Jeremiah was a prophet God sent to bring judgment on the southern kingdom of Judah for their sins: disobedience to God’s commands, idolatry, injustice and unrighteousness towards the poor and the needy of the land. They were to be exiled to Babylon as punishment for their sins. Yet God spoke words of comfort to them. He promised in Jeremiah 30 that he would eventually restore them and bring them back to their land.
18 “Thus says the Lord,
‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob
And have compassion on his dwelling places;
And the city will be rebuilt on its ruin,
And the palace will stand on its rightful place.
19 ‘From them will proceed thanksgiving
And the voice of those who celebrate;
And I will multiply them and they will not be diminished;
I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant.
20 ‘Their children also will be as formerly,
And their congregation shall be established before Me;
And I will punish all their oppressors.
21 ‘Their leader shall be one of them,
And their ruler shall come forth from their midst;
And I will bring him near and he shall approach Me;
For who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?’ declares the Lord.
22 ‘You shall be My people,
And I will be your God.’”
The essence of restoration and healing for these sinful people is to be called God’s people. and for God to declare that He will be their God. It is about restoration of a broken relationship. The basis of this restoration is God’s compassion (30:18a). How is this restoration going to be? More than just the physical rebuilding of the city and the palace (v. 18b), it is a restoration of the heart – from mourning to rejoicing (30:19a, 31:4); restoration of significance because God honours them (v.19b). From the least to the great (children, congregation and the leader), they will all come before God to be in his presence (v.20-21). God will punish their enemies (20b). This is the restored status of being God’s people: for God to acknowledge them as His people and for God to proclaim himself as their God.
1 “At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”
Again, this relationship of God and his people is emphasised and further described.
2 Thus says the Lord,
“The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness—
Israel, when it went to find its rest.”
3 The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
God is love. Although he punishes people for their disobedience, his love is an everlasting love. This love is permanent and for always. The eternal love of God compels him to be kind – to forgive and restore and draw people back to him. (31:3).
4 “Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!
Again you will take up your tambourines,
5 “Again you will plant vineyards On the hills of Samaria; The planters will plant
And will enjoy them.
6 “For there will be a day when watchmen
On the hills of Ephraim call out,
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
To the Lord our God.’”
27 “Behold, 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 with the seed of beast. 28 As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord.
God’s promise of restoration is in the metaphor of planting and sowing. In the place of destruction and desolation, God said he will sow with seed of man and beast (v.27). More than act of sowing, God ‘watches’ over them to build and to plant. He watches over them in good times and bad – whether to pluck up, break down, overthrow, destroy and bring disaster (v. 28).
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “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. 34 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.”
The old covenant was written on tablets of stones -on Mount Sinai where God called them to obey his commandments and promised them blessing for obedience and curses for disobedience. The people broke the old covenant with their rebellion and idolatry. The new covenant is written on their heart. God said: I will put my law within them and on their heart, I will write it (v. 33). Again it is repeated – I will be their God and they shall be my people.
At the heart of the new covenant, is the covenant of the heart – a renewed and restored relationship of God and His people.
What kind of covenant is this new one?
- This new covenant has no need to be taught. It will not be through words of man. God’s people will not teach each other God’s law. There is no need for them to tell each other what God wants to do.
- Why? Because they will ‘know’ God – from the least to the greatest – from the children to the leader, from the least learned to the wisest scholar, they will all know God.
- How? Because God will forgive their iniquity and their sin he will remember no more.
Sin is the barrier which keeps the people from knowing God. When God forgives, he gives a new heart – a heart where his law is written. This new heart enables us to know God. God himself sets up the new covenant for people to know him. He loves us with an everlasting love and he draws us near with lovingkindness. He calls for us to be his people and he promised to be our God.
Although God punishes sinners, God relents and forgives us when we turn to him. He himself restores and heals. He gives a new heart for us to know him. Turn to him and receive this new covenant of everlasting lovingkindness. Listen to his call, my friend.