My first mobile phone came in bag. The size of a lady’s purse, except with an antenna, it made me extremely self-conscious. Like a cross between a European tourist and a secret service agent, I felt sure everyone was staring. This phone was for emergencies only. No casual calling. No mobile internet. And coverage was as spotty as spotty could be. Only outbound calls made sense. After all, no one could reliably reach me. What about texts or voicemail, you ask? They were still in the future. My beeper is what alerted me to find for that rare place on earth with a signal.
In those heady days, the expectation of finding coverage was low. But today, we are indignant if we can’t get 5G at every remote Ozark swimming hole. We expect coverage and internet everywhere. And we expect it for free. Few and far between are those places which have ‘no service.’ And, between manned space launches, Elon Musk is working to drive those areas to near zero with Starlink. Perhaps one day concepts like ‘no service’ will be as foreign to our grandchildren as mobile phones that came in a bag.
But this is a distinctly human problem. God has no such limitations in his communication with his creation. God has always had a reliable network with coverage so vast there is no place where he must ask, “can you hear me now?” Problems hearing from God are never a network problem. God’s speaking is “living and active.” Always on. He is always speaking. He “speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting… he does not keep silence.” (Psalm 50:1, 3) And there is no place where you are out of coverage from his call. As Psalm 19 so memorably puts it.
The heavens declare the glory of God,Psalm 19:1-4
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
God speaks – and not just to a few select creatures. His Word, his promises, his mercy are not just for a particular culture, tribe, or spot on the earth. He is no regional or racial deity. He is the Lord over all the earth. People from every “tribe and language and people and nation” are the objects of his steadfast love and care. This is one of the remarkable things about Christianity. Other religions import cultural distinctives such as forms of dress, dietary restrictions, and particular sacred languages which become prerequisites for piety. But Christianity permeates and transforms every tribe, language, people and nation through a unity that produces remarkable diversity.
The repeated error of the people of Israel was to believe that God was theirs alone — their private higher power. A God who loved only them and those like them. A God who blessed them and cursed their enemies. A God who served their interest. And ironically, this ‘pagan view’ of the true God caused them to abandon Him for all the false gods of the nations. God set his love upon them to display the beauty of the Covenant of Grace to the whole world. Their faith was intended to call nations, far and near, to abandon false gods. But in their unfaithfulness, they abandoned the true and living God. They were called to be a missionary people. But if they would not willingly testify to God’s grace through faithfulness, they would unwittingly testify to it through unfaithfulness and judgement.
The Apostle Paul makes this point in his letter to the Romans.
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!Romans 11:11-12
Jeremiah, the longest book of in the Old Testament, is filled with dire warnings of judgment. For four decades, the prophet called the people of Judah to turn back to God. He outlined their unfaithfulness in every area of life. He warned of the consequences of living with their backs to God. And he stayed with them in every descending step into God’s judgment of them as a nation.
But from the beginning, God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. And through his preaching, God’s Word to Judah becomes a word to the nations and to us. It shines through, time and time again. In every oracle of judgment, there is an offer of grace. So, it is fitting that Jeremiah ends with an extensive call to the nations to know the Lord and to walk in His ways. This book is no mere sordid history of an ancient kingdom’s demise. But it is a constant refrain of grace, sung out to men who are utterly undeserving. It is a reminder that God’s promises are not for some particular tribe, language, nation or people, but for “every creature under heaven.” And most importantly, for you.
You are not beyond God’s grace. You are not excluded from His offer. In John 6:37, Jesus says, “whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.” Jeremiah is filled with the threatened judgment, but more than that, with promised mercy. Are you headed toward judgment? God’s call is to turn back and find mercy. In Jeremiah 46-51, God calls the nations to turn back. In some of the Scripture’s most remarkable poetry, the Lord calls those who are far from him to return home.
Join us as we see that God calls us to return as well. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.