The Prodigal and the Prisoner (Jeremiah 31; Jeremiah 32)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 31; Jeremiah 32

Today’s Scripture reading is lengthy and totals 84 verses. I pray Jeremiah 31 and 32 will be a blessing.

Jeremiah 31

Jeremiah 31 continues the theme of Israel’s future restoration to the land after being exiled 70 years in Babylon. Like a father longs for a prodigal to be restored to the family, the LORD longed for Israel to turn to Him, and He promised He would “be the God of all the families of Israel, and they [would] be [His] people” (31:1).

A Promise of Restoration and Reconciliation (31:2-13)

Jeremiah 31:2-6 foretold the LORD’s paternal, and perpetual love for Israel (the northern ten tribes scattered among the nations of the world, 31:2). To Israel, the LORD promised His grace, everlasting love, mercy and compassion (31:2-3). Though far from home, He promised a day when the nation would be restored and joy renewed (31:4). In that day, the people would replant their vineyards and enjoy the fruit in peace (31:5-6).

The people of the captivity were promised the LORD would gather His people from the nations, and none would be left behind (31:7-9). The blind, lame, and women in labor would return to the land God had promised Israel (31:8). What a glorious promise! Like a father holds the hand of his small son, the LORD promised to lead Israel home, and they would not stumble (31:9).

Who is the LORD? He is the Shepherd of Israel (31:10), the Redeemer of Jacob (31:11), the Supplier of all their needs (31:12). He is the cause for rejoicing, for He promised, “I will turn their mourning into joy, and comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow” (31:13).

Rachel’s Lamentation and Restoration (31:15-17)

Bible students are familiar with Jeremiah 31:15. If that verse sounds familiar, it is because it was a Messianic prophecy that was fulfilled when Christ was born. We read in the New Testament, “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matthew 2:17-18).

In Jeremiah, the LORD commanded Israel, “Refrain thy voice from weeping, And thine eyes from tears: For thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; And they shall come again from the land of the enemy” (31:16). Ramah was the deportation station for the Jews who were removed from Judah, and taken to Babylon. The people were overwhelmed with sorrow, but Jeremiah was to tell them, stop weeping. Why? Because the LORD promised He would restore them to their land (31:16b). Stop crying, Israel for “there is hope in thine end…thy children shall come again to their own border [land]” (31:18).

The Cry of Ephraim (31:18-21)

So much more could be addressed in Jeremiah 31, but I close this chapter inviting you to consider Jeremiah 30:18-21. The LORD heard the cries of Ephraim (Israel), and the people acknowledged He had chastened them as His people (like a father chastens a son whom He loves, Hebrews 12:5-6). Because He chastened Ephraim, the people acknowledged their sin and repented, saying, “I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, Because I did bear the reproach of my youth” (31:20). We are reminded the LORD is loving and compassionate toward sinners, for He confessed to wayward Ephraim (Israel), “I do earnestly remember him still: Therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord” (31:20).

The LORD promised to establish a “new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (31:31) in the closing verses of Jeremiah 31. The “new covenant” was the same old covenant – the law of the LORD, not written on stone tablets, but on their hearts. God promised, He would “be their God, and they [would] be [His]people” (31:33, and quoted in Hebrews 8:6-13; 10:14-18). The “new covenant” – we could say, the “renewed” covenant was established through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross (Matthew 26:27-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Jeremiah 32Warning: Slay God’s Messenger at Your Peril!

In spite of Judah’s sins, Jeremiah assured the people the LORD would not forget them (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Nevertheless, they were to accept the consequences of their sins being 70 years of captivity in Babylon (29:10).

What became of Jeremiah, the LORD’s prophet?

The answer to that question is recorded in Jeremiah 32:2, where we read, “Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house” (32:2b). Rather than heed Jeremiah’s admonitions, the king of Judah had “shut him up” (32:3), literally and physically!  As the army of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, laid siege to Jerusalem, Jeremiah was “shut up in the court of the prison” (32:2), where he was treated with disdain.

With Jerusalem under siege, and the rest of Judah fallen, Jeremiah purchased a field in Anathoth, his home village (32:6-12). Why purchase land at such a time? Purchasing the land appeared foolish; however, for Jeremiah it was an act of faith. He proved his confidence that the LORD would restore Israel to the land as He promised (32:13-15).

Jeremiah’s Prayer and the LORD’s Affirmation (32:16-44)

The LORD rehearsed with Jeremiah the sorrow that would come upon Israel and Judah because of the sins of the people (32:26-44).  Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the city of Jerusalem with fire, and the people would suffer disease and famine (32:26-29). Should anyone question why Judah was left desolate, Jeremiah was to remind them of the depths of depravity to which Judah had fallen (32:30-35). In spite of Judah’s wickedness, the LORD promised He would not forget or forsake His people (32:27-44), and would restore them to the land (Jeremiah 33:1-26).

Closing thoughts – How would Judah and Israel find their way back to the LORD? The answer is found in Jeremiah 31:21, where we read, “Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: Set thine heart toward the highway, Even the way which thou wentest” (31:21).

“Waymarks” and “high heaps” marked the way, not only through the wilderness, but back to the LORD. Spiritually, “the waymarks” were God’s Laws and Commandments. 70 years later, the Jewish people were freed to go home. They not only rebuilt Jerusalem, but more importantly, they re-established their covenant with the LORD.

Someone reading this devotional may be far from the LORD. As He waited on Israel, He waits on you to turn from your sin, repent, and come home to Him. Some of Judah did recognize God’s chastening was His way of loving them, and calling them to Himself.

Hebrews 12:11 – “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

The LORD is waiting! 

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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