God’s grace always amazes me, and never more so than when it is extended right in the midst of man’s rebellion. God doesn’t even wait for our response of repentance before He makes His grace, and its availability, known.
It has been the same right from the beginning, when man first fell into sin. There in the garden the man and the woman stood naked and trembling before Him, having just committed the first human sin, a sin which would rob them of paradise and of their relationship with God, and would plunge the whole of mankind into the mire of sin from which no person, by his own effort, would ever be able to escape. God made His displeasure very clear to them by cursing both them personally and the earth on account of them. But first He turned His attention to the serpent, the real cause of the problem, and in the midst of His curse on the serpent extended the hope and promise of His grace to the man and woman. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, NIV). The curse on man and the earth would not be forever. One would come who would destroy the destroyer, even though it would cost Him dearly to do so, and through Him God’s grace would be extended to all mankind.
Thousands of years later, God was again pronouncing judgment against His people. Jeremiah was just one of a long string of prophets who had confronted the people of God with their sins, and called them to turn back to the worship of the true God and the practices of righteousness, justice and mercy. Sometimes they had responded for a little while, only to quickly fall back into their old ways when the prophet left the scene. Now God had had enough. It was past the time for chances. It was even past the time for intercession, for several times in the book of Jeremiah God tells His servant not to pray for the people. God’s mind was made up; His judgment was set in stone. Nothing was going to stop the people from being taken to exile in Babylon. And, once they were there, nothing was going to shorten the time of their banishment. “Build houses and settle down,” God tells them. “Plant gardens and eat what they produce.” (Jeremiah 29:5) They were going to be in exile for a long time; they might as well get used to it.
Yet here again, right in the midst of God’s judgment, is the offer and promise of God’s grace: “I know the plans I have for you….. plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) They had chosen to worship the false gods of the nations around them, and God had handed them over to their choices, but it was not God’s desire for them. It was not His best. They were still in rebellion, yet even before they repented and turned back to Him God was extending to them the offer of an even deeper relationship with Himself.
God deals even more graciously with us. His provision of salvation, forgiveness, healing, justification, adoption, sanctification, and everything we could ever need was made through the death of Jesus long before any of us were even born. It was extended to us whilst we were still lost in sin. In fact, God not only offered us His great salvation package, He actively pursued us with it. Like the Hound of Heaven, the Holy Spirit sought us till we found Him.
More than that, even when we move away from God, He comes after us. His desire is not to punish and harm us, but to draw us lovingly into a deeper relationship with Himself. It is only when we blatantly refuse His advances that He will move to more drastic means to get our attention. Even then, His purpose is not to destroy us, but to turn us back. The very punishment is itself an act of grace extended to us.
How much better it is if we don’t force His hand to that point! Take hold of His offer of grace, His offer of a future and a hope. Seek Him with all your heart, and His promise is that He will be found.