The Day The Promises Will Be Fulfilled
1. Today we read from Jeremiah chapter thirty-three and verse ten. There we find Jerusalem reduced to ruins. It is a Jerusalem that fell to the invasion of Babylonia, and its once so lovely temple was also destroyed and ended up a mountain of debris. The people were hopelessly crushed and stood still in the ruins.
2. But, the Lord spoke to them. "The place has become deserted, now there are neither people, nor inhabitants, nor even beasts. But, soon celebrating voices, the voices of grooms and brides, the voices of people carrying their offerings of thanksgiving to the temple of the Lord will be heard singing, 'O praise the Lord of the armies. The Lord is deeply gracious and his compassion is eternal.' For, I will restore the prosperity of this land as at the beginning of time," (verses ten and eleven).
3. The ruins would not be that way for ever. The time was coming when the Lord's deliverance and work of restoration would be revealed. The capital of God would be put back again. The temple will soon be rebuilt. Joyous voices will be heard echoing in it. Worship will once again be offered to the Lord. Songs of praise will be offered with voices aloft.
4. But, what is being said in this text is not that the country would just go back to its original state. It is talking about more than that. We need to honestly listen to what it's about.
A Restoration Based On The Forgiveness Of Sin
5. What this text says in particular about the rebuilding of the temple has a special meaning in Jeremiah.
6. Please look at Jeremiah chapter seven. There we have recorded in it a prophecy during the days of Jehoiakim the king of Judah when the temple was still in existence. The Lord commanded Jeremiah to stand at the gates of the temple and say, "Listen to the word of the Lord all you people of Judah coming into the gates of the temple in order to worship the Lord. Thus says, the God of Israel, the Lord of the armies, 'Make straight your ways and deeds. Thus then, I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in vain words such as the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,'' (7:2-4).
7. The dynasty of the king of Judah Jehoiakim, at the time Jeremiah had spoken this prophecy, was an era in which the shadow of anxiety deeply colored over the mood of the people. As the king of Judah, Josiah, Jehoiakim's father, had pushed for religious reform, but his will was unfulfilled as he was killed in battle. After Jehoaz, son of Josiah, who was set in his stead by the people of the country, had taken the crown for just a short three months, he was forced to abdicate by the power of Egypt. Then the brother of Jehoaz, Jehoiakim, was put in as a puppet of Egypt. He put a burden of tribute and taxation unto Egypt onto the daily lives of the people. In another direction, from the north, instead of Assyria, the neo-Babylonians were pushing their might and pressing onward as a real threat. In these uneasy times, worship at the temple was actually prosperous. Many praises were being sung, many sacrifices were offered. Like an anthem, the phrase "the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord" was repeated over and over among them. The temple of the Lord was really a support for the minds of the people.
8. But, in a time such as that, Jeremiah spoke the word of the Lord that said, "Do not trust in those vain words - the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord." For, the thing they needed to do was not to make a prop for their minds of the temple and the sacrifices, and not to superstitiously repeat the slogan. The thing they needed to do was to straighten their ways and deeds and to truly turn to the Lord.
9. Therefore, the Lord goes on to say through Jeremiah to "Go to my sanctuary in Shiloh," (7:12). Shiloh is a place where there used to be a sanctuary. It was already turned to ruins in their day and time. It had been sacked by the Philistines in the eleventh century B.C.E. And the northern kingdom, where there had been traces of the sanctuary at Shiloh, had been destroyed by Assyria. The Lord said about Shiloh that "I once placed my name there, but because of the sin of my people Israel, look at what I have done to it." Then he said this about the temple at Jerusalem where they had been lavishly practicing sacrificial rites, "And now since you have done these things, says the Lord, although I have spoken repeatedly in the past, you have not obeyed my words, and because I have called out to you and you did not answer, I will do to this place that I gave you and your ancestors, to this temple which is called by my name and in which you have trusted, like I did to Shiloh. I will cast you from my presence just as I cast out all the descendants of Ephraim, your brothers," (7:13-15).
10. And the word of the Lord did come into fulfillment just the way he said it would. The temple was demolished by the Babylonian army, the capital city where the temple was had become ruins. However, if we go by the word of the Lord, it wasn't really the Babylonian army who had ruined the capital. The sins of the people caused the country to fall and ruined the capital city.
11. That's how it was, the sin of the people caused the fall. To put it even more accurately, the stubborn hearts that refused to repent of their sins and the stubborn hearts that refused to respond though God had been calling out to them had caused the ruination. In that sense, there is no difference between us and them standing in ruins. It may be the [same] ruins that stubborn human hearts have caused, which we too have seen in this world, in this country, or even in our homes among couples and between parents and children.
12. But, the message of "I have cast you from my presence" was not the final word from God. The Lord would regather the people whom he had cast off. In today's passage of scripture, the Lord says that the temple will be built again where the ruins lied. [The Bible] says, "The voices of those carrying their offerings of thanksgiving to the temple of the Lord will be heard singing, 'O praise the Lord of the armies. The Lord is deeply gracious and his compassion is eternal.'"
13. More is being said in this text than that things would go back to the way they were. It is talking about forgiveness of sin here. If they were to be able to worship God again in the temple, it would be because of God's forgiveness and mercy. God's forgiveness and mercy had already been announced in this prophetic message of restoration.
Trust In The Faithfulness Of The Lord
14. Whenever there is God's forgiveness and mercy where the word of restoration is given, then salvation has already begun there. That is certainly so. Wherever forgiveness of sin is proclaimed, salvation has already begun there. But, those standing in ruins never have it easy believing the prophecy of restoration. That is a difficult thing to do.
15. Consequently, in verse fourteen, the Lord says, "Thus, says the Lord, Behold, the day is coming when I will fulfill my promise of grace to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah." Before in verse fourteen it said that in the deserted Jerusalem and in all the destroyed villages, the shepherds will have pasture land again and will have their flocks of sheep to find rest. Then after verse fourteen it spoke of the revival the Davidic dynasty and the restoration of the priestly system. For those standing in the ruins imagining the fulfillment of these words must have been exceedingly difficult. Therefore, the recovery that the Lord was to give them was very much still being given as "a promise."
16. The main thing in a "promise" is not whether the conditions being promised are big or small. It is not even whether they are realistic or unrealistic. That's not the main thing, rather the main thing is whether or not the one making the promise is trustworthy. By trusting in God's faithfulness, the prophecy of the recovery, which included the forgiveness of sin, must be accepted and believed as a word of promise from God. As long as the person standing in the ruins does not put his or her mind on God's faithfulness and trustworthiness, he or she will not be able to wait with much patience or believe the prophecy of restoration.
17. Therefore, the Lord has them turn their eyes from the chaos before them and has them put their eyes on the order in the natural world. Through Jeremiah the Lord speaks to them as follows: "Thus, says the Lord. Just as you cannot break my covenant with day time and my covenant with the evening, so that day and night do not come at their hours, neither can my covenant with my servant David and my covenant with the Levite priests ministering before me be broken nor will David not have a descendant to reign on his throne."
18. When Jerusalem fell and the temple was demolished, the people must have felt that everything had fallen apart. They must have felt that "The royal system, the sacrifical traditions, their pride as the people of God and everything else had been destroyed. It could never come back like a plate broken to pieces in a fall. Everything had ended in confusion. Sometimes we might have thoughts like that. We think: Oh, it's useless. Everything's gone to pot and fallen apart. Nothing is the same.
19. But, in an hour like that, the word of the Lord will ring. The Lord asks, "Did everything really fall apart? Has everything changed?" At such a time if we take another look we will realize one thing. The sun will set the same way today and as the hours pass morning will come once again. We will realize that nothing is ever different. "There is evening and there is morning" (Genesis 1:5 and other places) and it is just like it is repeated in the creation account of the heavens and the earth. Yes, it is; the order of the unchanging natural world is right there in its majesty and accuracy. And at the background to this unchanging world of nature there is the unchanging God.
20. Human sin surely brings devastation. It brings ruin. But, it cannot make everything fall apart. Human sin does mess up everything, but it is haughtiness to think that it changes everything. We humans are not that great. It is just as the Bible says that "You cannot break my covenant with day time and my covenant with the evening, so that day and night do not come at their hours," (verse thirty-three). In the same way, no matter how much society changes, there are still promises which humanity can never change, the promises of our unchanging God. Therefore, if we live by trusting in the faithfulness of our God who would speak to us of recovery, even if we have been looking at a mountain of debris before us, there is no need for us to live groaning all the time like hopeless people. We should be living joyously all the time and expectantly all the time.