Friday, 31 October 2014

(305) November 1: Jeremiah 31 & Titus 2

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider the elements of hope Jeremiah gives.

To ponder:
We begin at the time of the restoration promised in chapter 30. Then God will be God to the entire unified people as he comes with favour to the survivors of the exile in the desert of their captivity, giving “rest” to Israel - “rest” referring to their enjoyment of the land in all security, like the seventh day in Eden. Here Jeremiah notes God’s past appearances where he declared his everlasting love, and the fact that he will rebuild this Virgin (denoting an unmarried and so vulnerable daughter, 18v21-22) Israel, so she will rejoice like the new bride. As Samaria was in the north, it was a promise that she would enjoy the fruits of the whole land again, and then the watchmen of northern cities will call the people to go to Zion for worship (31v1-6). So God calls the people to sing with joyful shouts to celebrate because Jacob is still the foremost of nations. They are to call on God to save the remnant. And he calls them to look and see him bringing them not just from the north (Judean exiles in Babylon), but the ends of the earth (northern Ephramite exiles amidst the nations). It will be such a miraculous deliverance that even the blind and pregnant, who would usually be unable to travel, will be able to come. They will come with weeping and praying – perhaps in repentance and thankfulness, and the language implies they will be provided for and nothing will be allowed to hinder them. This is all because the LORD is the nation’s father, and so cares for them (31v7-9). This is the wonder of what we have in Christ. He makes returning to God easy, levelling the mountain of our sin and its just punishment, so all, no matter who they are can come.
            God then calls the nations to proclaim that God who scattered his people will now gather and watch over them like a shepherd, redeeming them from those who are stronger than them so they come to rejoice in Zion at God’s bountiful provision in the land, which will be like a garden (ie. Eden), and in which there will be no more sorrow but only joy, amongst all people. The reference to the priests being satisfied refers to them being given adequate tithes – a sign that the people will then be righteous (31v10-14). 31v15-17 refer to Rachel, the mother of Joseph and so the key northern tribes descended from Joseph’s sons, and of Benjamin, the second southern tribe after Judah. She is at Ramah, bordering the northern and southern kingdoms, weeping for her children – ie. those of the north and south that had been taken into exile. God declares to her that she can stop crying as her work (presumably of labour) will be rewarded, as her children (the people) will return meaning she has hope for her future. Matthew applies these words to Herod’s massacre of the innocents (Matt 2v18), confirming it is appropriate to see all Israel’s subsequent oppression as an aspect of their exile. But there, God’s rescue of his people is seen in taking Jesus from Israel to Egypt and to Israel again, where the restoration of the kingdom would then take place through faith in him.
            With Jeremiah, the focus remains on the northern kingdom (Ephraim). God promises that he has heard Ephraim’s moaning over how he (Israel) had been disciplined. He is pictured praying that God would restore him, ie. reconcile him to himself, promising he would then return as the LORD is his God. It is only having pardoned us that God to the land he has for us. Ephraim speaks of how he repented in shame having understood what he had done. God then declares that Ephraim is his son in whom he delights, and that his hearts still yearns for him in compassion, despite the fact he had to so often speak against him. It reveals the tension in all parental discipline, and looks to the image of God as the prodigal’s father (31v18-20). And because of this feeling, God calls for the way home to be made clear for Israel as God’s unfaithful daughter, so she can return (31v21). It is unclear what the new thing in which a woman surrounds a man is (31v22), but it may refer to the female daughter Israel’s dominance over the nations, or to the people surrounding the dwelling place of God in Zion.  
            God then describes how those in Judah will then pray blessing on mount Zion (Jerusalem), and live in unity, being refreshed by the LORD. It seems Jeremiah saw this in a dream, and his note that he awoke and recognized his sleep had been pleasant stresses how different this is from his oracles of judgement. At this point, perhaps asleep again, God declares how he who uprooted Israel and Judah will in days to come build and plant them with offspring and animals. Then people won’t imply they are unjustly suffering for the sins of their fathers. Rather, people will die for their own sins, so there will be no fear of the land being lost because of the unfaithfulness of others (30v23-30). 31v31-34 are famously quoted in Hebrews 8v8-12 as referring to all that is had in Christ: God declares a coming time when he will make a new covenant agreement with Israel (north) and Judah (south), that is unlike the Mosaic covenant that they broke, despite God being their husband. In this one, God will actually put his law in their minds and hearts so they truly obey him in love, and he can therefore be their God and they his people. Then, there will be no need to exhort the wayward to “know the LORD” as all the people will know him. And the reason is that he will fully forgive them sins. The point is that the people were exiled because their sinfulness meant they just could not love, obey and know God on the basis of the external law written on stone, and their sacrificial system meant that any atonement for that sin even when united with faith, was only ever external. But now, God is going to enable his people to obey with sincerity, and provide full atonement where they have sinned. And so they will never need to face his judgement again. He stresses this by adding that the continuance of the nation is therefore as certain as the continuance of the sun, moon and stars appearing and the waves roaring – as these too, happen by God’s mighty decree. More than that, only if the heavens can be measured or the foundations of the earth found, will God ever reject the people (31v35-37). The chapter ends with God then promising the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the valley that was unclean in being filled with corpses (and also perhaps used for false worship) now being holy. It’s a picture of a fully restored Jerusalem, that will never again be demolished (31v38-40). The fact that it was destroyed in 70AD would have been a shock to the Jews who knew this prophecy, but helped those with eyes to see, recognize that the prophecy had not been fulfilled in the return from Babylon. It looked to the gathering of Israel through faith in Christ that had begun from 30AD and would continue until he returns. 

Praying it home:
Praise God that he does for us in Christ what due to sin we could never do for ourselves. Pray that you would know something of the joy at this Jeremiah speaks of.

Thinking further:
None today.

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