Jeremiah talks a lot about the exile, about the punishment of God's people by having them taken forcibly away from the good land that He has given them. What was once called "the Promised Land," but has so comfortably become simply "home" that the promise is all but forgotten; the people take it for granted as theirs, forgetting that it was first God's and that He gave it to them.
So they start doing what God's people always seem to start doing - they start worshiping other gods. Idols they've made. Ideas they've concocted. Spirits they've consulted. Statues they've bought. They take their cue from the peoples all around them, peoples also settled in what seem to be "home" lands and if this kind of worship is what other peoples do in their "home" lands, then maybe it makes sense for Israel to do the same in her "home."
That's what the exile is all about. It's not, at its core, a simple "punishment" for what God deems disobedient, some kind of tough love lesson in covenant-keeping. It's not some big show where God demonstrates His power so that Israel thinks twice about getting on the wrong side of Him.
It's simply a statement. God says that His people have chosen other gods, so they must go worship them in other lands. They can't do it here.
This is His land. This is His promise. This is His provision, His deliverance. He settled them here. He made them everything that they are. This is His house. If they want to set up idols, then fine, but they can't do it in His house. If they want to worship other gods, then fine, but not on the ground of His promise.
He is, through and through, a faithful parent to His children. What parent among us has not made that hard decision when their child starts to go astray? "That's the choice you want to make? Fine, but you can't do that in my house." Smoke? Not in my house. Drink? Not in my house. Curse? Not in my house. Name it.
Not in my house.
God has promised to give His people good things. The moment they start choosing bad things, He draws the line. Not in My house. Not in My promise. Not where everything that I'm trying to do for you is good. You want something that's not good? Then go to a not-good land and have at it.
I think we misunderstand the exile as some kind of show of force, as some kind of disapproval, some horrible harsh punishment. We think that if we step out of line, God's going to do the same thing to us - He's going to cast us out to some unknown place where we'll slowly wither away and die or whatever. We fear what God could do to us if He wanted to...
But let's stop right there. God didn't want to exile His people. It wasn't just some whim that He had or some divine choice to "really give it to 'em." It was love. It's always been love. He's always been love.
It was the consequence of their own choice. God was giving them not what He wanted, but exactly what they wanted. They wanted to be in a place where they could live by their own rules and worship their own gods, so He gave them that chance. He put them where that was exactly the life they could live. Not because He wanted to, but simply because He, as a loving parent, had one rule: not in My house.
So off they went and lo and behold, wouldn't you know it, they discovered in their new houses that home was so much more than simply granted; it was Promised and given, with grace and love.
It's why we should never forget what a place like Home truly is.
There's nothing like it.