Today my Bible reading took me to the book of Jeremiah, the OT prophet who was so distraught for his people that he wished "my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people" (9 : 1). Jeremiah loved God and was faithful in carrying out His commands, but in this chapter Jeremiah had a complaint. And it concerned the seeming reluctance of God to punish the wicked. Jeremiah said, "Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts" (12 : 1 - 2).
Just as Jeremiah had seen all the wickedness of the people, God had also seen it. He said, "As for all my wicked neighbors who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands and I will uproot the house of Judah from among them" ( v 14). But in the very next verse, God says, "But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to his own inheritance and his own country. And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, 'As surely as the LORD lives'--even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal--then they will be established among my people. But if any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it," declares the LORD" ( v 15 - 17).
God has always forgiven the children of Israel, His chosen race, but this time He is referring to Israel's enemies, His "wicked neighbors." God is saying that if they, the Gentiles, will turn away from their wickedness, He will save them. This is the essence of God's forgiveness, the overriding message of the Scriptures. His love is not limited to the Jewish people alone. He loves us all and is ready and willing to forgive us and take us under His banner.
So, yes, God will punish us for our wrongdoing, but the matter does not end there. After punishment comes forgiveness, if we repent and ask for it. Jeremiah was sore because the wicked seemed to be getting away with their sins. But God had a plan and a purpose for them, just as He had for His own people. He was going to uproot them, punish them, but He would bring them back so they could mend their ways and come under his umbrella of forgiveness.
Most of you probably know the story of the prodigal son. The older brother had a similar complaint. Why did his father accept his younger brother into the home after all the ugly things he had done? Friends, when we are tempted to complain about the unfairness of life let us stop and consider the reason Jesus came. It was not to take only the good with Him to heaven, but to bring sinners to repentance. As Paul said, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10 : 13).