Jeremiah 30:1-17
The Promise Of The Restoration

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. Today we read the words of the prophet Jeremiah. "Thus says the God of Israel, the Lord, Write in a scroll and do not leave one word that I have spoken to you out," (verse two). What we are reading is the words that were written according to that command of the Lord. The reason the words were written was so that later peoples might be able to read them. These words were meant to be read and heard repeatedly. The prophet Jeremiah lived in a certain historical time period and spoke the word of God under certain specific conditions. But, the word of God was not meant to stay in that time period, it transcends time and [still] must be heard. The words that are written here are still being spoken to us living almost two thousand and six hundred years since the days of Jeremiah.

A Change In Destiny

2. In the written message, the Lord thus said, "Look, my people, the day is coming when I will restore the prosperity of Israel and Judah, says the Lord. The Lord says, I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their ancestors and I will let them possess it, (verse three). Since the Lord says in this text that "I will bring them back," we see that those who first heard this message were those who had lost the land. They were the ones who had experienced the destruction of the national state. They were captured and relocated from the land in which they had been living until then. But though, it is not definite whether it points to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel who had been destroyed by Assyria or whether it points to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah who had been destroyed by Babylonia. It is not even definite when the prophecy was given. Regardless though, it is for certain that the word of God is being directed to a people who had seen the bitter experience of a ruined country and were still suffering.

3. But, even though they were still suffering, they were not bound to just live by confronting this suffering directly. They also had the choice to live by not looking face to face with suffering [and denying it]. There are also some who live with pain by "not being in pain." By not paying any mind to current suffering, their way of living is to live by just thinking of a future hope and that alone. It's a very nice happy-go-lucky way of living that looks into the future. Even in Jeremiah's day, some people were most assuredly like that.

4. One representative of that type of person is the character Hananiah who appears in chapter twenty-eight. He too had spoken to the people as a prophet like Jeremiah. It was a dark age. Jerusalem had been conquered by the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Judah Jehoiachin and those who had been leaders in Jerusalem were transported as slaves to Babylon, even the utensils from the temple of the Lord had been stolen away. However, in this dark time, Hananiah was giving encouragement to the people by saying, "Thus says the God of Israel, the Lord of the armies, I will crush the yoke of the king of Babylon. In two years I will return back to this place all the utensils of the temple of the Lord which the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar has stolen from this place," (28:2-3). He was truly a man looking ahead at the positive. He did not put his eyes on the suffering and misery now, but believed in the near future restoration and put his eyes on the bright and cheerful future. Wasn't that so nice and positive? Shouldn't a man like him be admired? By this man many people were given so much comfort and encouragement.

5. But then, oh how the Bible calls the words of a prophet like Hananiah "false prophecy." The prophet Jeremiah stood head on against such prophets as this. What Jeremiah had been preaching to the people was a totally different message from theirs. "Thus says the Lord. You should not listen to the words of those propehts who prophecy that the utensils of the temple of the Lord will now soon come back from Babylon. They are making false prophecies," (27:16). Also, he said that they will carry the yoke of the king of Babylon. He stated that the captivity will be long. When the people were about to cling to their hopes for the future and forget their current pain, he told them things that would dash those hopes. Jeremiah made the people confront the reality of their misery. A pessimistic person like that will probably not be welcomed by the people. However, the Bible points to people like Jeremiah as the true prophets.

6. Why is that? Because there are more important things than people feeling cheerful and being pepped up. It is more important to truly be saved. For that to happen, suffering must be totally acknowledged once and so must the judgment of God be accepted as the judgment [it is].

7. It's like that even in today's passage of scripture. Jeremiah didn't only give a prophecy of restoration. We have the following words in verses five through seven. "Thus, says the Lord. We have heard the shivering voices. There is only fear and no peace. Ask, look, a male will not beget a child any more. What am I looking at? -- all the males, like a woman giving birth to a child, are putting their hands on their hips. Everyone's face is changing to the color of the ground. It will be disaster, that day will be a great day, there will not be any other day like that one. It is the time of Jacob's trouble...," (verses five through seven). Jeremiah was speaking in regard to "that day" as disastrous. "That day" means God's day of judgment. Just as he spoke back then for his time, Jeremiah is also speaking about God's judgment even here. Times of pain must be accepted as a time of pain. We must not say "Peace! Peace!" even though there is only fear and no peace. The judgment of God must be taken for the divine judgment that it is. With that, we can start to hear the next message from God.

8. As people fess up and face up to the reality that we are under the judgment of God, the first words that we can hear will be waiting for us just up on ahead. The final word was not "It is the time of Jacob's trouble." The Lord has more to say through Jeremiah. He says, "But, Jacob will be delivered out of this."

9. Since Jeremiah was giving a word on "that day" and on the judgment of God, the phrase "be delivered out of this" does not mean just to be delivered from pain. Essentially it means to be delivered from the judgment of God. To be delivered from the judgment of God means to be forgiven by God. Ultimately only the one who can condemn is the one who can forgive. Ultimately only the one who can bring the guilty into conviction and bring their destruction is able to also deliver them from that destruction. For those who heard the words of Jeremiah the truly important thing was not that they would just get back the land that was lost to them; nor was it that they would once again undergo the prosperity that was lost to them; nor was it that with the deliverance that God grants, they would go back to the original way it was as if nothing ever happened. The truly important thing for humankind is that we are forgiven by God and saved from divine judgment.

10. In that sense, I would say that the translation of verse three as "the day is coming when I will restore prosperity" might easily invoke a misunderstanding. In this more is being said than "the people of the captivity will be released, repatriated and the kingdom will be revived." Chapter thirty of Deuteronomy are words that have a strong connection to what has been said here. In the New Interconfessional Version, the same words even there are translated "I will restore your destiny." "[There are] blessings and curses that I have placed before you, all these things will visit upon you, and you will remember them in all the countries in which you have been driven by the Lord your God, and you will return to the Lord your God, and just as I commanded today, if you along with your children exhaust your heart and your spirit and obey my voice, the Lord your God will restore your destiny and I will be merciful to you, the Lord your God will gather [you] again from all the peoples where you have been scattered," (Deuteronomy 30:1-3). Somebody has translated the previous phrase [of "restore your destiny"] as "the day when I will change your destiny." Through God's forgiveness, through God's deliverance, destinies are transformed. By changing one's relationship with God, one's destiny is transformed. People must take a hard look at that very fact. Looking at the future by averting one's eyes from the miseries of life or its pain and putting one's trust in quick fixes and easy dreaming is a totally different and wrong thing to do.

A Disciplining But Healing God

11. So, when we see that the deliverance that God is ready to give is in the recovery of a relationship with him and is a transformation of our destiny, then the meaning in the pain that God may bring also becomes clear. This is what God said to the people of the captivity, "O my servant Jacob, do not be afraid, says the Lord. O Israel, do not tremble. Look, I will save you from the faraway land and your descendants from the land of captivity. Jacob will return and live peaceably. There will be no one to threaten them. I will be with you and save you says the Lord. I will totally destroy the countries in which you are scattered. But, I will not totally destroy you. I will discipline you righteously. I will not keep you under punishment," (verses ten and eleven).

12. Even though they were the people of the captivity, even though they had such a miserable state of being, the Lord addressed them as "My servant Jacob." The Lord was with them. He said, "I am with you and will save you." However, there was something they had to know. And what was that? It was the truth that God had rightfully disciplined them.

13. So, the Lord is not holding back his message from them, but tells them of his strict discipline. He has also made plain their sins which had invited his discipline in. "Thus, says the Lord. Your cuts won't heal. Your bruises are diseased. Your appeals are unheard and there is no medicine for your wounds, so nothing will heal. All your lovers will forget you, no one will partner with you. Because your evils are extreme, your sins are innumerable, I will conquer you with attacks from your enemies and I will discipline you severely," (verses twelve through fifteen).

14. So, as he was telling them that, it was God himself who was disciplining them but he also cared most for them and about their cuts and bruises. Their hurts were God's hurts. Because of that, it was clear that the God who disciplined them was also the God who would heal them. The reason he disciplined them was not to destroy them. It was to make them live. It was to grant them true life. That's why the Lord said, "Oh now, I want to restore you from your wounds and heal your bruises, says the Lord. The people will call you "The scattered people," and will say "Zion who is without any partners," (verse seventeen).

15. As seen from human eyes, they might have looked like an abandoned people. They seemed to be a people unable to be partnered up with anyone, it seemed not even God would be their partner. But, God was their friend the whole time. He had never stopped caring. He always was concerned for them. In the first place, if he hadn't of cared, he never would have disciplined them. The God who disciplines is also the God who heals. So, divine healing and restoration already begin when sin is forgiven.

 
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