Tuesdays with Jeremiah (Chapter 30)

30Chapters 30-33 are sometimes called “the Book of Consolation,” a unit within the larger book that shines with hope for the Israel’s future. Given the fact that most of Jeremiah’s prophecies are dark and dire, these four chapters are especially bright. The grouping of chapters 30-33 is due to the theme of restoration that begins in 30:3 and runs to the start of Jeremiah 34.  These chapters can be seen as a “book within a book,” especially if the command in 30:2 (“Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you”) refers specifically to “all the words” about God’s plans the nation back to their land and back to Himself.

consolationChapter 30 does not deal exclusively with the future blessing promised to Israel but contains many references to their present pain. It’s clear the Lord is aware of the distress of His people, their “cries of fear” and “terror” (5).  He speaks of Israel’s fatal wounding (“your wound is incurable; you injury beyond healing”—12) and abandonment by the nations they thought would help them (“All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you”—14).  Though Israel has been brutalized by foreign powers, the Lord asserts that He is behind their pain:  “I have struck you as an enemy would and punished you as would the cruel” (14). He has dealt with them harshly because their “guilt is so great” and “sins so many” (15).  Because God is just, He tells His people, “I will discipline you but only with justice” (11).  Though He may completely destroy nations around them, He promises not to “completely destroy” them.

In spite of their past apostasy and present desolation, God had “plans to prosper” them to give them “hope and a future” (29:11). Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles indicated the exile in Babylon would last seventy years (29:10).  In chapter 30, we see what God has planned on the far side of those seventy years.  Jeremiah’s description of God’s severe discipline (striking, punishing and wounding them—14-15) followed by His gracious restoration and blessing (“I will restore you to health and heal your wounds”—17) echoes the words of the prophet Hosea:  “Come let us return to the Lord.  He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds” (6:1).

The promised blessings contained in chapters 30-34 are all presented as coming in the future:  “The days are coming” (30:3); “in that day” (30:8); “At that time” (31:1); “The time is coming” (31:31); “The days are coming” (34:14); “In those days and at that time” (34:15). These references to a coming “day” (8) are a shorthand way of pointing to the “Day of the Lord.” This “Day” is a major theme in O.T. prophetic writings.  It speaks of a time when God intervenes to purify and refine His people (“time of trouble for Jacob”—7), punish the nations and establish His kingdom rule. The ultimate “Day of the Lord” awaits the finale of history when God dramatically intervenes to bring in His eternal kingdom. The New Testament continues the anticipation for this coming Day, linking it to Christ’s return and the establishing of His visible, eternal reign.

The language of the “day of the Lord” is used of precursors or foreshadowings of the final Day.  So the refining and rescuing of Jacob from Babylon after the seventy-year exile can be described in “day of the Lord” terminology.  As is often the case, Jeremiah 30-34 combines elements of a near-term preview as well as elements of the ultimate fulfillment of the Day of the Lord.

covenantWhile the original readers may have assumed that all these promises would be fulfilled at the end of the seventy-year exile, the rest of Scripture and the results of history indicate otherwise.  For example, the promised “new covenant” (31:31) is not inaugurated until the time of Christ’s death (Luke 22:20).  Further, the promise that Jerusalem will “never again be uprooted or demolished” (31:40) is still awaiting fulfillment.  Thus, it seems the promises in these chapters, as is normative in prophetic writings, compress blessings from different future time periods into the same prophetic vision. Some of the promised blessings in these chapters were fulfilled in the return from Babylon; some of the blessings await the final consummation.

The blessings spoken of are birthed in travail. Deliverance from their enemies comes through “a time of trouble for Jacob” (7) and a time of turmoil for the nations (23).  Israel is not pictured as valiantly winning their own deliverance but being rescued from the “storm” of God’s wrath on the nations (23-24).  God is the warrior who breaks the “yoke off their necks” (8). He is the physician who restores them to health and heals their wounds (17).  He is the benefactor who restores their fortunes (18) and increases their numbers (19).  Deliverance and blessing are God’s doing; glory goes to Him alone.

Throughout the “Book of Consolation” God refers to His people by several names.  Here in chapter 30 He begins by talking about “my people Israel and Judah” (3).  In the remainder of the chapter, God sometimes refers to the nation as “Jacob” (7, 10 [twice], 18).  In chapter 31 Israel is sometimes called “Ephraim” (31:9, 18, 20). The name Jacob reminds the people of their patriarchal past and, perhaps, their struggle and toil on the way to blessing.  Just as Jacob had to be wrestled to the point of dependence, so the nation of Israel has to be “disciplined” (11) before it will enjoy “peace and security” (10).  The name Ephraim is a reminder of God’s sovereign choice and “cross-handed” blessing; as Jacob crossed his hands and blessed Ephraim first instead of his older brother Manasseh, so God has chosen to bless the nation far more than they could naturally expect or hope.

A central reason for the nation’s consolation is the promise of a restored Davidic rule.  God promises to liberate His people from foreign rulers.  “In that day” they will “serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them” (9).  Their king will be “one of their own” and will “devote himself to be close to me” (21). God will keep the promise made to King David that “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).

This promise will be fully realized in the eternal reign of David’s greater son, Jesus (Matthew 1:1; 22:41-45).  He will rule over His people as well as over all the nations, bringing justice and righteousness to earth in a glorious, unending way.

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