JEREMIAH CHAPTER 31.
Salvation for All Generations of Israel.
THE DECREE OF RESTORATION AND ITS EXECUTION. — V. 1. At the same time, saith the Lord, at the time of the Messiah's rule, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, of all true Israelites, of His spiritual children, and they shall be My people. V. 2. Thus saith the Lord, The people which were: left of the sword found grace in the wilderness, that is, those who escaped the sword of Pharaoh by the Lord's deliverance were objects of His merciful intervention against all enemies; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest, when He was leading them forward to occupy the peaceful habitations of the Land of Promise. V. 3. The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, so His Church sings in grateful acknowledgment of His grace, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee, giving them respite, preserving them from extinction. As He had done in delivering His people from the bondage of Egypt, so He intended to continue His mercy upon them. V. 4. Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel, be established for sound prosperity; thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, marching in processions with tambourines, or timbrels, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry, in agreement with the custom observed upon occasions of public rejoicings, but in holy joy, not in carnal mirth. V. 5. Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant and shall eat them as common things, a reference to the ordinance which commanded the children of Israel not to eat the fruit of the orchard and of the vineyard the first three years after planting, the fourth year's fruit being consecrated to the Lord, and only that of the fifth year being permitted to be profaned, that is, to be used by the owner. Cp. Lev. 19, 23 ff.; Judg. 9, 27; Deut. 20, 6; also 28, 30. V. 6. For there shall be a day that the watchmen upon the Mount Ephraim, those who were delegated to observe the time of the new moon, which determined the date of most festivals in the Jewish church-year, shall cry, Arise ye and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord, our God. Thus the work of the Gospel-messengers summoning the believers to the worship of Jehovah, the true God, is pictured. V. 7. For thus saith the Lord, Sing with gladness for Jacob, shouting over the Church's good fortune in songs of praise, and shout among the chief of the nations, exult over the head of the peoples, for the Church is composed of members of all nations; publish ye, praise ye, and say, in loud psalms of thanksgiving and intercession, O Lord, save Thy people, the remnant of Israel, so that the blessings of redemption would be known to, experienced by, all its members. V. 8. Behold, I will bring them, the members of Jehovah's Church, from the North country and gather them from the coasts of the earth, from its most remote boundaries, and with them the blind and the lame, the poorest and the least important, the very outcasts of society. Matt. 22, 9; Luke 14, 21-23, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together, even the weak and frail of every kind; a great company shall return thither, being welcomed into the Church of Jehovah. V. 9. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them, with tears of mingled joy and penitence, on account of the unmerited grace of God in accepting them into His kingdom. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble, on paths of righteousness; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My first-born, all His spiritual children being included in these terms. V. 10. Hear the Word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, the Gospel-message being proclaimed in the most remote regions of the earth, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock, one of the Lord's favorite pictures to describe His loving care for His people. V. 11. For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he, liberating His people from the hands of all tyrants. V. 12. Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, on its summit, that is, in the Temple of the Lord, and shall flow together, in a mighty stream of humanity, to the goodness of the Lord, to receive the blessing of Jehovah, for wheat and for wine and for oil, the greatest riches of His mercy, and for the young of the flock and of the herd, all these being types of the richest and fullest strength of life; and their soul shall be as a watered garden, Is. 58, 11, and they shall not sorrow any more at all, enjoying, rather, all the riches of God's grace. V. 13. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, for the young women went out in processions with rhythmic movements, both young men and old together, that is, they would give expression to their joy; for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow, so that they would be abundantly comforted. V. 14. And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, namely, by the great number of the fat pieces of thank-offerings, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, saith the Lord. Thus the Messianic promise concerning rest and peace, Matt. 11,28, was brought out even in the Old Testament, for He gave His blessings in rich measure even at that time.
SORROW TURNED INTO JOY. — V. 15. Thus saith the Lord, A voice was heard in Ba-mah, a city some nine or ten miles north of Jerusalem, on the boundary between the former kingdoms of Israel and Judah, lamentation and bitter weeping: Bahel, the beloved wife of Jacob, as the ancestress of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, weeping for her children, the members of the northern kingdom, refused to be comforted for her children because they were not. This verse is quoted by Matthew, chap. 2, 18, with reference to the slaughter of the innocents of Bethlehem, because the extermination of Israel through the Assyrian power was a type of the murder of the children at Bethlehem, and because Rachel was regarded as the mother of Bethlehem and its environs. V. 16. Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from. weeping and thine eyes from tears, bidding all sorrow be far removed; for thy work shall be rewarded, namely, that of bearing and bringing up her children, saith the Lord, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy, those whom the Lord had chosen as His own being assembled once more, namely, in His congregation, in the communion of His saints. V. 17. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that is, for the future, that thy children shall come again to their own border, on the basis of a sincere repentance. V. 18. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, so the Lord now declares: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, being obliged to accept the Lord's punishment, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, unused to the restraint of the yoke and of harness; cp. Hos. 10, 11. Turn Thou me, back from the path of wickedness and sin, and I shall be turned, the change of repentance in the heart of any man being possible only through the merciful power of God; for Thou art the Lord, my God, and it is the confidence in His grace as the God of the covenant that brings His blessings to the repentant heart. V. 19. Surely after that I was turned, I repented, or, "For after my apostasy I felt sorrow," since God wrought repentance in the heart of the true Israelites among the children of Ephraim; and after that I was instructed, coming to a right understanding through the Lord's chastisement, I smote upon my thigh, in token of deep grief; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, fully conscious of the disgrace attaching to the former behavior, because I did bear the reproach of my youth, that attending the idolatry which had been practiced in the northern kingdom since the time when Jeroboam set up the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. Upon this cry the Lord answers in a strain of coaxing appeal. V. 20. Is Ephraim My dear son? literally, "a son of My favor." Is he a pleasant child? literally, "a child of delights." The question implies a decided negative answer if the actual condition of Ephraim's mind is taken into consideration, but an equally decided positive statement when one takes note of Jehovah's mercy. For since I spake against him, in words of stern reproof, I do earnestly remember him still, the Lord being astonished at Himself, as it were, on account of such tender feelings toward this reprobate child; therefore My bowels are troubled for him, His inmost feelings being touched. I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord, like a father who still regards his wayward son with tender love. V. 21. Set thee up way-marks, finger-posts directing him back to his Father's home; make thee high heaps, wooden posts or pillars of stone showing the way; set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest, the road which would lead him back home. Turn again, O virgin of Israel, for the believers of Ephraim and the congregation of the Lord are identical, turn again to these thy cities, returning to the Lord in true repentance. V. 22. How long wilt thou go about, turning first one way and then the other, like a dissolute and wanton woman, O thou backsliding daughter? the congregation which had so often proved apostate. For the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man, the weak and tender woman clinging to the stronger with yielding affection, the repentant congregation once more turning to the Lord in the relation of love which should characterize the believers at all times. V. 23. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, whose majesty and power are here emphasized, As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof when I shall bring again their captivity, when His Church would once more be established, The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, where true righteousness would once more find its dwelling-place, and mountain of holiness, Mount Zion, of course, representing the Church of Jehovah. V. 24. And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, such as till the ground, and they that go forth with flocks, this picture being descriptive of the blessings which the Lord would pour out upon His people. V. 25. For I have satiated the weary soul, refreshing the soul which panted after relief, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul, satisfying the soul that was languishing for relief. Cp. Matt. 11, 28. The prophet closes this section with the remark: v. 26. Upon this I awaked, namely, from the vision, or ecstasy, in which he had received the revelation of the Lord, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me. The glance into the future which had been vouchsafed him was so glorious that he kept it in his memory as a pleasant picture. To all true ministers of the Word it is a source of great satisfaction to find the Church returning to a condition of repentance and zeal for the Lord.
THE NEW LIFE AND THE NEW COVENANT. — V. 27. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah, the congregation of true believers in Him, with the seed of man and with the seed of beast, with great spiritual blessings, as a field of exceeding fruitfulness. V. 28. And it shall come to pass that like as I have watched over them, regarding them with wakeful attention, to pluck up, and to break down, or "to root out," and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict, the heaping of the synonyms emphasizing the thoroughness of the Lord's punishment upon His apostate people, so will I watch over them, namely, in the promised restoration, to build and to plant, saith the Lord. V. 29. In those days they shall say no more, according to a proverb which had been coined during the years of tribulation in Israel, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge, the meaning being, of course, that the transgressions of the fathers were visited upon the innocent children, a statement intended to express that they suffered the evil consequences of their fathers' sins rather than of their own. V. 30. But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. Cp. Lam. 5, 7; Ezek. 18, 2. 3. V. 31. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, a covenant concerning all those who were His children in truth, v. 32. not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which My covenant they brake, although 1 was an Husband unto them, saith the Lord, surrounding His bride, the Church represented in the children of Israel, with the fullness of His loving care; v. 33. but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, when in the realization of His mercy the justice of His judgments will freely be acknowledged, After those days, saith the Lord, in the Messianic era, I will put My Law, the glorious message of His eternal Gospel, in their inward parts and write it in their hearts, so that it would become the inmost possession of all believers, and will be their God, and they shall be My people. The Word of the Gospel, implanted into the hearts of men by faith, is the fundamental principle, the guiding and driving power in their lives, by and through which the relation of the believer to the God of his salvation is established and maintained. Cp. 2 Cor. 6, 18; 1 Pet. 2, 9. V. 34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, such admonitory instruction in the knowledge of Jehovah being no longer required; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord, the Spirit of God Himself having enlightened and instructed them, Is. 54, 13; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more, the remission of sins through the merits of the Messiah being the central thought of all New Testament instruction. It is clear, of course, that this knowledge and experience of the grace of God does not exclude, but rather presupposes, the proclamation of God's gracious will in Christ Jesus. V. 35. Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who established the laws of nature to endure as long as the earth stands, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar, exciting its billows and lashing them into a fury as His almighty power chooses; The Lord of hosts is His name, the almighty Ruler of the universe: v. 36. If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, if the entire order of nature will be overthrown, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from. being a nation before Me forever, that is,. His Church would be maintained so that the very portals of hell will not be able to overcome it, Matt. 16, 18. V. 37. Thus saith the Lord, in another solemn affirmation of His unchanging mercy toward His spiritual children, If heaven above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, the heavens being immeasurable and the profoundest depths of the earth unsearchable to this day, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord. In spite of the fact that the justice of God compels Him to reject the willful transgressors, His mercy will always find some whom He will save from the general fate, for He does not desire the death of the sinner. V. 38. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the city shall be built to the Lord, for the honor of His holy name, from the tower of Hananeel, in the northeastern corner of the city wall, unto the gate of the corner, on the north or northwest, near the present Jaffa Gate, the entire northern wall of the city being included in this description. V. 39. And the measuring-line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, probably the hill of the lepers, to the northwest of the city, and shall compass about to Goath, a hill with a sharp ascent to the southwest of Jerusalem. V. 40. And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, where the ashes of the sacrificial fires were dumped, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, on the east side, unto the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the Lord, consecrated to His service; it shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more forever, never suffer destruction. The entire passage is evidently figurative, the purpose being to set forth the increase and the glory of the New Testament Church, especially in its final perfection. It is proper that this description of Jehovah's Church should form the conclusion of the prophecy concerning the restoration of the Lord's people, since it includes both the redemption through the Messiah and the establishment of the holy Christian Church in its beginning here on earth and in its glorification in heaven.