Over the last several weeks, we’ve once again witnessed the annual back and forth between the advancing warmth of spring and the northward retreat of the cold, dark winter months. This time of year means different things to different people — warmer weather, outdoor activities, sunlight after 5 p.m., snakes, wasps, mosquitos and, of course, spring cleaning.
I can see it as I drive through residential neighborhoods every day. New roofs are going on houses. Contents of overflowing garages are emptied onto driveways; box trucks offload new flooring, new fixtures, new furniture, and armies of landscapers descend on suburban neighborhoods preparing well-manicured lawns for the coming summer season.
One of the things about spring projects is that moment you begin to doubt that it will ever really take shape. You know the moment, usually, a few hours into the work. You step back, survey the chaos you’ve just created — the muddy mess of a backyard, the annihilated remains of a kitchen — and you wonder how the project could ever possibly come together. But that’s how these things go. The first step is always tearing apart the old, so the new can rise from the rubble.
According to Jeremiah 1, this is also how God operates. God gives the prophet a message in Verses 9 and 10, calling him to “uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” What a strange contradiction here? How can this message be one of both destruction and creation? How can the same ministry bring both death and life?
In the Bible, though, this is how we often see God working. As Jeremiah watched the mighty Babylonian armies march through the Middle East, laying waste to everything in their path, he knew the writing was on the wall. The Babylonians were coming, and somehow he knew God didn’t seem to have any plans to stop them.
For the next 40-plus years, Jeremiah’s people would live under Babylonian control. Their temple was razed, their city lay in ruins, and the best and brightest of their people were carried into exile. Everything they once knew had been destroyed.
But that’s not the end of the story. Forty-plus years later, a new king ascends to the throne. The exiles are allowed to go back. A new wall was built around the city, and then a new temple. Jeremiah’s hometown was back — stronger than it had been before. What God had allowed the Babylonians to uproot and tear down was now rebuilt and replanted.
This isn’t the only time in history God would operate this way. We see it again in the story of Good Friday. Have you ever stopped to think, “What’s so good about Good Friday?” Why did we end up using the word “good” to describe the day Jesus was murdered?
Good Friday is good because God is at work. It’s only the beginning of the project — the uprooting and tearing down part. Good Friday is the red muddy mess of a backyard where the well-manicured lawn will one day stand. Good Friday is the annihilated remains of the old kitchen where granite countertops and stainless steel appliances will one day live. It’s good because it’s not the end of the story. Sunday morning is only less than 48 hours away, and on Sunday morning, God is going to breathe new life into the rubble Friday left behind.
Maybe you’re living through Good Friday right now. Perhaps you feel like your life is a red muddy mess, and you can’t imagine how anything good will ever grow again. But Sunday is still coming. God is not going to allow you to go through the tearing down and uprooting without fulfilling the promise of building and planting.
Jeremiah never saw his homeland rebuilt. Tradition tells us he died in exile, but his people did come back stronger and more faithful. The testimony of the prophets, the apostles, the church fathers, and countless faithful men and women through the centuries tells us that it worked in Jesus’ day, too. Sometimes God uproots and tears down, but always to rebuild and replant. Like Jeremiah, I may not always get to see the results in this present age, but the promise still gives me hope. God is still at work, and God will still be right there with me, even when I step into the age to come.
Jason Koon is an ordained minister who lives in Morganton with his wife and two teenage daughters. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.