By Sam E. Stone
Even while the people of Israel were living as exiles in Babylon, they still received encouragement and hope from the Lord. In this month’s study we focus on the messages God sent through the prophet Jeremiah.
James E. Smith pointed out that the material in chapters 30-33 was not part of a public discourse (see Jeremiah 30:2). “In written form these chapters must have been an encouragement to the captives during the long years of exile in Babylon.” Even while the nation suffered punishment for their sins, the prophet held out hope for the future of God’s people.
Jeremiah 30:1, 2
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord. This refrain is repeated throughout the book that bears Jeremiah’s name. The word may be personal direction for what the prophet was to say or do, or it may be God’s oracle that all the people needed to hear. This section of the book is sometimes called “The Book of Consolation,” because of the hope that it held out for the people.
Tremper Longman III noted, “The future will certainly bring a return to Jerusalem and Judah beginning in 539 . . . . By referring to the land as that which God gave to the forefathers connects the future return to the promise given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and maintained by the other patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob.”
Jeremiah 30:3, 18-22
The people of Israel suffered several periods of captivity over the years—including both their bondage in Egypt and the Babylonian exile. Much of Jeremiah’s book describes the sorrow and sadness the nation would have to endure. So difficult is his message that many call Jeremiah “the weeping prophet.”
He foresaw a time of restoration as well, however. In particular the prophet described what would happen with the city, Jerusalem (Jeremiah 30:18). Earlier Jeremiah wrote, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (29:11). Despite the way things may appear, God is always faithful to do what he has promised.
Verses 4-17 are not in today’s printed text, but they present a strong visual image from Israel’s history—Jacob’s tents. So Jeremiah spoke God’s declaration, “I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents.” At that time the holy city (Jerusalem) would be rebuilt on her ruins.
Frederick Cawley wrote, “Beyond exile there is home. There is a lilt in this section, as though spring was bursting out of severe winter. This is the equivalent of Isaiah 35, but in the imagery and spirit of Jeremiah. There shall be the laughter of children, and their overlord shall be their own kith and kin. He shall have priestly access to the Presence, and they shall know that they are Yahweh’s people.”
The presence of children suggests God’s continued blessing (compare Isaiah 54:1-3). The people of God would be established once more as a nation among nations, with God himself assuring their safety in spite of those who would seek to destroy it.
In speaking of their leader, Jeremiah clearly described one who is more than just an earthly ruler. This leader would be one of their own and would have an intimate relationship with the Lord. Both qualities are specified as important for a leader (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). James Burton Coffman added, “It would be difficult to frame a verse more specifically identifying the character of these verses as ‘like unto Moses’ than what is given here. Moses was priest and king, so is Jesus Christ. Moses was ‘from the midst of the brethren’ even as he prophesied that Christ also would be from the midst of the brethren.” This surely is a messianic prophecy.
Believers hope that they will live eternally in God’s presence. God is pictured as walking among them (Leviticus 26:12). His people are the very temple of the living God, as Paul affirmed (2 Corinthians 6:16). Both Jews and Gentiles are incorporated into Christ’s body, the church (Ephesians 2:11-18). The church fulfills all that is pictured here (Hebrews 8:10). Years after Jeremiah preached, the apostle Peter wrote, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.