4 August 2010

Jeremiah 31:1-7

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." (v.3)


"All the families of Israel" refers to both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, as well as the many Jews in exile scattered from their homeland. Yet much of this short passage is addressed to the north, hence the references to the mountains of Samaria and hills of Ephraim. The passage, however, assumes that the two kingdoms are reunified and are summoned to worship in Zion (another name for Jerusalem).

The hearers or recipients of this prophecy are reminded of God's saving acts in their past when they were brought out of slavery in Egypt and into the wilderness. Such past actions are meant to induce trust in the present and hope for the future. Despite the people's faithlessness, and the trouble they have found themselves in, God is portrayed as faithful and with an everlasting love. The people's present troubles are compared to the wilderness years that followed the escape from slavery in Egypt and, just as God cared for them then, despite their recurrent faithlessness, so God would care for them now.

There will again be a time to dance and make merry. The image of planting a vineyard and enjoying its fruit is a powerful one for the people of Israel as it speaks of being settled in the land; of there being time to plant and opportunity to enjoy the fruit of their labour.

To Ponder

Why do you think Jeremiah reminds the people of God's actions in their past?

What does this passage say to people today who feel like they are in some kind of wilderness?

What images speak of 'settledness' for you? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Peter Barber

Peter Barber is an ordained Methodist presbyter currently serving as the chair of district for the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District of the Methodist Church in Britain. Previously he has served in circuits in Cornwall, Aberystwyth, and Harpenden.