GOD’s left arm brings the Law for discipline and His Right arm brings reward for obedience. We live in the embrace of both.
But people want a one-armed GOD. We only want the pleasure without the pain. We want all the candy without the dentist visit. We want the reward without the obedience. We want to tell GOD what He should do.
Woe to you, Joel Osteen! Woe to you, Rob Bell! Woe to you all Universalists who say that you are more compassionate than GOD Almighty as if He is a murderous monster and you would do things better by not condemning anyone to hell. And woe to all of us who claim to be Christians and agree with Scripture that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life yet secretly in our hearts think there is really no need to tell that nice Jewish lady or that co-worker who says there is no GOD about Him because they never did anything to you so GOD can’t be so mean as to send them to hell.
GOD is telling His people in this passage today that He is going to use their enemy, Nebucchadnezzar, and his country, Babylon, to discipline them. For 70 years GOD is giving Babylon absolute human control of the earth. He even mentions that all countries and even the animals would obey him! If Nebucchadnezzar had come to America over those 70 years he would have conquered it. If he ran into a lion or elephant in the field they would have given deference to him. For 70 years GOD was making Nebucchadnezzar king over the earth because those GOD had chosen as His people had ignored Him. Jeremiah was one of the true prophets who warned about this. To those already in Babylon he said to settle in because that was their home for 70 years, for good or bad. To those not yet in captivity he said submit to Babylon because They were GOD’s Hand to deliver a spanking to GOD’s people. Yet the false prophets said that was absurd! The takeover had already begun so they couldn’t deny it. Babylon had already taken the riches from the temple. But they said GOD would make everything right in 2 years. Two years tops, in their lifetime, and all would be well. They were saying Jeremiah was a liar and a nut. They claimed to be kinder than GOD.
A small child disobeys his father. They are out visiting friends on vacation so the father commands the child to sit in a corner at the friend’s house for 10 minutes. Because of the child’s disobedience the neighbor’s child is in charge of keeping time and keeping the child in the corner. But the disobedient child’s sister lies tells her disobedient sibling that Daddy said two minutes not 10.
What has changed? Is the sister more loving than the father? Will the discipline change?
It is because GOD loves His people that He disciplines them. And it is no different today. After the time of discipline more joy remains in a restored relationship. The rest of the vacation lies ahead for the disciplined child. But without discipline there is no reward.
So are we advocating legalism? No. Look at Chapter 31. GOD pulls back the curtain of time to reveal to Israel a distant future when individuals will be disciplined for their own sin but will have the ability to have a change of heart. This new heart will have the Law within. JESUS describes this as having the Holy Spirit with us and in us to reveal what we should do.
We have this opportunity today, to be given a new heart by repenting of being gods to ourselves and confessing our need of Jesus Christ as the only way to Life. He lived a sinless life, died in our place and rose from the dead to give us this new heart and Life. And we then become the means He uses, through our witness, through our donations, through the way He uses us, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bring others to Himself. He was disciplined for us. GOD Himself is our reward, through Him. And though we still struggle with sin while in flesh His discipline is just a short reminder and His pleasure is our reward.
Finally, chapter 31 zooms even further into our future when this same JESUS will return to earth and set up His kingdom in Israel to make her the jewel of His peace and prosperity as always promised.
GOD’s left arm brings the Law for discipline and His Right arm brings reward for obedience. We live in the embrace of both. That is Love.