Jeremiah 31 (NLT)
Hope for Restoration
Such words of endearment from God to his people!
“In that day,” says 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:
“Those who survive the coming destruction
will find blessings even in the barren land,
for I will give rest to the people of Israel.”
3 Long ago the Lord said to Israel:
“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.
This statement was spoken to Israel; but the love it describes is God’s love for every believer. “You must go back beyond your birth, beyond Calvary and Bethlehem, beyond the fall of man and the Garden of Eden, and as you stand looking out into the immensity of eternity, dare to believe that you were loved and chosen in Christ, the object of God’s most tender solicitude and pity.”
–F. B. Meyer
4 I will rebuild you, my virgin Israel.
You will again be happy
and dance merrily with your tambourines.
Tambourines were used on joyful occasions (see Psalm 68:25), especially following a military victory. Dancing in ancient times was often a religious activity (see Psalm 149:3). (The Archaeology Study Bible)
5 Again you will plant your vineyards on the mountains of Samaria
and eat from your own gardens there.
6 The day will come when watchmen will shout
from the hill country of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Jerusalem
to worship the Lord our God.’”
In ancient Israel a person always went “up” to Jerusalem, not only because its elevation was above the surrounding countryside but also because it was the royal city and the center of the nation’s religious life. (The Archaeology Study Bible)
7 Now this is what the Lord says:
“Sing with joy for Israel.
Shout for the greatest of nations!
Shout out with praise and joy:
‘Save your people, O Lord,
the remnant of Israel!’
8 For I will bring them from the north
and from the distant corners of the earth.
I will not forget the blind and lame,
the expectant mothers and women in labor.
A great company will return!
9 Tears of joy will stream down their faces,
and I will lead them home with great care.
They will walk beside quiet streams
and on smooth paths where they will not stumble.
For I am Israel’s father,
and Ephraim is my oldest child.
10 “Listen to this message from the Lord,
you nations of the world;
proclaim it in distant coastlands:
The Lord, who scattered his people,
will gather them and watch over them
as a shepherd does his flock.
11 For the Lord has redeemed Israel
from those too strong for them.
12 They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem.
They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts—
the abundant crops of grain, new wine, and olive oil,
and the healthy flocks and herds.
Their life will be like a watered garden,
and all their sorrows will be gone.
13 The young women will dance for joy,
and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration.
I will turn their mourning into joy.
I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.
14 The priests will enjoy abundance,
and my people will feast on my good gifts.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Rachel’s Sadness Turns to Joy
15 This is what the Lord says:
“A cry is heard in Ramah—
deep anguish and bitter weeping.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted—
for her children are gone.”
Here the Lord spoke through a poetic image, picturing Rachel (the mother of Benjamin and Joseph, ancestors of prominent tribes of Israel) weeping for her children. She does this from Ramah, near where she was buried (1 Samuel 10:2).
“Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, is pictured as weeping in despair over the exiled tribes. To her comes the comforting assurance that her children will be miraculously returned to her.”
–Arthur E. Cundall
The words are quoted in Matthew 2:18 concerning Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. (The Reformation Bible)
16 But now this is what the Lord says:
“Do not weep any longer,
for I will reward you,” says the Lord.
“Your children will come back to you
from the distant land of the enemy.
17 There is hope for your future,” says the Lord.
“Your children will come again to their own land.
18 I have heard Israel saying,
‘You disciplined me severely,
like a calf that needs training for the yoke.
Turn me again to you and restore me,
for you alone are the Lord my God.
19 I turned away from God,
but then I was sorry.
I kicked myself for my stupidity!
I was thoroughly ashamed of all I did in my younger days.’
20 “Is not Israel still my son,
my darling child?” says the Lord.
“I often have to punish him,
but I still love him.
That’s why I long for him
and surely will have mercy on him.
21 Set up road signs;
put up guideposts.
Mark well the path
by which you came.
Come back again, my virgin Israel;
return to your towns here.
22 How long will you wander,
my wayward daughter?
For the Lord will cause something new to happen—
Israel will embrace her God.”
23 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people of Judah and its towns will again say, ‘The Lord bless you, O righteous home, O holy mountain!’ 24 Townspeople and farmers and shepherds alike will live together in peace and happiness. 25 For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.”
Psalm 36:8 (ESV)
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
26 At this, I woke up and looked around. My sleep had been very sweet.
27 “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will greatly increase the human population and the number of animals here in Israel and Judah. 28 In the past I deliberately uprooted and tore down this nation. I overthrew it, destroyed it, and brought disaster upon it. But in the future I will just as deliberately plant it and build it up. I, the Lord, have spoken!
29 “The people will no longer quote this proverb:
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste.’
30 All people will die for their own sins—those who eat the sour grapes will be the ones whose mouths will pucker.
The idea here seems to be that many people in Jeremiah’s time assumed that God’s judgment against them was due not to their own sins but to the sins of their ancestors. Here the Lord clarifies the situation!
31 “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.
This verse contains the only Old Testament use of the phrase “new covenant,” which (together with its use in the New Testament) has come down to us (via Latin) as “new testament,” the name that was later applied to the distinctively Christian part of the Biblical canon. (The Archaeology Study Bible)
32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord.
Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis Kinlaw
PATHOS AND HOPE
The picture Jeremiah gives in his message to the people of Israel is remarkably realistic. He knew the human heart, and he told the people of God about the tragedy of trusting in the flesh. Jeremiah provided the groundwork for much of the New Testament teaching about grace. He also saw into the future. He was watching the old covenant of Moses come apart and the old legal relationship that bound the people of God together break into pieces, but Jeremiah realized that this was not the end. A new covenant would come, and it would be written not on tablets of stone but on the human heart. Then humanity would do the will of God, not because of an external force, but because they knew God and desired to do his will.
Jeremiah wrote a message of hope mixed with pathos—the hope of God’s new covenant and the desperate reality of human sin. When we meet God and live with him, we discover who we are in the light of who God is. God is the one who gives a realistic picture of human life. When he presents that realistic picture to the human heart and we accept it, an unshakable realism comes into our life and witness.
With that realism comes the assurance that God can turn the “ought” of his Law into delight as the psalmist declares (Ps. 1:2; 119:14-15; 47. 92). Jeremiah did not give up even when he wanted to because he knew that God would prevail and that he, through God’s grace, could prevail. The message is applicable to us too. His way can be our delight as well.
35 It is the Lord who provides the sun to light the day
and the moon and stars to light the night,
and who stirs the sea into roaring waves.
His name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
and this is what he says:
36 “I am as likely to reject my people Israel
as I am to abolish the laws of nature!”
37 This is what the Lord says:
“Just as the heavens cannot be measured
and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored,
so I will not consider casting them away
for the evil they have done.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
38 “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when all Jerusalem will be rebuilt for me, from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 A measuring line will be stretched out over the hill of Gareb and across to Goah. 40 And the entire area—including the graveyard and ash dump in the valley, and all the fields out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the Horse Gate—will be holy to the Lord. The city will never again be captured or destroyed.”
We can treasure verse 3 as God says: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Rest in the Lord and his love for you.
HERE is Michael Joncas’ “I Have Loved You with an Everlasting Love.”
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.