26 November 2012Jeremiah 30:1-17
"Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and no one shall make him afraid." (v. 10)
A possible setting for this passage ... Jeremiah was active as a prophet from about 625 BC. He worked mainly in Jerusalem, capital of Judah, the southern kingdom in Palestine. In the latter part of his ministry he had tried everything, without success, to challenge the misguided leadership of Judah in the run-up to defeat by the mighty power of Babylon. That was in 586BC. Judah's leaders and most of the people were exiled to Babylon. Judah now faced the same experience of extinction or of merger with other nations that had earlier befallen the northern kingdom, Israel, at the hands of Assyria, around 721BC.
Under God's inspiration Jeremiah raises his sights and broadens his perspective. While himself left behind in Jerusalem, with a small rabble of the poor and destitute, Jeremiah boldly declares an extraordinary promise from God. God will reunite Israel and Judah into a single nation, under a new king David. God will restore them to the promised land, with many blessings: freedom, security and the power to live at peace with one another and with their environment. Only God can achieve such a remarkable change of fortune for the people. Without God's intervention there could be no hope for Israel and Judah.
So what did Jeremiah believe about God?
- God has ultimate authority over the affairs of the nations (though their power play may disguise that truth).
- God looks at God's own people (and all nations) with a searching truthfulness. Israel and Judah have persistently disobeyed God's will and are profoundly guilty. They deserve a due punishment for this, through their present sufferings.
- God hears the cry of panic, terror and anguish from God's own suffering people, currently overwhelmed by their unparalleled distress.
- God can and will rescue, save and heal the people. God's original intention in forming a particular people for the sake of other nations and of the whole universe cannot be defeated. Life will be restored to 'Jacob' (the name given in verse 10 to Israel and Judah when reunited) by their being snatched at the last moment from the jaws of death.
- Jeremiah's account of God controlling international events may seem somewhat unreal to many 21st-century Westerners. We cannot predict where global conflicts will break out or what will result. To what extent does our faith in the coming of God's kingdom help us to make sense of international news?
- Christians in affluent societies often struggle to empathise with the depths of suffering and humiliation felt every day by the poor in the developing world. How can we help one another to stand more humbly alongside those in greatest pain?
- How can Christians in Britain express in public, in ways that make a difference, their distaste for many things that go on in our society?