JEREMIAH CHAPTER 31: I love you very much, you are my dear child-God says to me.
This chapter has one of the nicest words from God to His people, His children. Just as we said earlier, this chapter is part of the four chapters that writers call ‘the book of consolation’. We open our chapter with God’s promise that time was about to come when His grace and love as God would be revealed again (remember that even His just judgments and punishments prove Him to be God). The Lord who had taken care of the people in the desert in times of Moses was going to take care of His people and help them return home. Yeah, though the destruction of the temple and the city had been so great and left the city as a desert with no life, God was promising that in such situation He still had control and ways to make Israelites pick up their instruments and sing again. Listen, He says, “I love you people with a love that will last forever. That is why I have continued showing you kindness” (verses 1-5). Read verse one again and notice that the Israel talked of here means all the 12 tribes which was fulfilled and then all the family and groups of Israel which means all of us and has not yet come true.
The chapter goes on with God’s assurance that there will again be worship at the temple. The message here talks of not only Judah and Jerusalem only but also of the other ten tribes usually referred to as Israel. Though so many had faced some kind of troubles and others died, the remnant would be brought home on flat roads with no stumbling (verses 6-9). Since we all know that no matter how much we try to be upright we still stumble, then it possible that part of this message was talking of the future to come. In exposition of verses 5 and 6, Matthew Henry reminds us that Samaria was the capital city of the northern Kingdom (the ten tribes) and Jerusalem the capital city of the southern Kingdom (the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin) but at the time of God’s intervention, they will celebrate one city and one temple (a sign of Israel’s unification). Also, the watchmen talked about on verse 6 will call for people and gather at the temple to give praise to the Lord.
According to Matthew Henry, the watchmen referred to could either be the ones who in the past would keep watch over a city to identify an approaching enemy ( Habbakuk 2:1), the ones who were watching over the vine yards till they got ready and enjoyed the harvest (verse 5) or the ones who were meant to look after God’s people represented by Ephraim but who instead became haters of Ephraim’s God (Hosea 5:1, 9:8). According to John Gill’s expositions of the same verse, he makes it clear that the watchmen talked of here are vine yard watchmen who can be compared to Christian ministers and those who take on Christ’s mission. These guys had failed this duty and instead brought trouble to the people by luring them into idolatry and other evils as seen in Hosea, but they return to their Job and stir their neighbors and run to the temple to praise the Lord (verse 6).
So it will be. God, who had scattered His own people, will still bring them back from the far places they had scattered to (verses 10-14). Worship and priesthood would be restored and sacrifices will be more than enough. Yeah, the Lord is the one who had scattered His people over their disobedience and so He exactly knew where they were and it wouldn’t be hard for Him to bring them back if He wished to. Actually, even though they would be under heavy and stronger rulers, God would get them out. At we are trapped by troubles and challenges and lose hope of ever standing again. But God says that He is aware of where we fell and He can pull us up.
Verse 15 talks of Rachel who cried in Ramah and refused to be comforted. Rachel was a wife of Jacob (Gen 29:30). Leah was Jacob’s first wife. Ok, Leah easily got pregnant while it failed with Rachel until one day she decided to have her own servant sleep with Jacob so she could have children with Jacob via the maid. The plan worked. However, in latter age, God gave her two children (Joseph and Benjamin). Rachel died while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin and she was buried on the road to Ephrath between Ramah and Bethlehem (Genesis 30:1-23, Gen 35:16-21). Some writers say that she was buried at Ramh exactly (Jamieson and Fausset). Her son Joseph was the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, the two leading tribes of the northern kingdom (Gen 8:1). Her other son Benjamin was the leading tribe of the southern Kingdom.
According to our history and the bible, the northern kingdom had been taken captive by Assyrian army and then the southern kingdom was being taken captives to Babylon. Actually, according to Jer 40:1, the Jews are first gathered at Ramah (the exact place of burial of their ‘mother’) by Babylonian Army commander Nebuzaradan who later sets Jeremiah free and parades the rest to the foreign nation. Jeremiah in the chapter we are reading pictures Rachel rising up from the tomb, observing her children being paraded into captivity and consequently crying beyond comforting. The next application of the weeping of Rachel in the book of Matthew chapter 2:17-18 is well illustrated by Jamieson and Fausset’s exposition, “Besides the temporary reference to the exiles in Babylon, the Holy Spirit foreshadowed ultimately Messiah's exile in Egypt, and the desolation caused in the neighborhood of Rachel's tomb by Herod's massacre of the children, whose mothers had "sons of sorrow" (Ben-oni), just as Rachel had. The return of Messiah (the representative of Israel) from Egypt, and the future restoration of Israel, both the literal and the spiritual (including the innocents), at the Lord's second advent, are antitypical of the restoration of Israel from Babylon, which is the ground of consolation held out here by Jeremiah.
The chapter then explains that while it is not a crime to cry over such losses as death of our loved ones or being taken into captivity whatever kind, it shouldn’t consume the whole of us since there is always a good future (verses 16-17). And while this became true with practical restoration of Israelites back into their country, it is still hope to keep that at the second coming of Christ, Rachel will see her dead children rise up again and this time for eternal happiness. That is our hope too. The people had wandered a lot and in the process had changed their ways (got saved) and all that waited for them was everlasting reward (verses 19-19). The verse that follows is the greatest one, “You know that Israel is my dear son, the child I love. Yes, I often speak against Israel, but I still remember him. I love him very much, and I want to comfort him” (verse 20). I won’t explain this now; we will come back to it later. However, it is wise to note that the opening of the verse is an answer to unrevealed expected negative answer to the question, ‘Is Israel my dear son?’ No would be the right answer considering how sinful Israel was but our loving God was ready to take in a repentant nation or person.
Verses 21-28 speak of God’s advice to Israelites to mark their way as they go to Babylon since they would use the same way back home. He tells them to fully trust in Him for this restoration for He was going to make all things possible that a woman (the weaker sex that deserves protection) shall be the one to look after the man (the mighty man or God or Jesus). This verse depicts exactly what was to happen in the same land of Bethlehem when the virgin marry would become pregnant in a special way and deliver a special child (see the words ‘ a new thing in the land’ in the verse).
Verses 29-34 talk of the new covenant with Israelites. According to this new covenant, a person would only be held accountable for his sins not his ancestors like it had been for them. The sins of their kings and leaders prompted the punishment of the whole nation. Also while the old agreement was guarded by laws and punishments, the new one will be guarded by grace. After all each one’s heart would be getting fully the scent of the agreement and desires to obey it out of love (action-reward principle). The Wiersbe Bible commentary makes it clear, “The Old covenant tried to control conduct, but the new covenant changes character so that people can love the Lord and one another and want to obey God’s will. By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20), but under the new covenant God promised “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34).
From verses 35-40, God speaks of how serious He was with the promises He made. Verse 36b is interpreted by many as the continued preservation of Israel as a unique nation among other nations. Despite the turmoil of wars and challenges, Israel has remained a distinct nation with unique God’s blessings (I am sure this might rise up questions and you are welcome, ask whatever you want). Actually, Brown says, “Israel's national polity has been broken up by the Romans. But their preservation as a distinct people amidst violent persecutions, though scattered among all nations for eighteen centuries, unamalgamated, whereas all other peoples under such circumstances have become incorporated with the nations in which they have been dispersed, is a perpetual standing miracle (compare Jer 33:20; Ps 148:6; Isa 54:9, 10). God was no longer going to consider people on merit but on grace (verse 37). Jerusalem would be rebuilt and even stretch beyond the original borders and it will never be torn again (verses 38-0). Let the Hamas try and we see. However, this may mean the everlasting holiness of God’s city or mountain as in Joel 3:17, 20).
Our Today’s focus is verse 20. It was 2013; I was still at Mutolere nursing school. Every time I did wrong, the principal would call me in and question me, warn me and eh she seemed hard on me. She followed my steps and I at times felt I didn’t like her. But one day as I sat before her desk, she calmly said, “Vicent, I don’t have a problem with you. My trouble was to see you finish and leave the school and since that time is close, I wanted you to know that I never hated you. I just wanted you to pass”. And as I read verse 20 tonight I feel there was some truth in what she said. She was somehow attached to me that she couldn’t handle seeing me go astray and keep quiet. Yeah, she could have wronged me in the process but her intentions were my studying and finishing successfully. That is parenthood.
This verse has made my life. God had punished Israel terribly that even foreigners enjoyed it. They said that their God is their own killer. But the truth was that He treasured and loved Israel more than any nation and when He did their restoration, nations marveled at His favors. That is how we have suffered these days. Sometimes I ask, “But why should I struggle to get anything?” Sometimes we wonder why good people are mishandled and tortured, why are Christians having hard times and so many challenges. And to the foreigners and even us in our weakness, it looks like God doesn’t care about us. You find a home of a murderer or a thief having everything yet there is not even supper in the house of a Christian and we wonder what really went wrong! Our GOD loves us and He is planning something better for us. We could be blessed to meet the challenges we meet, to live the life we have, it is what is necessary for our best. Our GOD wouldn’t let things happen to us if it wasn’t for our good. Maybe we end up scoring no harvest simply because we lose trust in His love in such times and give up on Him and when He returns the favor we can’t be found at the waiting table.
Today, repeat these words to yourself, “Whatever I am going through, my father loves me and He will make a way for me and I am gonna be blessed than before”. God bless you
We love you. The Complete You Project