The Love/Hate Relationship

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,

“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the Lord,
the firstfruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it incurred guilt;
disaster came upon them,
declares the Lord.”- Jeremiah 2:1-3

Their faithfulness in the wilderness? God is calling them to remember the wilderness? But in the wilderness God hated them:

For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.” – Ps 95:10

So why would God, through Jeremiah hold up the wilderness wandering as an example Judah should return to? A few answers come to mind.

First, the situation in Jeremiah’s time was so bad that the grumbling and complaining in the wilderness look good by comparison! And that surely was the case. In the wilderness they complained but their flirtations with idolatry didn’t last long. Judah in Jeremiah’s time was a real mess so perhaps returning to that would have been a real improvement.

Second, there were two generations wandering in the wilderness. The older generation is the one God hated and the one he swore would die in the desert. Their children were the more faithful generation who entered the Promised Land. Perhaps Jeremiah is pointing to that generation and calling Judah to return to that.

Third, perhaps Jeremiah isn’t thinking of just one generation or just one time period but is calling Judah back to a time when, in general, Israel was faithful. There were times in the wilderness when Israel did follow the Lord. Maybe the overall faithfulness (though imperfect) of the entire exodus period is what God has in mind here.

I’m sure that the Lord had all of these issues in mind when He said what He said. So why is it a head scratcher for us? Because we love in a truncated manner and God’s love is more lively and complex than ours. He can love and hate at the same time. And not the “love the sinner but hate the sin” kind of thing but I think that’s a pretty good way for us to get our heads around what he’s saying. God hated the generation that fell in the wilderness. They refused to believe him when He took them to the edge of the Promised Land. They were more afraid of the giants in the land than they were of their God. But God loved them and cared for them. The shoes didn’t wear out, they had manna and quail enough for every day of the journey. He poured water out of a rock for them twice. And these things were written for our instruction (1 Cor 10:6).

It is a good thing God loves like this. It is good news for us that he loves and forgives so that we’re not condemned when we sin. But it is also good that he remembers sin or our enemies, those who consume and ravage and abuse humanity would die and simply blink out existence and there would be no justice.

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One Comment

  • kind of depressing thought… god loving and hating me…

    I mean if I’m just to live the rest of my life and experience stuff like shoes not wearing out and enough food to eat… I dunno… I want mroe than that… more than just physical sustenance and survival in “comfort” or even sustaining. I mean, I’d rather that than starving to death b/c God hates me only but…

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