29 November 2012Jeremiah 31:18-26
"I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish." (v. 25)
It may help to read Luke 15 to capture the remarkable tone of verses 18-22. The gospel passage begins with two short stories, in parallel. The first is written around a male (a shepherd (Luke 15:1-7)); the second around a female (a woman at home (Luke 15:8-10)). The same pattern appears in our passage.
Verses 18-20 tell of a son (Ephraim, representing the northern kingdom of Israel) who turns away from God and God's ways. Eventually he acknowledges his shame, repents and pleads to return. Who could fail to note a connection between these themes and the major story in Luke 15, about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32)? And in both Bible passages the returning prodigal is met by God's unshakable love and mercy (verse 20).
Then, in verses 21-22, the same theme is addressed through the story of a wayward daughter. Just before her marriage, she has absconded. Next comes a development in the story which, in the ancient world, would have been considered astonishing and scandalous. Of her own initiative she makes her way back, unaccompanied, to her future husband's home, to become his bride. The story is about God's people, coming to their senses, and returning to Palestine after their exile in Babylon.
The final section of today's passage (verses 23-25) repeats a familiar theme in Jeremiah's vision of the future. Israel will not only be brought back to the Holy Land, but will live a peaceful and prosperous life there. This will be particularly good news for the weary and faint. And everyone will owe their good life to God's incalculable blessings.
Verse 26 is a footnote. It gives a rare glimpse into the origin of Jeremiah's visionary power. He sees what God has in store for Israel in a dream sequence while he sleeps contentedly.
- Reflect on the roles played by women and men, and the relation between them, in your local church. Has the full power of the Christian vision on gender issues yet come to pass?
- How important to you in grasping the wonder of God's love are dreams; or daydreams; or flights of imagination in, say, meditative prayer?
- In what practical ways can you offer support and encouragement to the weary, the dejected and the sad?