28 December 2007

Jeremiah 31:15-17

"There is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country." (v.17)


Many scholars have argued that this chapter of Jeremiah and the one that precedes it were written as stand-alone texts in order to console a traumatised and grieving people.

Often termed the "Book of Consolation", it is believed to have been written as a prophecy for the restoration of the old northern kingdom of Israel, which had been annexed by the Assyrians.

The previous section of chapter 31 concerns the prophecy that tells of a time when those taken in exile will return home. This is a tantalising vision for the people and we can be sure that this was the intention of the author - to try and bring hope and cheer to the lives of the community of which he was a part.

As we approach the end of another year there will be many who will be reflecting on the pain of loss and detachment from loved ones during the year. The oncoming New Year naturally invites us to reflect on the events and emotions of the year about to end.

There is always a danger trying to connect ancient sacred texts with contemporary events in a way that does not do justice to either event or time in history. And yet, despite such dangers it would be hard not to connect this text with the many theatres of war that are taking place across the world.

One can only imagine the feelings of frustration, anger, pain and separation for those loved ones awaiting news and the arrival of those loved ones from war conflicts across the globe.

The words of the prophet have particular resonance at this time of the year: "Your children shall come back to their own country" (v.17). There must be millions of people all over the world praying that those words will come true as we approach another year.

To Ponder

Have you, your family or friends 'lost' anyone this year? In what ways has this 'loss' affected you? (You can use the word 'loss' in the broadest sense to mean anyone who is temporarily or permanently separated from us.)

Imagine Jesus is stood in front of you - what would you say to him about your feelings regarding the person you have 'lost'?

Bible notes author

Dr Anthony Reddie

Dr Anthony Reddie is a Research Fellow in Black Theological Studies for the Methodist Church and the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham. He is the author of a number of books and is the editor of Black Theology: An International Journal.