Chapter 33, which marks the final section of the “Book of Consolation” (30-33), contains a second message from the LORD given to Jeremiah while he was imprisoned in the courtyard (1). This indicates the message was given in the tenth or eleventh year of Zedekiah (32:1), just before the city would fall to the Babylonians.
The message is prefaced by a reminder that it comes from the LORD (YHWH) “who made the earth . . . who formed it and established it” (2). God is powerful, able to create what doesn’t exist and fashion beauty from chaos (Genesis 1:1-2). He is able to recreate a decimated nation and city; He can remake them into something that brings him “renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations” (9).
The Lord invites Jeremiah to call on Him and ask Him to reveal “great and unsearchable things you do not know” (3). In context, this promise relates to God’s plans to restore and re-establish Israel after the impending destruction. God will indeed “slay” the inhabitants of Jerusalem in his “anger” and “wrath” (7). But His plans still give Israel a “hope and a future” (29:11). The reminder of chapter (33:6-26) details what this hopeful future looks like; God reveals great and unsearchable things that expand Jeremiah’s understanding of a bright national future for Israel.
The opening promise in verse 6 serves as a summary of the rest of the coming blessings: “I will bring health (אֲרוּכָה) and healing (מַרְפֵּא) to it; I will heal (רָפָא) my people and let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” Here is a promise of the coming revitalization and rebuilding of the nation, spiritually and nationally. That the healing is a spiritual restoration is evidenced in God’s promise to “forgive all their sins of rebellion against me” (8). The reversal of Israel’s condition is so dramatic that “all the nations of the earth” will hear of it and be “in awe” of what God has done for His people (9). He will receive praise and honour.
Throughout the chapter the Lord highlights the despairing “word on the street” from the people in Jerusalem who are besieged by the Babylonians: they are bemoaning Israel’s desolation (“without men or animals”—10) and concluding that “the Lord has rejected the two kingdoms he chose” (23).
God contradicts their gloomy conclusion (that He has rejected them) with glorious promises of future blessing. The desolate city will again be populated and resound with “the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and groom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings” (11). The countryside (now overrun by Babylonian armies) will once again be “pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks” (12-13). [This includes “the territory of Benjamin” and the “villages around Jerusalem” (13)—the very area where Jeremiah recently purchased land!] A descendant of David will rule over the nation (14-16, 17, 21, 26) and the Levites will be both numerous and busy in their sacred work of bringing offerings to the Lord (18, 22).
Again, I’m struck by how the Lord is clearly the One accomplishing all this on behalf of His people: “I will bring them health and healing” (6); “I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity” (7); “I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed” (8); “they will be in awe and tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I will provide for it” (9). God is the prime mover: the healer, the restorer, the forgiver, the provider.
The nation will respond to His lavish goodness by echoing words spoken in David’s day: “Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good, his love endures forever” (11; 1 Chronicles 16:34). In this reiteration of national thanksgiving we find the addition of the word “Almighty”; God is not only good and loving, but “Almighty”; He is able to fulfill His grand plans. The Hebrew term for “Almighty” (צְבָאוֹת)speaks of “armies” (the LORD of heavenly armies), a fitting description for the God who overpowers the most powerful nations to accomplish the humanly impossible.
The city of Jerusalem itself—presently barricaded and stripped (4) and soon to be burned and decimated (5)—will be restored to safety and shalom (16). Even more importantly, it will be a centre for true worship of God—sacrifices will be offered (18) by Levitical priests. Using very similar wording to 23:5-6, Jeremiah says the city will go by the name “The Lord Our Righteousness.” This title was applied to the Branch in chapter 23; here it applies to the city over which he will reign.
In verses 14-26, the Lord emphasizes His lasting promises to David and the Levites. From David’s line will come the Branch who will “do what is just and right in the land” (15). David will “never fail to have a man to sit on the throne or the house of Israel” (17). Similarly, the Levites will never “fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer offerings . . . ” (18). Both David and the Levites will have descendants as numerous as the stars and sand (22). God emphasizes these promises by citing His covenant with “day and night” (20-21).
I see the promise to David as fulfilled in the coming of Jesus—the Branch of Jesse’s root who is called “our righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30). The Branch is said to “sprout from David’s line” in the future (“in those days”—15). This could imply there is a “dormancy” in the root, a time when nothing seems to be growing (i.e. exile to Christ). But once the Branch comes, David will “never fail to have a man sit on the throne” (17). Jesus reigns forever.
The promise to the Levites is more difficult to understand. The book of Hebrews argues that the coming of the New Covenant brings a change in priesthood and sacrifices. So how can Levites be said to continue in their priestly roles, becoming as numerous as the stars in the sky? The two possible answers I see are as follows: 1. In the Millennium, a restored and purified Levitical priesthood will offer memorial sacrifices (not sin offering). 2. The New Testament fulfills this promise in the priesthood of believers who offer spiritual sacrifices to God under the New Covenant.