A Bible Lesson on Jeremiah 33

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jeremiah is still under arrest and the city of Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonians. God has told Jeremiah to redeem the family field in Anathoth and he’s obeyed despite the fact that humanly speaking, there is no guarantee that the purchase will ever be worth anything. And God has promised that there will be a return from exile and the restoration of ordinary peaceful blessed life for God’s people.

Jeremiah 33:1 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard:

It almost seems that the leaders of Judah think that if they can get Jeremiah to change his story, things will be better … as if rather than simply telling what God is doing and has revealed, Jeremiah has some power to change things. Not so.

2 “Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it—the LORD is his name:

It’s the I AM who is in charge, the One who made all that is from nothing, and He speaks.

3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

This is profound. God speaks … but it is those who ask, those who call, who get to hear. Those who turn their backs on Him (or even are indifferent to Him) don’t get revelation forced on them. Rather, He speaks to those who come humbly in prayer.

4 For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword:

Buildings in Jerusalem, even the houses of the rich and powerful have been torn down to provide materials to repair the city wall and fortify its defenses … to no avail.

5 They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil.

What is happening to Judah (and has happened to Israel) is not about defense measures or the geopolitical situation. It is about the relationship of God’s people to the LORD. It’s ultimately the hand of God that is striking down the defenders of Jerusalem. The people haven’t looked to God with upturned faces and humbly obeyed His word. And so, He has figuratively turned His merciful face away from His chosen people.

But, consistent with what He’s said in the previous three chapters, the misery that is and will be in the exile will not be the last of God’s dealings with His people. There will be (in both the short and long runs) restoration.

6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.

Just as defeat and exile don’t ultimately come from politics or military sources, neither do abundance or prosperity and security. These come from the I AM. They are His “revelation” to those He loves and who love Him.

7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.

In the short term (70 years) this promise was fulfilled to Judah. Israel awaits any literal fulfillment. But in the grand prophetic vision ahead to Messiah, God has set in motion restoration of His original creation purpose of a good and blessed existence for a people that are His.

8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.

Judah has rebelled … so too has every human being born on earth except Christ. Some way somehow this will be rectified. Jeremiah doesn’t know details. But he is given this gracious word that sin doesn’t win in the end, that God will somehow act in a just forgiveness.

9 And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

Here’s a contrast to what presently is as Jeremiah sits under guard in a besieged city. God’s people will be a source of praise and glory for the I AM. There is a shadow of this in time, first in the Jewish nation and then in the Christian church. The eternal reality is pictured in Revelation, a blessed throng of human beings gathered around the throne of God eternally giving thanks for His goodness and mercy. That’s what His people long for, but it is a terror for His enemies. Jeremiah didn’t have any delusions about how the blessing of the Jewish nation would be viewed by its enemies. Sometimes post-modern Christians are not so clear-headed about (the logical) reaction of those who have chosen a life opposed to Christ to the prospect of the final coming of His Kingdom. The preaching of this end is both foolishness and the stench of death to the rebel against God.

10 “Thus says the LORD: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again

11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD: “‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!’ For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.

What a beautiful, glorious, blessed promise. God will turn upside down the present circumstances of His people. To the human eye, there is nothing but misery present or ahead for Judah. But in both the 70 year short run and especially in the Messianic long run, there is instead great blessing and joy in store for God’s people. Indeed, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good and His mercy endures forever! This promise speaks to both Jeremiah’s original hearers and to the entire people of God pressed hard in a broken and fallen world.

 

This is a wonderful complete reversal of the consequences of judgment that Jeremiah was earlier called to proclaim.

Jeremiah 7:34 And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste.

Jeremiah 16:9 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.

 

12 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks.

13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the LORD.

This is a wonderful picture of the shalom of God, the final destination of all who love Him and long for the coming of His Kingdom.

Now Jeremiah is given assurance of the fulfillment of God’s promises of an eternal good King and an eternal holy Priest.

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

Verses 15 and 16 are very much like Jeremiah 23:5-6. But there is one significant and perhaps surprising difference. In Chapter 23 it is the righteous King who is called “The LORD is our righteousness.” Here, the promise is that that name will be extended to God’s people! That’s just marvelous, wonderful beyond all imagination, absolutely Messianic, and almost surely beyond the immediate understanding of Jeremiah who was given the words.

17 “For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel,

18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”

The reformed catechisms correctly tell us that we frail humans need both a King and a Priest. Westminster says:

Q25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.

Q26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king.

A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

But to be careful, Christ is not a Levitical priest, but rather (as Hebrews says) One “after the order of Melchizedek.” He is the perfect Priest and His sacrifice was once for all. Jeremiah at some level understands that God’s people need such and that God has promised that to His people. But he must also understand what Peter speaks of.

1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Christ Jesus/Messiah is the eternal high Priest. His people that bear His name though, comprise a holy nation, a holy priesthood … one whose prayers, adoration, and eternal gratitude are the reality that the Old Testament thank offerings prefigured. There is a coming a whole “nation” of Levitical priests.

And Jeremiah is reminded just how sure God’s word is.

19 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:

20 “Thus says the LORD: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time,

21 then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers.

God’s promises are more unshakable than the regularity of the universe He made. He’s promised a King and priests.

22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me.”

There is but one true offspring of David and eternal priest. But God promises a great multitude of “offspring” of David and the Levitical priests. In the long run, this is a multitude that stretches far beyond physical Israel.

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Again, Jeremiah is assured of the permanence of God’s promises.

23 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:

24 “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The LORD has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight.

25 Thus says the LORD: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth,

26 then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Jeremiah 32

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jeremiah 32 is a fascinating account of God’s prophet acting out an unusual testimony to the promises of God. The Babylonians have laid siege to wayward Jerusalem, and Jeremiah is under arrest for preaching judgment and counseling the people to not resist God’s punishment at the hands of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah 32:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar.

2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah.

3 For Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him, saying, “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it;

4 Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye.

5 And he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I visit him, declares the LORD. Though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed’?”

In these circumstances, God speaks to His prophet.

6 Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me:

7 Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’

Anathoth is already under Babylonian control and Jeremiah’s cousin is going to show up and say he needs to buy a field that belongs to the family to be sure it stays in the family. Humanly speaking, there is no promise that the field will ever benefit Jeremiah or any of his heirs. There’s good reason to think that he might have need of whatever money he has during and after the siege. Actually, this seems like a fairly rude request given the circumstances.

8 Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.

Jeremiah sees the hand of the LORD in this. He’s being directed to a prophetic act, and he obeys.

9 “And I bought the field at Anathoth from Hanamel my cousin, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver.

10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales.

Despite the chaos of a siege and the impending exile that Jeremiah foresees, Jeremiah does this carefully and according to exact legal protocol.

11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions and the open copy.

There are two copies of the deed, a “sealed” copy and an “open” copy.

12 And I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my cousin, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard.

13 I charged Baruch in their presence, saying,

14 ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time.

There is something going on here that is more than for this moment. This purchase is not just for now, but for the future, one that humanly speaking there is no guarantee that Judah even has.

15 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.’

But the same God that promised judgment also promised restoration. This kind of real estate transaction, part of ordinary sane life in a peaceful land under the blessing of God will again be commonplace. Think how good and wholesome this prospect would seem to people in a war zone facing deportation/exile. Think how wonderful this would sound to people in our own time in refugee camps.

16 “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, saying:

17 ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

18 You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts,

19 great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.

20 You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day.

21 You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror.

22 And you gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey.

23 And they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or walk in your law. They did nothing of all you commanded them to do. Therefore you have made all this disaster come upon them.

24 Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it, and because of sword and famine and pestilence the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it.

25 Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.'”

Kidner call this prayer ” … a fine example of how to pray in a desperate situation: concentrating first on the creative power (17) and perfect fidelity and justice (18-19) of God; remembering next His great redemptive acts (20-23a; to which the Christian can now add the greatest of them all) – and then with this background, laying before God the guilt of the past (23b), the hard facts of the present (24) and the riddle of the future (25).”

It is a truly lovely prayer. Exactly what is in Jeremiah’s heart as He prays is not absolutely clear. Some commentators believe that he’s having doubts and is asking for confirmation that this is all going as planned and that he’s heard right about the field. Others think that he is now asking whether perhaps there might be mercy and no judgment, whether the instruction to buy the field might mean that God will completely lift the siege and spare the nation its misery.

26 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:

God answers in Jeremiah’s own words of verse 17.

27 “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Indeed there is nothing that is too hard for God, but the promise of restoration doesn’t cancel the promise of judgment.

28 Therefore, thus says the LORD: Behold, I am giving this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall capture it.

God’s basic complaint with His people is and always is spiritual infidelity.

29 The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come and set this city on fire and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger.

30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth. The children of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, declares the LORD.

31 This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built to this day, so that I will remove it from my sight

32 because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

33 They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction.

34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it.

35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

36 “Now therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’:

There is only one God in the universe. Turn away from this single Person that is the Definition and Source of good, and only evil and misery can possibly result. Post-moderns don’t believe this. They don’t believe this to the great misery and tragedy of our time. F. Cawley commenting on this chapter wrote, “In every generation it is required that God’s men justify His ways with men. The sanity and balance of every generation rest just here.”

Jeremiah must bring the bad news to make the good news possible.

37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety.

38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

There is a “no” in God’s message, but there is too a wonderful ultimate “yes.” Jeremiah is now looking far ahead to Messiah/Christ Jesus and His permanent kingdom.

39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.

Truly, God’s intent for His people is wholly and permanently good.

40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.

41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

42 “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them.

43 Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, ‘It is a desolation, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’

The land of Judah seemed altogether hopeless. The mess that rebellious humanity has made of the world seems altogether hopeless. But it shall not always be so. God has permanent good in store for a worshiping people.

44 Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, declares the LORD.”

Where there has been sin and rebellion, there will be restoration. Thank God. If it were not so, we would all be undone.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Jeremiah 31:23-40

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The first part of Jeremiah 31 deals with the restoration of the northern kingdom, Israel, taken away into exile over a hundred years earlier by the Assyrians. Part of what Jeremiah sees and prophesies in the last half of the chapter has to do with return of Judah from Babylon. But as is common in the prophets, he telescopes time, speaking to both the reasonably immediate future and to a time further on. The timing Jeremiah gives is in 30:24 “in the latter days” and in 31:40 “at that time” In some parts of this Jeremiah is seeing ahead to the time of Messiah.

Jeremiah 31:23 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I restore their fortunes: ” ‘The Lord bless you, O habitation of righteousness, O holy hill!’

Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities. Jeremiah has prophesied, and by the time he speaks here he has already begun to see the cities and countryside of Judah laid waste. But he looks ahead in time and sees sanity and order and productive life restored in the land, and especially in Jerusalem, God’s “holy hill.”

24 And Judah and all its cities shall dwell there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks.

This isn’t an elaborate grandiose thing he sees. It is simple, sane, orderly, decent life: farmers and shepherds going about daily life in peace. We take that kind of thing for granted. We should not. We should be extremely grateful for it. It is reason to give God thanks. If we don’t believe that, perhaps we should consider a few weeks of life in the Sudan or perhaps Afghanistan or Syria or Iraq. Quiet and peaceable existence is as good as it gets in this life, and God promises to restore that in Judah.

25 For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

What’s coming on Judah because of her waywardness will sap the souls of her people. They will be physically weary and sick at heart, cut off from their homeland and God-ordained worship in Jerusalem. But God promises that He will bring replenishment to the souls of His chosen people.

26 At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.

Jeremiah 32:2 puts the prophet under arrest in the courtyard of the guard (in the royal palace) with Nebuchadnezzar besieging the city when he is given this prophecy. His present circumstances are hardly pleasant or happy. But the vision God gives him of future restoration is indeed a pleasant contrast to what is happening to him personally and to his land and people.

27 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast.

War and defeat and exile will depopulate the land of Judah, of both people and of domestic animals, making it a wasteland. But God promises that he will repopulate the land with both people and animals. The peoples’ apostasy implies desolation, but there is restoration coming because of God’s mercy.

28 And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the Lord.

Make no mistake, God is sovereign over all. He judges sin. And He acts with mercy in restoration. He is in the overthrow of the faithless nation and He will be there to restore. But as part of that there will be a change of attitude in His people.

29 In those days they shall no longer say: ” ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

This was apparently a common bitter/ironic proverb of the day. Jeremiah repudiates it here. Ezekiel, repudiates it in Ezekiel 18. The feeling is one of self-pity and ducking of responsibility. The people of Judah say to themselves “Boy, dad and mom blew it and now we have to pay the price. This isn’t our fault. Circumstances aren’t fair. In effect, we’re getting punished for the shortcomings of others.” Now it’s true that what we do can affect the circumstances of those who follow us for better or worse. But human beings are absolutely off on the wrong foot when they spend their energy whining about what they’ve been dealt, instead of simply resolving to do right in every circumstance. The constant message of Jeremiah to Judah was to repent and avoid disaster. The people could not blame mom and dad for their own refusal to repent. Manasseh was an awful king who brought all kinds of evil to his country, but instead of saying “Well dad made an awful mess, and poor me left to live in it!” Josiah resolved to do right and goes down in history as one of the greatest of the kings. We are responsible for our own actions. The people of God should have known Deuteronomy 24:16 “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.  But it’s human nature to want to evade responsibility in the present by trying to lay blame elsewhere. That’s been the story since the garden. And if there is to be the kind of wonderful restoration that Jeremiah sees coming, God’s people must be done with that attitude. It’s a prerequisite to salvation to own up to our own responsibility, call our sin “sin” and get out of the habit of making excuses.

30 But everyone shall die for his own sin. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

We must each recognize and admit that we individually have more than enough personal moral guilt to sink ourselves.

We come now to one of the peaks of the Old Testament.

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,

The days are coming. Jeremiah is now certainly looking beyond the return of the Babylonian exiles, to the time of Messiah, the Christ. I will make a new covenant. This is to be God’s doing. It’s at His initiative and only He has the ability to bring it to pass. He’s going to make a new way of dealing with His people. The goal is the same as it was from the beginning, namely Leviticus 26:12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. From the beginning, God’s purpose has always been to have relationship with a people who would love Him and bring Him glory. But Jeremiah knows all too well that if there is to be relationship between God and man, it has to be on some other basis than a covenant that depends on man keeping God’s perfect law. Remember, that law was rediscovered in Josiah’s time, but there followed no heart change in the people (despite Josiah’s example and Jeremiah’s preaching). Thankfully God had something else in mind.

32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.

After the exodus, God said in Exodus 6:7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. But the first covenant wasn’t a means of salvation. The fault didn’t lie with God, but with man. He was faithful as a faithful husband. His people were not like Him. In and of ourselves, we don’t have it in us to keep God’s holy law. So either God was going to have let sin slide and lower the bar to a standard of morality we can muster, or He was going to have somehow judge our sin without destroying us and change our hearts. Since His law is a reflection of who He is, He couldn’t possibly do the first. But how could He do the second??? Jeremiah didn’t see the whole picture of Christ’s work, but this He did see.

33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

After those days, i.e. in the days of His Son, Messiah, God will change the hearts of men and make them truly desirous of obeying Him. Moderns want to hear all kinds of anti-law things in this kind of verse. But it doesn’t repudiate the law as spelling out what is good and what God requires. It doesn’t say that we somehow intuitively “know it.” It says that when we hear it, our hearts will leap in us and say “Yes! That’s right! Amen. So be it.” rather than immediately beginning to scheme how to subvert it. Hard hearts that hate Him and His law will become soft hearts that love and embrace Him and His law.

34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

They shall all know me. This is no Lone Ranger “It’s just God and me” statement. But it does say that under the new covenant, there’s no human standing between an individual and God. Under the Old Testament system, priests offered the sacrifices and presented people to God. Ordinary people didn’t enter individually into the holy of holies, only the high priest did that. Under the new covenant, individual believers have genuine intimate individual fellowship with God in Christ, every one of us, from least to the greatest. And it’s not based on our performance, but on God’s forgiveness. The Old Testament system served to remind the people constantly of their sin and guilt. The gracious new covenant is built on God’s blotting those out and absolutely forgetting them.

Jeremiah is commissioned by God to carry some heavy stuff and set it before God’s people. But he’s also privileged to set before them the wonderful grace of God to come. He can’t see the atoning work of Christ perfectly, but the outline he is given in these verses is a glorious early look.

35 Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name:

36 “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.”

The fixed order of the universe gives us humans some glimpse of the immutability of God who called it into existence. He never changes and that is guarantee of His promise of restoration and fixed love for His people. If we need reminder of His constancy we only need to look around us.

37 Thus says the LORD: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.”

Kidner said: “… the order, power, and scale of the Creator’s world are but tokens of His fidelity in the personal realm …” The same omnipotence that made all we see is capable of doing what might seem “impossible” in terms of restoration. This is true in long run in redemption of all God’s people of all time. And it applies in the shorter run to the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.

38 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when the city shall be rebuilt for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.

These are landmarks in the Jerusalem of Jeremiah’s day. The Babylonians are going to sack the city, but the destruction will not be permanent. A people will return from captivity and these will be restored.

39 And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah.

What’s more, the end of it will be bigger than the reality of Jeremiah’s day. The measuring line will “go out farther.” In the long run, God’s people will include those who are not ethnic Jews.

40 The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the LORD. It shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.”

And here’s a future promise that no one would have expected. Jeremiah sees that the city dump and even places defiled by human sacrifice will be redeemed and made “sacred to the LORD.” In the long run, this merciful, immutable, omnipotent, gracious God will act in mercy toward even the defiled (literally places, figuratively people) … you and me.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Jeremiah 30:1-22

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the first of four lessons from Jeremiah 30-33. These chapters are sometimes called “The Book of Consolation.” Most of what the LORD gave Jeremiah to say had to do with the coming of judgment on Judah. Jeremiah delivered to the leaders and people of Judah God’s gracious warning to turn and repent and avert disaster. He spoke God’s indictment of both Judah’s leaders and its people, and prophesied destruction at the hands of Babylon. The history of the last few kings of Judah was most sad indeed. Righteous Josiah died in battle with Pharaoh Neco, and was followed to the throne by his young son Jehoahaz who reigned only 3 months before being taken as a captive to Egypt, never to return. Jehoahaz was replaced on the throne by his older brother Jehoiakim, a puppet of Egypt and thoroughly despicable person. Among other evils, he treated his own people like slaves while sending huge amounts of tribute to Egypt. During his reign, Babylon defeated Egypt at the battle of Carchemish (in 605 BC) and Judah was annexed as part of Babylon’s empire. When Jehoiakim foolishly decided to rebel against Babylon, he brought down the wrath of Babylon on the nation. But he died before Babylon got around to marching on Jerusalem, and it was his son Jehoiachin who was on the throne when Nebuchanezzer arrived. Jehoiachin was among 10,000 people carried off in a first wave of exiles to Babylon in 597 BC. False prophets immediately came on the scene saying that this was a temporary condition and that the exiles would be back quickly. Jeremiah opposed them and said rather, that the captivity would last 70 years. He wrote to the first wave of captives and told them to settle in for a long stay in exile. That’s a grim message. But in addition to that message Jeremiah was given a message of hope and restoration that is found in these chapters.

 

Jeremiah 30:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

2 “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you.

The command here to write concerns these chapters of consolation in particular.

3 For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.”

When Jeremiah speaks these words for the first time, Israel is no more (the northern kingdom has been thoroughly obliterated by the Assyrians, Samaria falling to them in 721 BC) and Judah is about to enter the Babylonian captivity. But Jeremiah is given hope for both kingdoms. There is something going on here far bigger than what the false prophets were promising. Jeremiah is beginning to speak both to his time and beyond. He’s beginning to speak of the work of Messiah and redemption. And this work is consistent with the promise-making-and-keeping nature of the LORD.

4 These are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah:

5 “Thus says the LORD: We have heard a cry of panic, of terror, and no peace.

6 Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale?

What has already come on Israel and is coming on Judah is serious business. Tough men faint away under the weight of it. The genuine wrath of the LORD is no small or light thing, and His just punishment is coming on those who have treated Him with contempt, even those among His chosen people. He cannot ignore sin and just look the other way. (That would turn the whole universe upside down and destroy any hope of morality.)

7 Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it.

There is no promise that the natural consequences of the rebellion of Israel and Judah against their God will be somehow cancelled ahead of time. There will be distress. But the misery is not a permanent state. Rather, there is restoration ahead, restoration and mercy for all who will turn to/trust in God.

8 “And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him.

In the short run, the domination of Nebuchanezzer won’t last. In the long run, God will make provision for the fundamental sin problem of humanity. Rather than serving sin, a hard cruel hateful master, God will send a Savior. This will be One who is not a “foreigner” who neither understands nor cares about the miserable condition of fallen humanity, but is rather fully sympathetic to our situation.

9 But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.

At this point, Jeremiah is writing in full view of Messiah, David’s Son, Son of God and Son of man, the second Adam. God promised that David would have a permanent dynasty, and permanent king Jesus-Son of David is the fulfiller of that promise. Immediate relief from the Babylonians is no permanent help. This is bigger than that. This is permanent deliverance and life under a just and righteous King.

10 “Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD, nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid.

This is promise of shalom. It is from the I AM, the LORD. It is in spite of the very obvious difficulties implicit in the scattering of Israel and the coming captivity of Judah. It is in spite of real guilt that demands just punishment. This is a promise of God’s blessing, of quiet and well-being in place of horrid misery that would cause a grown man to faint. This is humanly impossible. But the key fact is

11 For I am with you to save you, declares the LORD; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.

What makes all of this make sense is that the I AM, the LORD, is with His people. Temporal judgment, while just and deserved and from God, will not be final. The nations that God used to execute judgment on His wayward people will themselves be judged for their own sin. Despite temporal judgment, God’s care for His people stands.

12 “For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous.

13 There is none to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you.

There is no human cure, either for what ailed Judah or for what really ails humanity at its core. There’s no effective human defense attorney before God’s bar of justice, or humans to testify effectively on behalf of sinners. The loss to be suffered outside of God’s intervention is complete and there is no healing in man alone.

14 All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant.

God’s temporal punishment is severe mercy. It shows us the fickle nature of human alliances and their ultimately ineffectual nature. It reminds us that God alone cares for us. There’s no ultimate help in other humans. That comes from God alone, and were He to simply wink at sin we’d continue in folly thinking all was well in our wayward ways.

15 Why do you cry out over your hurt? Your pain is incurable. Because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant, I have done these things to you.

It is an unusually wise person (and an unusually wise people) that recognizes the justice of God. God asks why the people are acting as if His righteous judgment is undeserved or at least surprising. The case of Nineveh’s repentance at the preaching of Jonah is rare. The case of Judah’s rejection and persecution of the prophet Jeremiah is common. The way of repentance is narrow and the way of destruction is broad.

16 Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured, and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall be plundered, and all who prey on you I will make a prey.

Again, while God uses nations to judge nations, those He uses are not exempt from His universal morally perfect judgment. But there is a difference between the end of those who are His and those who remain His enemies.

17 For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’

God promises restoration and healing to His people. There is no such promise for His enemies. The fundamental error of His enemies is misapprehension and misrepresentation of His holy purposes and intentions. The profane see divine judgment as indication that God doesn’t care for His people or for His world in general. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is evidence of His commitment to His people and His creation. This is the message of Hebrews 12. Even decent human parents correct their kids and it’s evidence of their care for them. It is letting a kid be wayward that shows no love of or care for the child. The profane heart doesn’t live in light of God and looks at temporal judgment and fails to see the gracious hand of a loving God in it.

18 “Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be.

19 Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.

Again, this is a dark time in Judah. Misery abounds and will increase in the near future. But it won’t last forever. The I AM promises relief, restoration, compassion. He doesn’t throw away a people and start over. It’s the same ones He pledged Himself to that He will bless in the end. And that will result in permanent praise from His people. One might say that Jeremiah sees what John sees and tells about in Revelation. He’s looking at an eternally worshipping people.

20 Their children shall be as they were of old, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all who oppress them.

There will be eternal separation between those who are God’s and those who are not.

21 Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? declares the LORD.

What an amazingly beautiful promise is given through Jeremiah here. Messiah, the eternal Prince and King, is one of us. In the short run, He’s a Jew. In the grand long view, He’s a human being. He’s One who knows our frame. But He’s not just a human being, not even just a good or exceptional human being. That would not be adequate. As Luther put it:

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

He’s the Man of God’s own choosing. He’s the second person of the Trinity. He’s the One who can approach the Father on our behalf, having lived a perfect life and died for our sin. Neither you nor I nor anyone like us could dare to approach God. But Jesus is more than one of us, He’s God.

22 And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

This is the fundamental aim of all life, to be one of God’s people and live with Him eternally. This is the fundamental Gospel message. The One who made all and upholds all by His mighty power provides restoration from sin and misery and promises Himself eternally to His people.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.