Preparing to Return to Jerusalem
Open Your Bible
Ezra 8:1-36, Jeremiah 31:1-11, Jeremiah 31:16-17, 2 Peter 3:9
In some of my favorite childhood memories, I’m running into my father’s arms to be swooped up into a ginormous hug. Sometimes he would even throw me toward the expansive blue sky, the air whooshing out of my lungs until I was caught up again, safe and secure in his arms.
That feeling of being suspended in mid-air, though: I still feel that way sometimes. Whether it’s anxiety about a job situation, uncertainty about finances, or worry over a diagnosis, we all face moments when we realize that if God doesn’t intervene, we’re in big trouble.
Before heading back to Jerusalem, Ezra faced that same realization: without God’s protection and provision, they would never make it to Jerusalem. The Israelites’ track record had little to recommend them, and if God’s answer were dependent on their good behavior, they were toast.
So they humbled themselves, and God was receptive to His people’s prayers. Because even when we fail, God’s faithfulness holds steady.
Despite Israel’s disobedience, God did not allow sin to derail His good plan. His own faithful character guarantees that His promises will come true in the end whether we live to see those fulfillments or not. Unlike humans—who sometimes keep their promises and other times abandon them—God’s heart of faithful love means He will always come through.
Throughout Scripture we see God’s heart bend toward compassion, forgiveness, and grace. Indeed, “The one who scattered Israel will gather him” (Jeremiah 31:10). He is the promise-keeping, covenant-fulfilling, sin-forgiving God. His unrelenting grace brings the prodigal home, envelops him in the best robe, and declares him “son” once more.
Like Israel’s return to the promised land in today’s reading, we also get to return to our heavenly Father in repentance and humility, to find Him waiting for us with open arms.
How striking to read in Jeremiah 31:20 that God’s “inner being yearns” for His children to repent, to turn from their patterns of sin, and to return home as the cherished children of God He calls His own! Though God kept His promise to discipline His unfaithful people with exile, He also kept His promise to bring them home to the promised land again. Even when Israel was guilty of apostasy, God wouldn’t let sin get the final word. Rather, His own faithfulness guaranteed that His promises would be fulfilled, no matter what.
God’s heart beats with compassion. His faithfulness means that no matter whether we’re having a good or bad day, we can always find refuge in Him. So we can throw ourselves on God’s mercy, approaching His throne of grace with confidence, knowing that He’s been patiently waiting for us to return to Him all along.
And because of Jesus, the Father’s same faithful love and compassion is poured out on us as well, welcoming prodigals of all ages to return home to Him again. We are safe and secure in His everlasting arms.