covenant, they had for their protection and provision.
The covenant was about honouring God as their Lord, and experiencing His provision and protection. Living independently from the Lord broke that covenant, and had consequences.
Where do we fit in that picture?
As a nation, we have had the printed Bible, educated teachers and hearers and, for about 300 years, relative freedom to worship either within, or unconstrained by, the established church and its framework within the country’s historic law and privilege. As well as world-class scholarship, we have seen repeated waves of revival. Through the King’s call to national prayer some older saints can recall the miraculous deliverance at Dunkirk and in the Battle of Britain, where the outcomes were quite unexpectedly favourable. We have known God’s blessing in peace, favour with other nations (if not in recent years the EU!), prosperity and health care for all regardless of means.
Faith in an institution?
Yet church attendance has plummeted in the traditional denominations. Just one in ten consider themselves part of a church, or attend one; those that do, frequently find more emphasis on faith assumed through the church, than the Biblical teaching of personal faith in Jesus. Jesus didn't say anything about faith through a church. He said plainly that the kingdom had come near and His call was to “repent and believe” the good news that He per sonly represented (Mark 1:15).
If we have unwittingly drifted into exile, we need to come back! To Jesus.
Zion or Jerusalem is a name that stands, not just for the covenant people of God that Jeremiah first addressed, but the people of God who belong to Jesus and therefore come under the new and better covenant He established.
Are you one of the covenant people of God? If you have come to have a relationship with God through asking Jesus to be your Lord, you are probably fairly confident in answering 'yes'.
But many of us are not too clear about that. The Old Testament (OT) remains something of a mystery, a historic record, a background. We're a bit unsure of its relevance for us today.
But no, the OT is the foundation, the basis of everything Jesus said or did, and something He was adamant in saying would not become irrelevant, saying not even a stroke of the pen would pass away. The Scriptures taught in the Early Church were what we now call the OT, soon supplemented by the authentic gospel accounts and letters.
New and better covenant
When we enter into the new covenant in Jesus' death and resurrection, we become part of the new and better covenant He has secured for us. But it brings with it all the general historic blessings that were part of the old covenant. The restrictions and requirements have been superseded. There's no need to take your doves to the priest at the Temple because sacrifices for sin, priests and the Temple itself have all gone. The commitment of God to love and care for and protect His people endures — and with greater clarity because for us the kingdom has come near, and eternal life starts now.
Whatever our position of faith, when we turn to God now, recognising His Son Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us, we are welcomed into a spiritual environment of healing and freedom of spirit, soul and body.
What Jeremiah said applies to us — perhaps in the new sense that "I will restore you to health... because you are called".