“This is what the Lord says:
‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing.
There is no one to plead your cause,
No remedy for your sore, no healing for you…
But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’
declares the Lord.
As kids, my brothers and I were hard on our toys. Some of it was overuse (competitions for longest bike-tire skidmark were common on our driveway). Some of it was misuse (turns out that dragging in snapping turtles with butterfly nets doesn’t work). Some of it was blatant abuse (also inadvisable: using wiffle bats to play Paul Bunyan with neighborhood shubberies).
Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the Toy Story gang must have thought us Public Enemies #1. Our adolescent zeal left a steady stream of maimed rocking horses, de-wheeled Ertl trucks, and See and Says that were unable to do much of either.
Back then, broken toys usually meant a rescue call to our Grandpa, who dutifully drove over to survey the damage. His response often consisted of two sober lines:
Cocking his head at the warped Big Wheel or de-roofed Fisher-Price barn, Grandpa would mutter “Nehhh…that thing’s shot. You can’t fix that.”
Then, after a pregnant, despairing pause, his eyes would twinkle: “Gimme that thing.”
And off that thing would go, into the back of his station wagon and then down to his WD40-stained basement workbench. A week or so later, it would magically reappear in our garage or playroom, complete with a new tire, new handle, or new paint job. The man was a whiz.
Around 580 years before Jesus was born, the people of God were in dire straits. Wanton idolatry, social injustice, and spiritual rebellion had led to the collapse of the kingdom of Judah. Jerusalem had been toppled by King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian horde and most of the young leaders had been carted off into exile. The land smoldered with ash and pain.
In this season, God spoke through a prophet named Jeremiah. Jeremiah had foreseen this meltdown coming and had pleaded with the leaders of Judah to change course. He decried the wickedness of the people and begged them to get right with God.
But Jeremiah was ignored. For his efforts, he was clamped in stocks and later thrown into a pit. And when Nebuchadnezzar rolled up with his forces, all that Jeremiah had prophesied came true. It was a disaster.
The biblical book of Lamentations, also attributed to Jeremiah, describes the aftermath of Jerusalem’s fall in horrific detail. Jeremiah was a man who told it how it was, no matter how grotesque. Maybe that’s part of the reason why Jeremiah’s happier pronouncements are so dearly loved by readers of the Old Testament. Like a bead of brightness amid Lamentations’ black agony is a verse many people have clung to:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
What the prophet proclaims on God’s behalf in Jeremiah 30 is the same theme. There is legitimate hope for the people even though they are in a serious mess.
The text above begins with God sounding a lot like my grandpa. This cannot be fixed, God says. Your greed and lust for false gods have shattered you. Your injury is beyond healing.
Now that’s honesty. The kind of honesty that people probably need to hear more often. Sin is a huge, huge deal. God never says of our sin – “Hey, because I’m God, I’m going to let it slide this time.” God, through Jeremiah, reads the report to the doomed patient: It’s terminal. There are no known drugs, nothing in FDA trials, no experimental cures for this.
But then remarkably, hope jumps in. Verse 17: God says to the people: Give me that. Give me your ransacked hearts. Give me your rusted-out spirits. Bring your contagion here. Let me work on this.
There’s hope! A declaration of life follows a death sentence! This is the sheer force, the dizzying wonder, of the Christian gospel. It reads like a contradiction: You can’t be fixed. I will fix you.
Nowhere is the paradox more staggering – and nowhere is God’s restorative grace more clearly apparent – than at the cross. Our sin was such a big deal that it took the Son of God’s death to fix it. Think about that. That’s the depth of our crisis. But it also shows God’s love for us in that he was willing to pay that price. If God will not spare his own Son to save us, what else must he have in store?
Nobody had the cure for what’s wrong with us. So Jesus became the cure. And we, the Unfixable, have been forever repaired.