Lord, thank You for the blessed hope we know as Jesus.
Read JEREMIAH 31:1–22
31 “At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.”
2 This is what the Lord says:
“The people who survive the sword
will find favor in the wilderness;
I will come to give rest to Israel.”
3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
4 I will build you up again,
and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
and go out to dance with the joyful.
5 Again you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
and enjoy their fruit.
6 There will be a day when watchmen cry out
on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’”
7 This is what the Lord says:
“Sing with joy for Jacob;
shout for the foremost of the nations.
Make your praises heard, and say,
‘Lord, save your people,
the remnant of Israel.’
8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame,
expectant mothers and women in labor;
a great throng will return.
9 They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel’s father,
and Ephraim is my firstborn son.
10 “Hear the word of the Lord, you nations;
proclaim it in distant coastlands:
‘He who scattered Israel will gather them
and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’
11 For the Lord will deliver Jacob
and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.
12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden,
and they will sorrow no more.
13 Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
and my people will be filled with my bounty,”
declares the Lord.
15 This is what the Lord says:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
16 This is what the Lord says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”
declares the Lord.
“They will return from the land of the enemy.
17 So there is hope for your descendants,”
declares the Lord.
“Your children will return to their own land.
18 “I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
because you are the Lord my God.
19 After I strayed,
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
20 Is not Ephraim my dear son,
the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him,”
declares the Lord.
21 “Set up road signs;
put up guideposts.
Take note of the highway,
the road that you take.
Return, Virgin Israel,
return to your towns.
22 How long will you wander,
unfaithful Daughter Israel?
The Lord will create a new thing on earth—
the woman will return to the man.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
God still remembers with pain the punishment he had to dole out to the northern kingdom years before (20). Isn’t this exactly how a disciplining father would feel?
What keeps hope alive? My uncle spent the last year of World War II in a prison camp. For him, as for thousands of others, the thought of returning home kept him alive. Eventually his dreams were fulfilled, and he returned to the UK. The exiles in Babylon are in a similar situation, but their separation will last much longer. Into their gloom, Jeremiah brings a message of hope—a hope that extends to all of God’s people. One day they will return home and the divided nation (Israel and Judah) will be reunited (1).
Through Jeremiah God reveals himself in four hope-sustaining pictures. First, he is their lover (3). In hard times they may doubt God’s love, but despite their circumstances he loves them “with an everlasting love.” It is an active love, an extravagant love, and a kind love which reaches out to them (3b) and will result in fruitfulness and joy (4–6). Yet it is not a surprising love, because he is their Father (9). That’s why he makes no distinction between his children (8), and he will make their journey smooth (9). This Father has great compassion (20).
As a shepherd he “will gather them and will watch over” them (10). It doesn’t matter that their captors are stronger than they are (11). He is bringing them to a place of abundance and celebration (12–14). Finally, God identifies himself with a distressed mother (15,18). Here God seems to weep with Rachel like a mother. His emotion stems not only from their waywardness, however: God is also moved by their repentance (18–20)—even though that in itself is his gift! In the end, he offers them—and us—a clear way home (21).
Are you hopeful just now? Or does your hope need to be strengthened? Which of these four pictures speaks most to you today?
Lord, we marvel over Your undying love for Israel. May you find joy, O Lord in how we seek to please and honor you.