Grace in the Wilderness

“The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness;” – Jeremiah 31:2

EFA - Grace in the Wilderness

For the most part, Jeremiah 31 seems an obscure passage of scripture.  In terms of biblical commentary, it doesn’t receive significant treatment;  it seems little more than a brief account of how God restored the remnant of Israel that had been banished to wander in the desert as the result of their disobedience;  not the first time that had happened, wouldn’t be the last.

However, the picture within the passage, the image of grace found in the wilderness, has a particular meaning for me.

In his commentary on this passage, Matthew Henry makes two observations.  First:   “ . . . the love of God . . . is an everlasting love . . . those whom God loves with this love, He will draw to Himself, by the influences of His Spirit upon their souls.”  Second:  the predictions in this passage “ . . . figuratively describe the conversion of sinners to Christ.”

January 8, 1974.  I closed my eyes, and simply said, “I give up.”  The two-year struggle for my soul ended forty years ago, today.

The struggle didn’t end so much in victory, or even in grateful surrender (that would come later);  at the time, it was more like a capitulation, a submission that involved a sense of both relief and resentment.  I had tried every way I could to opt-out of salvation.  In the end, the only defense left was pride, and I was unwilling to let that be the justification for continuing to stand in defiance of Truth.

At the time I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I didn’t know where that decision would lead me;  I didn’t know what would change about my life, or how long and difficult those changes would be.  I didn’t know all the ways that God would change my heart.  I didn’t know how much He would increase my understanding of faith, of grace, of mercy, of justification, of sanctification;  I did not anticipate the profound handprint of His providence;  forty years later, the Cross of Jesus Christ is immeasurably larger than anything I could have then imagined, anything I could have comprehended, anything I could have beheld.

At the time, I just knew that I couldn’t stay where I was, in an empty, desolate spiritual wilderness from which there seemed to be no way out, only space in which to wander aimlessly, endlessly, pointlessly.

In order to be found, grace has to be imparted.  It’s impartation is totally unmerited, wholly-sufficient, the result of a love that is given without condition.  But – it is also imparted as something else.  The struggle that lead to my salvation is a testament – as John Calvin reminds us – to the irresistible nature of that grace.