Text: Jeremiah 30-32 (Ps 20)
Observe: Following God’s impassioned plea in Chapter 29 and His glorious promise, you shall seek me and you shall find me, when you seek me with all your heart, says the Lord. (29:13) the word pivots from destroy/uproot/tear down to ‘build up’, a promise of restoration.
God commands Jeremiah, Write in a book all I have spoken to you (30:1). Even men groan in anguish as if in birth pains, such is the suffering and terror (1-7). There is no remedy for their incurable wound (12); lovers (pagan kings and idols) have deserted them because of God’s wrath. Yet Judah … will be saved out of it. (7b). Even as the verses alternate between future glorious promise and recollections of their past faithlessness God’s consolation is near (10,11). Those familiar, comforting words, So you will be my people, and I will be your God (20) will find fulfilment.
I have loved you with an everlasting love (31:3b) – dancing and joy, planting and harvesting, throngs returning with unutterable gladness, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son (9c). They will be like a watered garden (a recurrent image of Eden) as mourning yields to sheer joy.
Strangely, that sombre portrait of Rachel weeping for her children…because they are no more (15) offers consolation: future generations will live in His newness and hope. God speaks again of His love: Is not Ephraim my dear son, my child in whom I delight? Though I speak against him, I still remember him (20). His tenderness recalls Hosea 11:4b, where He bends to feed His beloved, straying Ephraim.
Our surprising God promises something new – a covenant! Not just a recycling of earlier ones or a reprint of previous material, but of complete restoration as His people return to Him, repentant. (31-40).
Chronology in Jeremiah is fluid, circular; chapter 32 returns to Jeremiah’s imprisonment, Zedekiah’s reaction to prophecy of exile to Babylon. Well, what else can Jeremiah do but buy some real estate? (32:8-12). It’s in God’s purpose: to show the people that they would again own land. The transaction done, Jeremiah prays earnestly to the Lord, recounting His working of history, their disobedience, His wrath. Hardship awaits, but God is their God, and they are His people. Calamity becomes consolation.
Interpret: These chapters in the Hebrew Bible are called the “Book of Consolation”. In separation and exile, comfort (with its underpinning of strength and hope) is so welcome. Coming just about halfway through the book, Jeremiah has moved from sin to exile to restoration, though this is not the end of the prophecies. The Lord’s dealings with His people have been a rough ride for faithful, obedient Jeremiah, but he has not faltered.
Apply: Jeremiah’s words resonate in our tangled social and political situations. God is our true home. We return to Him even as Israel was returned in His time.
His prayer in chapter 32 is a model to imitate in its power and intimacy. We pray, alone or in company, acknowledging our deep need for the Lord in our situations. As we seek Him with all our heart, we’ll find Him. He said so.
Ask: Is God raising up prophets even now? Will I listen, or ignore them to my spiritual peril? Will I open my eyes to see how far I have strayed? Will You redirect me, Holy Spirit, to the real Way? In exile, how should I then live?
Pray: My God, nothing is too hard for You. Your purposes and Your work are beyond me. I am hard of hearing and stubborn of heart, yet You draw me out of my exile of self. You’ve been calling me to Yourself for eons. And Jesus is proof of your endless consolation; this too is beyond my small understanding. Give me the grace to seek You with all my heart, and find You so close. In Jesus’ name, then.
Song Psalm 20: John Michael Talbot
Psalm 20 Ian White: May the Lord Answer You
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.