Thursday 10 March 2016

Bible Book:

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’” (v. 10)

Jeremiah 31:10-13 Thursday 10 March 2016

Psalm: Psalm 54


For 400 years, the children of Israel had fought against thearmies of surrounding nations. In the 11th century BC it had beenthe coastal Philistines who had been their greatest enemy - withtheir monopoly of iron they ruled Judah for 40 years (Judges13:1; 1 Samuel 13:19-23). The other coastal power -the Phoenicians (or Sidonians) - had encroached at least 20 milesinland by this time (Judges18:27-29). Although King David subdued the surrounding nations,after the division of the kingdom into Israel and Judah (1Kings 12:20) not only had there been civil war, but eachkingdom had to defend itself against other nations. They alsosought alliances and made intermarriage with other nations againsttheir own kin. In 721 King Ahaz of Judah had paid the Assyrians tohelp them repel the armies of Israel and Syria, while alsostruggling against incursions from Edom and Philistine (2Chronicles 28): the result was that the Assyrians took not onlyIsrael but also Judah. The Assyrians, then the Babylonians, were tohave mighty empires which they governed by deportation andscattering of their conquered peoples - including the people ofIsrael and Judah - imposing harsh tributes on vassal states, andappointing vice-regal governors and puppet kings.

So Jeremiah speaks to these 'nations' to tell them who willreally be in charge. Although "Jacob" - the people of Israel andJudah - has apparently been conquered and subdued by strongernations (verse 11), this was permitted by Jacob's own God, as apunishment for his sin (Jeremiah 18:13-17). But now God is ready toreunite them and to be their shepherd once more. It is as if Godtaunts the nations with the riches with which the people will beblessed - which will no longer need to be handed over in tribute.The promise of a garden where they will "never languish again" (v.12) hints at a return to the paradise of Eden, where mourning isturned into joy, and sorrow is turned into gladness (verse 13).

To Ponder

  • The media today portray the Church as in terminal declineagainst the strong hand of modern culture. What do you think thispassage has to say to those who think that the Church has had itsday?
  • Some people believe that the way God shows blessing is to makesure that they have "the grain, the wine, and the oil … and theyshall never languish again" (v. 12). In other words, God blessesthrough health and wealth. What do you think?
  • Are there times when you have struggled with mourning andsorrow, but have later found joy and gladness once more? How couldyour experience help others? 
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