Monday 07 March 2016

Bible Book:

“For the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their ancestors and they shall take possession of it.” (v. 3)

Jeremiah 30:1-15 Monday 7 March 2016

Psalm: Psalm 51


Our theme this week arises from a group of poems which aredifficult to date. The prophet Jeremiah may have written them earlyin his ministry (perhaps around 620 BC) when he is considering theevents of a century beforehand. In 721 King Ahaz of Judah had paidthe Assyrians to help them repel the armies of Israel and Syria,while also struggling against incursions from Edom and Philistine(2Chronicles 28). The Assyrians had destroyed Israel and haddeported 27,290 Israelites as slaves, and Judah had herselfcontinued to be a vassal state of Assyria. Or Jeremiah may wellhave written the poems 40 years later in his ministry, afterJudah's own fall in 586 to the Babylonians, when the Babyloniansswept through the Assyrian Empire (2Kings 25:1-21) - in which case Jeremiah added the words "andJudah" (vv. 3-4) to his earlier poem. We don't know for sure,because the whole book spent many years being edited and put intothe order we have it today.

Whether written early or late, Jeremiah's 'Scroll of Comfort'(Jeremiah 30-31) was compiled to give hope forthe restoration of the whole people of God. The pain of invasionand exile is described in extreme terms (verses 5-7) - pain soimpossibly great it is as if you were trying to imagine men goingthrough childbirth! Yet those taken into exile from both Israel andJudah will return (verses 3, 10) - as a new Jacob (verses 7, 10)with a new David (verse 9) on the throne. Their enemies' empireswill come to an end (verse 11a).

However, this is not (yet) a tale of 'they all lived happilyever after' (verse 11b). Why? Because justice demands that Godpunishes the people of Israel and Judah for their failure to befaithful to God: which Jeremiah presents as the reason God allowedboth kingdoms to be conquered in the first place. They had reliedon human alliances, rather than on God. From that pain - theconsequences of their own sin - they should never expect to becured. And it's no use crying about it. Today's psalm (Psalm51) expresses their grief admirably.

(Those who prefer a happier ending should read verse17, where, having described what justice should demand in verse15, God actually presents hope).

To Ponder

  • Jeremiah presents Assyria and Babylon as being used by God topunish God's people (verse 15). Some Christians argue that adverseevents in the world today are God's punishment for the way theworld (including the Church) is acting. To what extent do youagree?
  • Do you think God should protect us from the consequences of ourown sinful behaviour or stupid actions? Should confessing our sinstop our suffering? Why?
  • When you feel far from God, as if in exile, what gives youhope?
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