Jeremiah 31:2-6 The Message (MSG)
2-6 This is the way God put it:
“They found grace out in the desert, these people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!”
God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!
And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again, dear virgin Israel.
You’ll resume your singing, grabbing tambourines and joining the dance. You’ll go back to your old work of planting vineyards on the Samaritan hillsides,
And sit back and enjoy the fruit— oh, how you’ll enjoy those harvests! The time’s coming when watchmen will call out from the hilltops of Ephraim: ‘On your feet! Let’s go to Zion, go to meet our God!’”
“I am loved!” Such simple words yet so difficult for so many to experience in their hearts. Oh, we may acknowledge with our heads that we are loved but often our hearts find it hard to accept as real. At times we’re not even sure we’re liked. Messages, verbal and otherwise, communicate usually not that we’re loved but maybe at best tolerated. As a result we build defense mechanisms for our tender hearts. We’ll wear masks of competence, or confidence, or strength when, if the truth were known, we would truly be seen as quivering, anxious, and insecure. One of my friends, whom I love dearly, lives behind a mask of bravado and confidence, only rarely letting anyone see the deep insecurity living behind it.
Jeremiah reminds us of a time when Israel’s life was going backwards. Enemies were all around them, captivity and exile were realities none wanted to experience but it was now their portion. In many ways the masks of self-sufficiency, etc. were stripped away. Jeremiah reminds them however that when they were out looking for a place of rest God was out looking for them and found them reminding them that He never stopped loving them.
There is something about being in a room where when someone whom you know not only loves you but likes you walks in. The simple presence of that person being in the same place with you can bring a settling inside, an inward sigh of relief, that allows your breath to come more easily. That’s the kind of love Jeremiah talks about God having for us. The world tries to convince us that God couldn’t possibly love us but then God says: “I never quit loving you and I never will. Expect love, love, and more love!!”
In their book True Faced Bruce Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch write: “Love, the first gift of grace, acts as a solvent to lift our masks. It acts as a balm that can begin to heal our unresolved sin so that we never want to put on a mask again.”
There is only one thing that allows us to come out from behind our masks and it is the knowledge that Someone both loves us and likes us; the knowledge that for every sinner who returns there is forgiveness, a fresh start, call it a makeover. Maybe even better though is that however we have viewed ourselves in the past we now begin to see ourselves through the lens of the Saviour’s eye who came looking for us in our desert, who made us the object of His heart’s affection, and who now promises to rebuild us.
When you get up in morning and decide which mask you are going to put on for the day embrace the naked option.
Hear what John, the one Jesus called “the Beloved” says:
“And now, children, stay with Christ. Live deeply in Christ. Then we’ll be ready for him when he appears, ready to receive him with open arms, with no no cause for red-faced guilt or lame excuses when he arrives.” I John 2:28