Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

There are 2 questions which may seem the same, but are really quite different. Understanding the difference, will not only prepare us for a new year, but will also help us whenever we face change. These are the 2 questions:

  1. How do you know God?
  2. How do you know the Lord?

We can know God from the existence of the world, from the testimony of our conscience, and especially from the Holy Scriptures. Such knowledge is not difficult, and having such knowledge need not change your life - for it is quite possible to know that there is a god, and to totally ignore it. There are all kinds of things people know, and also ignore, it may be laws, such as speed limits and the consequence for ignoring them - or it may be probability, knowing that you are more likely to be struck be lightening, than you are to win the lottery - usually people who observe others who know laws and ignore them are likely to say that such people lack common sense, which is also probably true. So people can also know there is a god, and ignore him.

But, the question - How do you know the Lord? is quite different, because a Lord usually has a relationship with those whom he rules. If you ignore the landlord, failing to pay your rent, you are likely to be evicted, and the relationship will end - your will be homeless, and the landlord will find new tenants. It is not hard to ignore a god, the idols of wood and stone do not tend to react whether they are worshiped or they are ignored. But the Lord God is a living God, and he has established a relationship with the people whom he has created. He promises to provide for his people and to bless them - and he also promises to visit his enemies and to punish iniquity.

But as interesting as it might be to look at a picture of the Almighty Lord God, judge of all creation, our focus is rather on our heavenly father who disciplines his children in love, we may not regard it as pleasant, yet it is necessary so that we may be trained in the way that leads to salvation.

All of this is important because in the Prophet Jeremiah, the Lord God talks in ways that we are not accustomed to hearing - When Jeremiah is called, he is given a special commission:

Jeremiah 1:9-10 "Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." This commission was not just over foreign nations, but also over the chosen people. And a key to understanding Jeremiah, is to watch for the 6 verbs: to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant - it does not take much to notice that this work has a lot more destruction that it does construction - and there is a reason for this, and it has to do with our sinful nature, and how much God wants us to be saved, for the first 4 verbs show God at work in discipline, a judgement that calls us to repentance, - and it is usually true that God does a lot more calling us to repentance, than he does forgiving, restoring, providing and caring for us - not because he would not willingly do so much more loving - but because we really are poor miserable sinners - so miserable, that even when we are miserable, rather than turning to God in repentance and receiving the grace and blessing in the forgiveness of sins - our hard hearts continue to cling to our sin - but God doesn't give up, he just does more to get our attention.

The story goes this way, Israel had fallen, they were exiled and lived as slaves and only Judah is left, and Judah still thinks that nothing can happen to me - Judah has been sent many prophets calling them to repent of their wickedness, and if you want to boil it all down to a simple charge, Judah was not being a good tenant, and was ignoring their Lord. So there was a war, and a siege, and a loss, and many were carried away into captivity - something that did cause them to remember their Lord and turn to him. It was hard times such as we have never seen. But, there were some people who thought that they could save themselves - they turned to other lords, and other gods and went to other lands - and it looked like these wicked people would prosper. And that is why God sent the vision of the figs, the good, and the bad. The exiled are the good figs, the others are going to discover that there are things much worse than exile. Those in exile will know the tender mercy of their Lord.