After several chapters of warning about God’s judgment on Israel’s sins, this chapter is like a breath of fresh air. At the time God gave this prophecy to Jeremiah, Israel was exceedingly sinful and deserved the full measure of God’s wrath. But here He gives His people a glimpse of hope and consolation. They would be invaded and taken captive, and their punishment would be severe, but God would not forget His love for them. In His good time, He would restore them to their land and make a new covenant with them to replace the one they had broken.
Remember that you are reading prophetic material. It is not to be read like the historical material of Nehemiah, or like the doctrinal material of Paul’s epistles. When you read a prophetic passage, you have to keep in mind that it has at least three levels of meaning. First there is the meaning for the near future, which for Jeremiah’s original audience meant the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, 70 years of captivity, and the eventual return to their land. Second, there is the meaning for the distant future when Jesus returns to restore all things and to rule forever. Jeremiah presents near and distant events as if they will all happen soon. It is like looking at several mountain peaks in a range: from a distance they look as though they are close to each other, when they are actually miles apart. Third, there is a personal meaning to you and me as the Holy Spirit applies the Word to our hearts. We can hear God calling us to repentance and we find hope in His promise of restoration in our own lives.
I want to focus on that personal level of meaning today, and so I invite you to scan the poetic lines of this chapter with me, reaching out to take hold of God’s expressions of kindness and grace.
Verse 2-3: When I was lost and wandering in the wilderness of sin, God’s grace found me there. He loved me and saved me, and He has been faithful to me (even when I am unfaithful to Him).
Verse 6: There will come a day when God calls me up to heaven — and I will rise when He calls my name!
Verse 9: I remember the times I have fallen into sin and drifted away from the Lord, but He has gently, lovingly led me back. I came weeping and pleading for mercy, and He forgave me and put me back on the “straight path”.
Verse 10: In the darkest times of my life, when my heart was broken and depression set in, God comforted me, turning my mourning into joy and my sorrow into gladness.
Verse 17: When I think I’ve blown it for the last time, God gives me hope for the future!
Verse 18-20: When I have failed the Lord, He hasn’t given up on me. He is committed to my sanctification even when I am not, and so He disciplines me when I am wrong.
Verse 25: When I am tired God gives me rest and strength.
Verse 34: God loved me so much that He sent His Son to die on a cross for my sins. In Jesus, He has forgiven my iniquity — and He promises to remember my sin no more!