Wednesday 28 November 2012

Bible Book:

Jeremiah 31:1-17 Wednesday 28 November 2012


This passage draws on an astonishingly rich pool of images. Eachone carries great emotional power. In part they illuminate theintense suffering of God's people, who at the time of writing werescattered over vast areas of the Middle East to the north ofPalestine.

A good place to start is at the end, with verses 15-17. 'Rachelat Ramah' carries a double burden of grief. Long before, Jacob'swife Rachel had died in childbirth (Genesis 35:16-20). Ramah was one traditionalsite for her tomb. Much closer to Jeremiah's experience was this:at Ramah was the holding camp where the people of Judah were herdedbefore they were deported to Babylon (in 586BC). Rachel's deathcries are heard again because God's people will now surelyperish.

Jeremiah's wonderful images, however, speak also of hope. Theplight of God's people will be reversed. In some images Jeremiahenvisages God once again leading Israel out of their Egyptianslavery, through the Red Sea, across the wilderness and eventuallyto the Promised Land. As then, so in the future. When they returnat the end of their exile, from all parts of the world, there willbe dancing and feasting fit for a wedding - as if Israel were avirgin bride for God (verses 2-6).

In another image Israel's journey 'home' will be in totalcontrast to the testing conditions of a hot wilderness and rockypaths that marked the first Exodus. The people will walk by astream, on straight, smooth paths (verse 9)!

God's intention in the glorious future is to reunite all thescattered peoples (disabled and dispirited people as well as theable-bodied). The northern kingdom (called Ephraim in verses 6 and9) and the southern kingdom will combine into a new Israel (alsocalled Jacob in verse 7). God will act like a shepherd who drawsthe scattered flock into a fold.

God will shower the restored people with innumerable blessings.Wonderful crops will be harvested. The land will become like awatered garden, beautiful and fruitful.

Who could doubt, implies Jeremiah, God's faithful love andgoodness?

To Ponder

  • In the culture of wealth and contentment in the West today, canwe hear the force of Jeremiah's faith and hope? Are thereexperiences in your life or the lives of your friends which canlink in with the prophet's story of suffering, loss andrestoration? What are they?
  • Do you think Christianity is spreading very rapidly in so manyparts of the developing world because people there identify withIsrael's experience of deprivation and despair? And cling stronglyto God's promise, which brings hope?
  • The death and resurrection of Jesus are the centre of Christianfaith. How does this passage, and its rich images, support andnourish your faith?

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