And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares Yahweh. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”
What a powerful word God spoke to Jeremiah. This was the word Jeremiah was to proclaim to Israel. Essentially, God was saying to Israel, “Are you seeking wealth, privilege, and benefits? Stop, for there is no point, since I am about to bring destruction upon you.” Wow! This God of justice and wrath is not the kind of God we like to be confronted with (who in their right mind would enjoy it?), yet our God is just and wrathful. Israel deserved the punishment for her apostasy. We, too, deserve God’s punishment for our apostasy.
This is the Law, which stands most evocative in this passage, yet there is also Gospel. “But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.” In other words: “My wrath is coming. I am going to destroy you for your sins. But I will nevertheless preserve your life like rejoicing in the plunders of war.” God is at war with sin. When God deals with sin, He annihilates it. There is no other way for God to deal with sin than with wrath. Yet in the midst of His justice, God also sees it just to preserve Israel, and also to preserve us in our own sin.
This is the kind of God we have: God who is just and whose wrath utterly destroys sin, yet also a God who mercifully preserves life as He carries out His justice against sinful rebellion. God ultimately preserves our lives in Christ, who died with our sins upon Him and rose from the dead, leaving our sins in the tomb.