These chapters in the Book of Jeremiah are called the book of consolation. They are a high point in Old Testament revelation. They stand in stark contrast to the rest of Jeremiah. These chapters are actually filled with hope, and point to a marvelous future of restoration as well as a new covenant to supersede the old covenant made at Mount Sinai. Chapter 30 is a series of messages that are mostly positive other than verses 22-24. Jeremiah speaks of the benefits of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile. This seems like more bad news than good, but the Lord has a purpose and it will be fulfilled. The good news is this. The fall of Jerusalem and Judah did nothing to mark the end of the relationship God has with His people. Not only would the residents of Judah be restored after exile but so would those of the northern kingdom who were scattered in 722 B.C. He has promised to bring them all home. In fact, there were three separate groups of exiles who returned, in 538, 458, and 445 B.C. Jeremiah also recognizes that this is a time of terror. The Babylonians had built siege ramps and had trapped the residents of Jerusalem in the city for a year and a half. It was a time of trouble and the worst part was, it was self inflicted.
As with other prophecies, sometimes it took years for them to be fulfilled. The exiles did return but they were still subject to foreign masters, really through the Roman rule at the time of Jesus. There were periods when Israel did experience some measure of freedom. The exile lasted long enough that when the people did return they had cast aside their idols and idol worship and they truly served and worshiped the Lord. The promised king who would come was of course the Messiah, Jesus Christ. As the exiles returned, the Lord promised peace and quiet and no fearsome enemies. God could make these promises because He was the Lord, He was with His people, and He had the power to save them. This was not a hall pass to act however they wanted though. God would still discipline them if they sinned. As it was, the exiles suffered injuries. Trusted friends and allies were of no help when the Babylonians attacked and Judah found herself alone…no allies and God had turned His back. God reminded them they had no right to protest their punishment because their sinful behavior had earned their punishment. The people deserved both their punishment and their exile. But, God also promised that those who had devoured the people would themselves be devoured. God would heal their wounds, the people would return, and the city would be rebuilt.
Jerusalem would be the center of a healthy and growing nation, devoted to worshiping the Lord. They would sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. They would be honored by their neighbors, children would once again play in the streets, and they would have their own ruler. This is the city the Lord envisioned, where people were totally devoted to Him, worshiping him as the one true God. And, punishment remained an important part of what the Lord had planned. Jeremiah, along with the rest of the people struggled to understand God’s divine promises with His divine anger. Later, as people looked back, they would see clearer and begin to understand.
Of the four chapters, 31 is probably the most familiar. This chapter begins, in that day, referring to the day the exiles return home. Eventually all 12 tribes will be brought home, but this message is for those who will survive the coming destruction and fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah reminded them that the Lord had revealed Himself to the people during the exodus. The people had been guilty of adultery with false gods but the restored community will be like a virgin, as though the people have never forsaken the Lord. This will bring great joy and celebration. The kingdom will no longer be divided and a great company of people will return. Between 538-536 B.C. there were 49,697 exiles who returned. The Lord would be their Shepherd in place of the wicked shepherds who had led the people astray. In restoration the people would enjoy blessings, good gifts, abundant crops, and fruitful herds. All of the sorrows of the exile would go away and the returnees would be like a fruitful, watered garden. The Lord promised to replace mourning, which was a daily experience in exile, with rejoicing. Everyone, priests and people, will know abundance because they would bring their full tithe to the Lord. The last half of the chapter finds the Lord expanding on what His future rebuilding project will be. He will build a new nation out of people who had suffered much in their time of exile.
Rachel was the favorite wife, the mother of Joseph, father of Ephraim and Manasseh of the northern kingdom, and Benjamin whose descendants were part of the southern kingdom. Here she represented all of the mother’s who had children who were taken into exile. We will see this verse again in Matthew 2:18 in relation to the young boys who Herod has killed in his attempt to kill Jesus. Jeremiah tells her she should not weep because her children will be brought back from exile. Now Israel is repenting of her sins and they were ashamed. God responded like a Father who still loves His wayward children. The Lord guided His people back to the promised land physically and spiritually to their covenant relationship with Him. At some point Jeremiah and or his scribe fell asleep and he was awakened with a start. His sleep had been sweet, like the rest and joy promised by the Lord. One of the ways the Lord will care for His people will be seen in the population growth of both humans and animals. The hope and promise is in verse 31. The days are coming when a new covenant will be made with His people. This new covenant is fulfilled when Jesus is crucified and is raised from the dead. One of the major differences between the old and new covenant is that with the new, God will write His instructions deep within His people’s hearts. The old covenant was external and legal and the new was a person to person relationship with the Lord. The new covenant would emphasize the redeeming, transforming, change of one’s spiritual nature. The old covenant had to be taught but the heart of the new covenant would be an inner personal relationship. God also promised that when sins are forgiven they are moved behind the Lord, not to be brought out again. The Lord compared His promise of the new covenant to His faithfulness in maintaining the laws of nature. He revealed His plan for Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and the entire area will become holy to the Lord.
The siege on Jerusalem began in January of 588B.C. Jeremiah favored surrender to the Babylonians but most of the people believed they could defeat them. To protect Jeremiah, king Zedekiah imprisoned him in the courtyard of the guard. Jeremiah knew that to continue to resist the Babylonians was futile. It would be a disaster for the city and for Zedekiah. The Lord sent Jeremiah another message, this time telling him to buy a field that belonged to a cousin. Jeremiah was the closest kinsman redeemer and had the first right of purchase. We read about kinsman redeemers in the Book of Ruth, 4:1-4. With the Babylonians knocking on the gate of the city it seemed crazy for Jeremiah to buy a field, but he bought it anyway. He followed all of the legal procedures to the letter, and paid the price. It was in his hometown of Anathoth. The document was given to Jeremiah’s secretary, Baruch and he placed the document in a clay jar, the best thing for safekeeping of a papyrus document. The reason for this transaction was that there was hope even as the people were about to be taken into exile. Someday the exiled survivors would return and the land would remain in Jeremiah’s family. This was part of the Lord’s plan for restoration.
Jeremiah prayed often but usually they were prayers of anguish and despair. This prayer was hopeful. It was calm, affirming, and worshipful. Jeremiah prayed it in response to the purchase of the land. He knew our Sovereign God would keep His promises. He also knew that the Lord had done great miracles throughout the history of Israel and He had also been busy around the world. As a result, everyone knew about Israel’s God. Jeremiah reminded the people that the Lord’s divine acts had caused terror in the world when He acted. In his prayer, Jeremiah detailed many of God’s miraculous acts and the people’s acts of disobedience. He was amazed at the skill of the attacking Babylonians. He saw their siege ramps outside the city walls and inside the walls he saw the horrors of war, famine, and disease. There was no doubt the Babylonians would conquer the city, and Jeremiah was in awe…not because of the Babylonians but because he was watching the fulfillment of everything the Lord had said. He was also confused by the command to buy the land because it would be under Babylonian control but he was obedient. The Lord responded to Jeremiah’s concerns using several affirmations. The gloom and doom still hung over Jerusalem, and God would fulfill His promises. The Lord also reminded Jeremiah…and us that nothing is too hard for the Lord. Shortly Jerusalem’s walls would be breached and the city would be set afire. David and Solomon built the city but the people had filled it with evil practices. The kings of the northern kingdom had been bad, every single one of them, and many kings of the south as well. Priests, kings, and people alike had filled the temple of the Lord with idols. Despite their disobedience God would not totally abandon His people. No longer would He uproot His people. Instead He would delight in replanting them. Eventually things would return to the way God intended.
Chapter 33 brings the promises of peace and prosperity. As the city of Jerusalem and the king of Judah were falling to the Babylonians, God gave Jeremiah a greater understanding of His long range plan. The promises could only come true after the promised destruction. The exile would purify the people so God could bring them back. Jeremiah was confined to the courtyard of the guard until the fall of Jerusalem in August of 586 B.C. The message from the Lord was grounded in His power as the Creator and the power of His name. It is interesting that even as the walls of the city of Jerusalem were coming down the people were still looking for ways to keep the Babylonians out. The Lord had warned the people and now the things Jeremiah had prophesied were happening. Just as with Christians, there is a cross before the crown, suffering before glory. So too for the people of the Old Testament. There would be suffering for them before their purification and restoration. There would be 70 years of punishment and then there would be singing at their release and homecoming. The land would be desolate for those 70 years and then God would make it fruitful. The ultimate fulfillment of the promises of redemption will of course happen when Jesus comes. He is the Good Shepherd, and the righteous branch. Zedekiah was the last descendant of David to rule over the kingdom of Judah but there would be a future descendant of David who would reign forever. The Messiah would be king forever. The Levitical priests would return to conduct worship in the Jerusalem temple. That promise was as sure as the day and night sequence. The Lord had rejected many individuals, cities, and kingdoms but He would never abandon His people who stretched across many generations.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W