Although Jeremiah had a lot of bad news to tell, he did get the chance to tell some good news, too. Today’s reading is an example of that good news — it’s just that it’s the good news on God’s terms. News that’s easy on the ears isn’t just the territory of false prophets or teachers. We must simply be aware that we can’t sculpt God’s good news to meet our personal tastes. The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day were calling for a return of the exiles, too, they were just giving the people false hope by promising it much too soon. God’s good news is God’s good news, and we can’t change it.
A remnant was going to return to Judah in God’s time. And though the punishment had already been and would continue to be severe, there was still hope. Jeremiah 31:15, 16 “Thus says the LORD, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.” Thus says the LORD, “Restrain your voice from weeping And your eyes from tears; For your work will be rewarded,” declares the LORD, “And they will return from the land of the enemy.” Verse 15 is quoted later in Matthew 2:18 in connection with the slaughter of the innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod, but as you can see, the original context is about the heartache of Israel’s mothers whose children had been taken in captivity. But for the heartbroken mothers, there was the comfort of knowing that their children would be returning — “…your work will be rewarded.” Here’s comfort for today’s tough times: if we’ll be faithful to the Lord’s way, we find that things work out. The New Testament puts it this way, (Romans 8:28) “… God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
But there’s continued good news; a new covenant will be established. Jeremiah 31:33, 34 ““But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”” A section of this passage that I didn’t quote, because of its length, contrasted this new covenant with the Mosaic covenant. This covenant would be different mostly because instead of being written on tables of stone, they would be written on God’s people’s hearts. Instead of being an externally imposed law, it would be an internally compelling law (2 Cor. 5:14). Even better, this covenant would issue in real forgiveness and forgetfulness of sin. It was, of course, on the cross of Christ that the new covenant was initiated, the blood of the covenant was shed and forgiveness was purchased.
Moreover, the promise of the return was solid. The point of chapter 32’s story about Jeremiah redeeming property in Anathoth was that God’s people really would be coming back and reclaiming their farms and homes. What sounded improbable and maybe impossible was, in fact, going to happen: Jeremiah 32:17 “‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,”
Lastly, there is the prophecy of the Messiah, the righteous Branch of David. He’ll be different from other kings that had seen and known; He would rule in justice and righteousness (Jeremiah 33: 15). This was Jesus, who brought us all justice and righteousness.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.