27 November 2012

Jeremiah 30:18-24

"And you shall be my people, and I will be your God." (v. 22)


The heart of this passage is a renewal of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. The word 'covenant' does not appear. But verse 22 is a familiar biblical statement of what is at the core of a covenant. A covenant establishes a new relation between two parties. Marriage is a covenant. In the Bible, God and Israel pledge to each other unbreakable promises, gifts and non-negotiable obligations.

For the covenant to flourish, the people of Israel need a high quality environment - safe, encouraging and relaxed. At the time Jeremiah wrote, such an environment seemed as remote as could be from their current circumstances. They were in despair. Jerusalem had been destroyed. Anybody who was anybody had been exiled to Babylon. Nothing less than a miracle of astonishing generosity could reverse their plight.

That, however, is precisely God's promise and gift. Jerusalem will be rebuilt. In the renewed city large numbers of faithful people will enjoy life to the full, and thank God for all their blessings. A leader will emerge out of their own number. (The line of descent from David for Judah's kings is not in view here.) The people will never again be humiliated.

Verses 23-24 are a repetition of Jeremiah 23:19-20. We cannot know if they were originally included here. Their tone is different. God's anger against Israel's enemies is like a scorching desert wind. Behind the sentiment is a common biblical idea: God's judgement or God's word, once uttered, must be enacted. Israel had equal confidence in the fulfilment of God's promise to themselves (verses 18-22) as of God's punishment of their enemies (verses 23-24).

To Ponder

  • In your experience of God's love, is there a dimension which could be called God's judgement? Is mercy always more powerful than judgement? Why?
  • In our litigious society, people seem to prefer a contract (with attention to the small print) to a covenant. What positive themes fill out your sense of belonging to God's new covenant in Jesus Christ?
  • In a noisy and sometimes a decaying urban environment, where and how do you find peace and quiet?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.