Good evening. Every now and then it's good to be reminded that-- as a fellowship here-- we're being joined by people all over everywhere who are listening to this live on the radio. And they love it when they hear from you. So would you tell them hello. There you go.
Jeremiah chapter 30. I'm so glad to be in this section of the scripture. And here's why. The next few chapters are called the Book of Consolation. It's like a great commercial break after a very sober set of messages.
You know what Jeremiah has said so far. The doom, the gloom, the judgment that would come upon the nation, that would come upon the world. And this is like the clouds part and the sun comes through. And the focus in the next few chapters isn't upon the past and the judgment and the failure as much as it is upon the restoration and the rescue of the Lord to his people.
I found a little essay that I wanted to begin tonight with. It's from a third grader who just got it right. When he was talking about God he said, one of God's main jobs is making people.
He makes these to put in the place of the ones that have died. So that there will be enough people to take care of things on the earth. He doesn't make grownups, just babies.
I think that's because they're smaller and easier to make. That way he doesn't take up his time teaching them to walk and talk. He can just leave that up to moms and dads. I think it works out pretty good.
God's second most important job is listening to prayers. An awful lot of this goes on, as some people like preachers and things pray at other times besides bedtime. God doesn't have time to listen to the radio or TV. On account of this, as he hears everything-- not only prayers-- there must be a terrible lot of noise going into his ears. Unless he has thought of a way to turn it off.
God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere, which keeps him pretty busy. So you shouldn't go wasting time by going over your parent's head and asking for something that they said you couldn't have. Atheists are people who don't believe in God. I don't think there's any in my town, at least there are none who come to our church.
If you don't believe in God, besides being an atheist you're going to be very lonely. Because your parents can't go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can. It's good to know that he's around when you're scared of the dark, or when you can't swim very good and you get thrown into real deep water by the big kids.
But you shouldn't just always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here, and he can take me back anytime he pleases. And that's why I believe in God.
Now, that little boy said something interesting. He said that God is always around when nobody else is around. When you're scared of the dark.
Judah would come to a place in captivity where they would be so frightened of their future. In fact, they would be wondering if they had a future at all. The dark night encompassed them. It looked like they were finished. And they were probably wondering, is it over? Is there a future? Is there a hope?
In this beautiful section of Jeremiah God would answer with a resounding, oh, yes. Have I got plans for you. He outlines them. The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying, thus speaks the Lord God of Israel saying, write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.
It would seem that Jeremiah received this message-- the one that we're about to read-- while he was sleeping in a dream. And he was told to write it down. I say that because over in chapter 31 in the 26th verse we read, after this I awoke and looked around. And my sleep was sweet to me.
Jeremiah had been speaking verbally. Now God tells him to write down a written, permanent record of God's promises. And those promises were so great that Jeremiah-- who was once restless-- got a great night's sleep knowing the future and the hope that God had prepared.
Now, God states the theme of the message. For behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will bring back from captivity my people Israel and Judah, says the Lord. I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.
Now, these are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah. God states that not only will Judah return-- that's the southern kingdom those two tribes down south-- but that Israel would also return with Judah. That's the 10 northern tribes. They were taken captive in 722 BC by the Assyrians.
Now, the way the language is in this verse and in the verses to come, it's much more extensive and far reaching than just the fulfillment of the return at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Once again, we see a dual fulfillment in scripture. Where there is a near as well as a far perspective.
God would bring them back after 70 years. They would inhabit their land once again. However, it's far more extensive than that, and would picture the future regathering in the last days.
For thus says the Lord, we have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now and see whether a man is ever in labor with a child. So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turn pale? Alas, for that day is great, so that none is like it. And it is a time of Jacob's trouble. But he shall be saved out of it.
And so the restoration, the return, the regathering that is promised will be set during a difficult time in the future, none here is the time of Jacob's trouble. It's a picture of the tribulation. The tribulation period just before the second coming-- the return of Jesus Christ to the earth to set up his kingdom-- will be the worst episode ever in history.
Daniel in chapter 12 of his prophecy said, there shall be a time of trouble such as never since there was a nation, even to that time. And Jesus, when he spoke of this future time of judgment-- the tribulation period-- said much the same thing in Matthew 24. Then there will be great tribulation, such has not been since the beginning of the world until this time. No, nor ever shall be.
Now think of that just for a moment. Think of all of the dark periods in world history-- and there have been several. Some would point to the dark ages. Others would point to World War I and World War II. Some would look to the devastation of the Jews in past history, and calamities even recently. We're up to 200,000 nearly destroyed in the tsunami over in Asia.
But Jesus promised that this future episode would be worse than any other time in history. Now, you might-- in knowing history-- think about that and go, how could it be any worse than what the world has seen so far? Until you read the Book of Revelation beginning in chapter 6 all the way through chapter 19. And you see masses of the world's population being wiped out, stars from heaven falling to the earth, incredible heat and burning demons being loosed from the pit. A horrible, horrible time.
However, as bad as that time is, the idea is the future restoration of the nation of Israel. And notice that it says it will be a time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. In the future, the tribulation-- that final seven year of history before the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth-- is called by Daniel the 70th week. 69 have been fulfilled.
And remember that the angel told Daniel, it is a prediction for your people and for the whole the city of Jerusalem. As we said, 69 have already been fulfilled. But that last week has yet to be fulfilled. That will be the tribulation period, the last three and 1/2 years the great tribulation. An unprecedented time of suffering for the world, and especially for the Jewish people.
It is that context that Jeremiah draws from-- a time of Jacob's trouble-- but he shall be saved out of it. Ever since Israel was a nation, it has been an object of hatred, ire, attack by Satan. The Jewish nation is God's chosen people, simply because God had a plan that would include the Hebrew scriptures, the messiah, so many of the covenants and the promises that came through the Jews. And also because God has a future plan yet to be fulfilled that comes through this nation.
And it's true that anything God loves you can betcha Satan hates. So it makes sense then that Jacob, who became Israel, would have a time of trouble because of the hatred poured out upon that nation. And by the way, since Satan really will be the source of Jacob's trouble-- because Israel during that period will be hounded and hassled and chased-- it's the same reason that you and I get into trouble.
You probably have a time of your own trouble you might call it David's trouble or Cindy's trouble or George's trouble, whatever your name might be. And some of you might say, boy, have I been hassled ever since I became a Christian. I can't remember having this kind of attack, this kind of hassle.
Why is it? I thought that if I became a Christian all my problems would go away. Well, I don't know who told you that. And certainly you have the peace of God that passes understanding, and will take you through anything and everything. But the trouble comes because of the attacks.
Why? Because you're an object of God's love. You're his child. He loves you with an everlasting love. And so Satan hates anything God loves. And because God loves you, Satan hates you. You've heard the old saying, it comes from four spiritual laws. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. It's true. He does.
It's also true that Satan hates your guts, and has a miserable plan for your life. But greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. So, yes, you'll be attacked. But just like the promise to Israel, he shall be saved out of it.
For it shall come to pass in that day-- and I want you to notice that little phrase, in that day. The prophets used it a lot. In fact, Isaiah uses that term 44 times in his prophecy. Jeremiah uses it only seven times. Zechariah uses it about 14 times. But it is referring now to that scope of history yet future.
In that day when God will judge the nations, and restore Israel to the land. It shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord of Hosts, that I will break his yoke from your neck and will burst your bonds. Foreigners shall no more enslave them. But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their King whom I will raise up for them.
What is in view here in these verses is the glorious time called the kingdom age-- the Millennium-- when Jesus Christ will rule and reign on the earth for 1,000 years. Since the captivity and since Jeconiah-- if you remember that scripture-- his bloodline was cursed. He was from the lineage of King David. But Jeconiah-- who was the King at that time of Judah-- his bloodline was cursed. Since that time there has been no air from the lineage of King David that is sat upon the throne.
The promise, however, to Solomon is that a descendant of David would reign upon that throne forever and ever. Now some people in reading this scripture-- and J. Vernon McGee was one of them-- believed that David would literally be resurrected from the dead during that time and be sort of a co-regent with Jesus Christ. However, it's probably best to see this interpreted as the son of David, the greater son of David, the messiah, Jesus Christ himself.
Just as God promised David and then Solomon that there would be that everlasting kingdom. That Jesus Christ will occupy the throne of David, and take his rightful place. And that's the idea of the fulfillment of this scripture.
In fact, some of the ancient Aramaic translations-- called the Targums of ancient Israel-- will interpret that this way, and take out David and put in messiah in this place. So that their translation reads, but they shall serve the Lord their God and messiah their King whom I will raise up for them, seeing it as a fulfillment of the messiah.
Every now and then someone will ask me, well, you talk about a Millennium. A literal period of time-- a 1,000 year period-- where Jesus Christ rules and reigns on the earth. I don't really see the purpose for that. And they will try to interpret it figuratively, rather than literally.
Here's the reason. God promised to Israel a spiritual kingdom that would be everlasting, and he promised them a literal, earthly kingdom. The Millennium is phase one. It's where he fulfills the promise to restore the glories of Zion, and rule and reign from Mount Zion.
So he will rule for a period of time from Jerusalem. And all nations-- Isaiah chapter two verse two-- tells us will flow into it. So God is simply going to keep his promises that he made to Abraham, that he made to David, that he made to the Jewish nation that he would rule and reign from Mount Zion.
Now, when that's all over with, everything will be destroyed. And because sin has marred God's creation, then God will create a new heaven and a new earth. And that would then mark phase two of that everlasting kingdom.
When Jesus came the first time, the people of Israel chided him. And they said, we will not have this man reign over us. When Jesus comes the second time, he will indeed reign over them, and over the whole world.
And the Bible predicts that Israel will be willing, at that time, to receive him as their messiah. The first time he came to his own, his own did not receive him. The second time Zechariah tells us, they will look upon me whom they have pierced. And they will wail and mourn as one mourns for his own son. And they will notice the wounds that were placed upon his body by themselves, by the nation, at the crucifixion.
And there will be a reception of Jesus as their messiah. He will rule and reign over them in the kingdom age. They will serve the Lord their God, and David their King whom I will raise up for them. Therefore, do not fear my servant Jacob, says the Lord, nor be dismayed, O Israel. For behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return, have rest, and be quiet. And no one shall make him afraid. In other words, God is telling them, don't let the distance that exists between Babylon and Jerusalem-- the 500 miles-- don't let that be in your mind some obstacle, like God can't bridge that gap of distance and bring you back from that captivity, that land. And for that matter, from any land. For the Bible predicts the Jews would return to their own land after they were scattered from all the face of the Earth.
Every now and then somebody will mention the 10 lost tribes of Israel. It's usually a big question. Well, what about the 10 lost tribes of Israel? My answer, they're not lost. God knows exactly where they are.
Oh, but I don't. Doesn't matter. It's not up to you to regather them. God knows exactly where they are. And in the end days he predicts all Israel will be saved, Paul writes. And we see that all of the 12 tribes are represented in the Book of Revelation in chapter seven.
They are sealed by God. They will return. They will come back. For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you. Though I make a full end of all the nations where I have scattered to you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice. I will not let you go altogether unpunished.
It's beautiful to me to see in this the heart of God, the heart of a father. God is saying, you're going to be punished. But the punishment is not simply punitive, rather it is corrective. I'm spanking you to bring you back.
Don't ever think, as a child of God, that God is against you. He's for you. Oh, but I'm suffering such hardship. Don't despise the chastening of the Lord. Whom the Lord loves he disciplines.
And so often, it is corrective to bring us back on target and in line with his purposes. I will not let you go all together unpunished. For thus says the Lord, your affliction is uncurable. Your wound is severe.
In other words, I've got to act. There has to be this captivity. You need to be purged from your self sufficiency and your idolatry, so that you will return to me. There is no one to plead your cause that you may be bound up. You have no healing medicines.
All your lovers have forgotten you. Those are the allies-- Egypt, Assyria. These are the nations they once trusted in for their deliverance. Lets make a pact with Egypt to protect us against the Assyrians, they said. Or let's make a pact with the Assyrians to protect ourselves from the Babylonians, they thought.
And so rather than trusting God, they trusted other nations, other sources of help. That's why God refers to the children of Israel so often as adulterers, and these other nations as other lovers. Because what it did is it took the dependence off of God and onto man. They weren't trusting God anymore.
All your lovers have forgotten you. They do not seek you. For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one. For the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased.
Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased I have done these things to you.
Now, Judah was sick. The disease of sin had ravaged them. The patient, God said, it's incurable. Your condition can't be remedied on your own. Besides that, to make matters worse, they had false prophets who were like spiritual quacks. They were saying-- like the doctor who would tell a cancer patient who's about to die in two days-- oh, go home. Take two aspirin, you'll feel better. Call me in a week.
They were sick. Their wound incurable. Jeremiah had been telling them that. The false prophets had been telling them otherwise. And the Lord is telling them over and over again, no medicine can cure you. No message, no prophet, no nation can help you. None of these prophets can do you any good.
Why? Because of their sin. And they had turned from God, and God would judge them but to bring them back. There's a great old saying that says, life is short. Death is sure. Sin the cause. Christ the cure.
God always holds out his solution in the midst of the disease. Here's the solution. Here's the remedy. Here's the medicine. Repent. Return, and I will return to you.
Therefore-- verse 16-- and I think that therefore takes us back to verse 13 where God says, look there is no one to plead your cause. Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured. All your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity. Those who plunder you shall become plunder. And all who prey upon you I will make a prey.
Interesting. God is saying, I'm going to use the Babylonians as my rod of chastisement. Because of their oppression, that will bring you back. But I'm going to plead your cause. There's nobody else who will. So what I'm going to do is use the enemies to get your attention and bring you back. And then I will hold them responsible for messing with you.
How's that for God covering you? Whoever touches you, God's said, touches the apple of my eye. You mess with God's people, God takes it personally. He may use the unbeliever to get your attention. He might use the unbelieving world to bring you to him, to make life tough for you so that you recognize, I need God. But when the world comes after you and hassles you, God takes it personally.
God said, they've plundered you. I'm going to plunder them. They've come after you. I'm going to come after them. For I will restore health to you, and heal you of your wounds, says the Lord. Because they call you an outcast saying, this is Zion, no one seeks her.
I love the fact that God always seems to fight for the underdog. Just when the world says, forget them. They're past hope. They can't be restored. They're useless.
God says, let me have them. Let me work with them. I can take that beat up old jalopy. I can take that ravaged life, and I can make something beautiful out of it. God fights for the underdog.
They were saying this is Zion, no one seeks her. God says, because no one pleads your cause, I will. Thus says the Lord, behold I will bring back the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places. The city shall be built upon its own mound, and the palace shall remain according to its own plan.
Now, when the Jewish exiles were taken to Babylon they were placed in tents, temporary dwellings. Taken to Babylon, and put up in tent communities, tent cities. While they were in these tents, they received a letter from Jeremiah.
Chapter 29 records Jeremiah says, OK, now that you there, make the best of it. Build homes, plant vineyards, till the land, settle down. But then God says that he would return them to their own land. And notice, the city shall be built upon its own mound.
The word in Hebrew for mound is the word tell, T-E-L. And if you go to Israel today you see mounds-- it looks like little hills, little dirt hills-- everywhere. And yet they're sort of odd shape. There not like a normal, perfectly rounded hill. It looks like there's something underneath them.
And so you'll ask the tour guide, what is that? And they'll say, that is a tel. What is that? That's a tel. And pretty soon you can tell, so you don't even have to ask.
And what a tel is is the remains of a city underneath this dirt that has piled up on it for years. Virtually everywhere you dig in these tels, you'll find a city. And ancient cities-- when they were destroyed-- they didn't relocate to another place. They simply built one city upon another.
So you can go to the city of Megiddo-- Tel Medgiddo, it's a raised escarpment on a hill-- and they'll point out 22 different layers of civilization they built one upon another. The promise is this, you've been exiled. You've been deported. But I'm going to bring you back, and restore the land that was once a ruin into a permanent city.
So you'll no longer be displaced in tents. The city will not be forever destroyed, like it is in these tels. But I'm going to rebuild it, and you'll be durable relocated in that land that you left. Then out of them, that is, these people shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of those who make merry.
I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish. I will also glorify them, they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as before, and their congregation shall be established before me. And I will punish all who oppress them. Their nobles shall be from among them, and their governor shall come from their midst.
And then I will cause him to draw near. He shall approach me. For who is this who pledged his heart to approach me, says the Lord. I think, personally, there is a better translation of that verse than what I just read. The word, in verse 21, nobles is best translated, the glorious one. The glorious one, referring to the messiah, or leader with a capital L.
It goes beyond the governor, who would come later on when people would return. The almost 50,000 Jews left Babylon and came and rebuilt Jerusalem. And it goes beyond the governor, Zorobabel or later on John Hyrcanus was called the governor.
It speaks of the glorious one, the leader. That in the end times when Israel is restored-- after the period of Jacob's, trouble after the tribulation, during the Millennium-- Jesus Christ will be both King-- governor here, King, the glorious one-- as well as priest. For notice it says in verse 21, then I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach me. For who is this who pledged his heart to approach me, says the Lord.
Now, that terminology is often used of the high priest, whom God says, I will cause to draw near to me. You see, it was the priest who drew near to the Lord, and represented the people before God. This passage indicates and describes that during the kingdom age the glorious one, the leader with a capital L, our messiah Jesus Christ, will be King and priest. Having offered up his own body as a sacrifice on the cross, and be King over all the earth.
You shall be my people, and I will be your God. Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord goes forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind. It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. Now, verse 22 you'll see that repeated at different times in this book. Where God gives a message, and then he sort of sums up his purpose and his intent.
It's a covenant description. I will be your God. You will be my people. And I love that. I love it, because I see that God's purpose for everything.
God's purpose for creating us is that he might be our God, and that we might be his people. God created us for fellowship with himself. We were made for his pleasure.
You remember when God created Adam, and then God created Eve, and they were in the garden. After they had sinned the Bible says, God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day. And he cried out, Adam, where are you?
It wasn't God saying, I can't find you, Adam. I've looked everywhere for you. But rather it was as if God was saying, Adam, it's that time again. It's the cool of the day, when we take our daily walk together. But Adam couldn't walk with God at that time, because he had sinned. Sin had marred and broken the fellowship with his creator. But the intention was-- and will be restored-- I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Verse 24, the fierce anger of the Lord will not return until he has done it. And until he has performed the intents his heart-- in the latter days, in the last days-- in the latter days you will consider it. So think of the near fulfillment. Those in Judeah would be taken, exiled to Babylon. They'd be there for 70 years, but God promised they would return and rebuild their city.
But then you take it into the far off fulfillment. The prophetic camera pans now into the distant future. And all that happened to the Jews in returning to their land after the captivity is sort of like a stencil. It's a template for the future restoration.
So if you want to find out what's going to happen in the future, in a sense you can look back at the past and see that God has a pattern of delivering his people, and bringing them back into their homeland. As God will do that after the time of Jacob's trouble. So this is predictive prophecy that forms like a template or a stencil for us.
Now, in Jeremiah 31 the focus changes just a bit. For in chapter 30, the focus was God restoring the places of Israel-- Judah, Jerusalem-- rebuilding it. Here the focus primarily is on restoring the people, and their relationship with him.
At the same time, says the Lord. And the same time refers back to chapter 30 verse 24, the latter days. During that time or at the same time, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. There's that covenant formula again.
And you'll notice that it's not some of the families of Israel-- just Judah and it's two tribes, or just Israel with its 10 tribes-- but all the families. The promise is that they would be united once again, and restored fully into their land. Now, that hasn't yet been fulfilled.
I know that the Jews have come back. I know that they came back 70 years after the captivity. And I know that they came back starting in May 14th of 1948. But of the 17 plus million Jews in the land of-- or in the world, about 6 million are today in the land of Israel.
All of that is simply a foreshadowing of the ultimate restoration, which we see in Revelation chapter seven. Where John sees 144,000-- 12,000 from every tribe of Israel-- sealed and kept by God during that time. Thus says the Lord, the people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness. Israel, when I went to give him rest.
The Lord has appeared to me of old to me saying, yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore, with loving kindness I have drawn you. Again, I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, oh, virgin of Israel. You shall again be adorned with your tambourines. And you shall go forth in dances of those who rejoice.
You're going to see-- if you haven't already noticed-- that God brings both Judah and Israel into the same purview of this prophecy for a purpose. He wants us to know that Israel-- though once divided, and then taken captive into two different countries-- would again be united. Solomon sinned against the Lord. And after he died, his son, Rehoboam, was very, very foolish.
You probably remember the story how he was counseled by some of the older members of his father's staff to be gentle, and not to overtax, and to be a good King, and to listen to their counsel. And of course they didn't do it. They just listened-- Rehoboam was younger, and he listened to just his buddies at the same age. And they wanted to bring their own kind of change.
And the kingdom was divided. And it was so divided that the tribes in the north began to worship at false altars, worshipping the calves up at Dan and Bethel. Later on when the Assyrians did take them captive-- and by that time the Jews down around Jerusalem, the two tribes down south, they really didn't want much to do with the 10 tribes in Israel, because of their idolatry.
When the Assyrians took the northern kingdom captive in 722 BC, what the Assyrians did-- it was their custom-- is they repopulated the land of Israel-- the land of Samaria-- with other foreigners. So it was a mixed people that grew up in the land of Samaria. They were known as Samaritans. There's 400 left still to this day over in that land.
There was always an animosity between the people down south, and the people up north. Because they rebelled against God and committed idolatry, and because of this intermarriage and this mixed marriage. When those in Judea came back to rebuild their temple and those in Samaria wanted to help, those down south wouldn't allow them to help. They wanted nothing to do with them.
So up north they built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. They had their own sacrifices. They believed in the first five books of Moses, but not the rest of the Old Testament. They had their own priesthood. So it was a rival worship system.
And there was always this deep animosity. You remember the woman of the well at Samaria. When Jesus came to that well and asked for a drink she said, how is it you, being a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink? For the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans.
And then she brought up the issue of worship. We worship in this mountain, that is Mount Gerizim. You worship in Mount Zion. Jesus said, woman, we know what we worship. For salvation is of the Jews. But the time is coming where neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. For the Father is seeking those who worship in spirit and truth.
The walls between north and south-- for that matter the walls between Jew and Gentile-- not nationally, not prophetically, but spiritually have been broken down. So that, in Christ, and by Jesus Christ there is a uniting. They will be united in the last days, when they all recognize Jesus as their messiah, and they trust in him. And every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess.
Again, I will build you, and you will be rebuilt-- I love this-- oh, virgin of Israel. Oh, really? Oh, virgin of Israel? Remember all the times Jeremiah referred to Israel and Judah as a harlot, as a prostitute? But now God's speaking in restorative terms.
Calls Israel-- the one who has sinned, the nation that have left God-- you shall be rebuilt, oh, virgin of Israel. You shall again be adorned with your tambourines. You will go forth in dances of those who rejoice.
Boy, I tell you what, when God forgives he really, really forgives I love that about him. He loves to restore. I love watching God fix people-- heartaches, broken people, ruined people. My mind goes back to a wedding I performed of a couple. They still attend this fellowship, I believe.
Her husband committed adultery, like Israel and Judah against God. She was willing to wait it out, even though people around her-- even well-meaning Christian said-- look, your husband is an unbeliever. He left you, and he's committed adultery. Divorce him.
She said, no, I believe God's going to restore the marriage. A couple of years went by. And seemingly from out of nowhere, this fella called his wife. He had been living with a girl and got her pregnant. And this girl Cathy said, I'm willing still to take you back. And he said, I've just given my life to Jesus Christ, and I want to come back.
Could you ever forgive me? Would you ever consider the possibility of restoring this relationship. She said, not only that, but let's adopt the child, if that's what you'd like. And I had the privilege of performing their wedding again after he had divorced her. And just looking at how God fixed their lives going, that's just like God.
When he forgives, he forgives. When he restores, he restores. Just yesterday I performed vows for a couple. They eloped several years ago-- about 12 years ago-- and went to Las Vegas.
They had a rocky relationship. As I was standing up there renewing the vows he whispered to me. He said, first time this happened it was Elvis that married us. Boy, does God love to fix things.
Verse five, you shall yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria. The planters shall plant and eat them as ordinary food. You may remember back in the law-- back in Leviticus-- that when Israel planted their vines, the first couple of years they weren't allowed to eat them. They just sort of had to mature and grow.
And then on the fourth year, they were to dedicate that to the Lord. It wasn't until about the fifth year that they were considered ordinary. That is, they weren't dedicated to the Lord. They weren't used for any purpose. They weren't to be for anything, except for themselves.
And so the indication here is that Israel would be settled, and living off the land in healthy, normal, ordinary conditions. For there shall be a day when the watchman will cry on Mount Ephraim, arise and let us go up to Zion to the Lord, our God. Ephraim is the middle of the northern 10 tribe-- the northern kingdom-- Israel in the north. Zion is, of course, Jerusalem, Mount Zion.
And it's the idea that, let's go to Jerusalem. There's a united worship. For this says the Lord, sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations. Proclaim, give praise, and say, Oh, Lord save your people, the remnant of Israel. For behold I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them the blind and the lame, the women with child, the one who labors with child together. A great throng shall return there. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications. I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way in which they shall not stumble. For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, oh nations, and declare it in the isles afar off. And say, he who scatted Israel will gather him. And keep him as a shepherd does his flock.
Now, there was a regathering. 536 BC, after the 70 years of captivity, there was a regathering back in the land. But, again, that would be a foreshadow of the future regathering. God would bring his people.
No tribe is lost to him. Everyone will be found. Now, here's the idea of the 10 lost tribes. They said that because the two tribes went into captivity in Babylon. The others went into captivity in Syria. And people begin to lose their genealogy over time with the Assyrians. That they were lost, and they didn't return.
And that's nonsense. There was really no migration up to Britain, as some say. But though the Assyrians took the 10 northern tribes captive, the Babylonians took not only Judah, but they assumed control over all of the world. So that when the Jews returned, they would return not just from Babylon, but from some of these other parts-- even though they couldn't all trace their genealogy. And in the end God will sort it all out, and even numbers those from the different tribes, as we said in Revelation chapter seven.
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he. Therefore, they shall come and sing in the height of Zion. And shall flow together-- or as this translation says-- streaming to the goodness of the Lord for wheat and for new wine and oil. For the young of the flock and of the herd, their soul shall be like a watered garden. And they shall sorrow no more at all.
The streaming-- or the flow that is spoken about-- is the conflux of worshippers that will stream into Mount Zion. You may just want to write in the margin of your Bible Isaiah chapter two verse two, which speaks of that. All nations, Isaiah said, will flow into Mount Zion. Because the Lord will be there teaching the people.
Then the virgin shall rejoice in the dance, and the young man and the old together. For I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them. And make them rejoice, rather than sorrow. I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance. And my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, says the Lord.
Notice the emphasis on joy. Joy in service, joy in worship. It was Paul who wrote to the Corinthians and said, God loves a cheerful giver.
But God loves more than just a cheerful giver, God loves a cheerful liver. And I don't mean just the liver and the spleen and the duodenum and the stomach. Not talking about bodily organs. God loves us who are related to him by the blood of Christ to live joyfully. We ought to be the happiest people on earth, We have something to sing about we have something to rejoice over.
Oh, but you don't know my trial, you say. You're right, I don't. But if you'd make it known to me, I'd love to pray for you. And besides that, God knows.
And as bad as it gets here, think of what's ahead. Think of the restoration that is in store. Think of your future.
It was Charles Spurgeon who said, our happy God should be worshiped by a happy people. That's why when it's time to sing, all of us should be engaged. We're singing to God. We're here to worship him, to love him.
Unfortunately, historically Christians have been taught-- in some circles-- to be very somber, sober. Not smile much, certainly not laugh.
And there was a period of church history when the clergy wore dark, dark robes. They had dark looks about them. And they thought, you know, grumpiness is next to godliness. And laughter was banished from the sanctuary
Robert Louis Stevenson once said, I would have joined the ministry, except all the clergyman I've ever known look and act so much like undertakers. Isn't that sad? God didn't write those rules. God wanted to bring his people joy. Their sin robbed it from them.
God said, I want to be your God. I want you to be my people. And here's the joy that I have in store when I restore you.
Thus says the Lord, a voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children because they are no more. Remember that Rachel was barren in Genesis 30. And she cried out saying to her husband, give me children or I'll die.
And she got pregnant. And one of her pregnancies-- in giving birth to Benjamin-- it was in great, great sorrow. And she died in sorrow. And here Jeremiah is painting the picture-- though she was buried at Rama near Bethlehem-- it's sort of a picture of Rachel rising up from her tomb and weeping over the fact that the land has been depopulated, that all of the children of Israel have been taken exile into Babylon. That's the metaphor that is being used.
Matthew will pick up on this, and he will quote this in the New Testament. As he speaks of the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod and trying to kill the messiah the King of the Jews, and killing all of the innocents in Bethlehem, this scripture will be quoted. When the people of Judah were taken captive, they were brought to Rama. And there in Rama, they were placed in chains and amassed in one group before taking that long trip all the way over to Babylon.
So that scripture was fulfilled in the fact that a voice was heard in Rama. Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children as they were taken captive. Thus says the Lord, refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears. For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord. And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself. You have chastened me, and I was chastened-- or chastised-- like an untrained bull.
Restore me, and I will return. For you are the Lord my God. Surely after my turning I repented. And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh. I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated because I bore the reproach of my youth.
Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still. Therefore, my heart yearns for him. I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.
The picture of the tribes of Israel crying out for forgiveness, finally. And so the Lord says through the prophet in the next verse, set up sign posts, make landmarks. Set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back, oh, virgin Israel. Turn back to these, your cities.
In other words, pay close attention, and remember the roads that you are taking from Jerusalem to Babylon. Set up markers, because you are going to return on that same road back. So remember the path you're taking. You will return. Mark it well.
Before I moved to Southern California, I lived up in the mountains of New Mexico. And up in the pine trees there, you better put markers when you forge a trail on the trees, or you'll get lost. Happened to me many times.
I was glad to have a dog, because I wasn't good at setting up signposts very well. And sometimes when it would snow it would cover up your tracks. You needed to tie things on the trees-- little flags-- so that you could find your way back.
They would be taken 500 miles from their homeland to a land they had never seen before. They'd spent 70 years there. But God says, you're going to come back. You're going to take this road, and be restored once again.
How long will you gad about, oh, you backsliding daughter? For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth. A woman shall encompass a man.
Now, I will tell you that that verse is one of the most puzzling verses in the prophecy of Jeremiah. And different commentators have said, oh, well I found about five different interpretations of this. It was Jerome in the fourth century that believed this is a prophecy of the virgin birth, the messiah. That Mary would encompass, or surround, the child Jesus in the womb.
Probably the best interpretation is that God would encompass Israel. That Israel would once again embrace God, embrace the Lord. Which was a new thing, they had run away from God. They wanted nothing to do with God's control for a period of time. And it seems that that is a better interpretation, because the verses following predict the new covenant, the full restoration of the people of God.
It anticipates. It's anticipatory, in verse 31, to the new covenant. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, they shall again use this speech in the land of Judah, and in its cities, when I bring back their captivity. The Lord bless you, oh, home of justice and mountain of holiness-- referring to the Temple Mount and to the temple itself.
And there shall dwell in Judea itself and in all of its cities together, farmers, and those going out with flocks. For I have satiated the weary soul. I have replenished every sorrowful soul. After this, I awoke and looked around. And my sleep was sweet to me.
The farmers of ancient Israel and the shepherds kept their flocks outside of the walled cities normally. And that's where their gardens were. That's where their fields were. So every morning they would go out and attend to their business.
And that's the prediction here back in verse 24, that the farmers in those going out with the flocks they're going to dwell back in Judah once again, a restoration. Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will sew the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and of the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict. So I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord.
Well, no wonder Jeremiah got such a great sleep after this vision. Because if you remember, in chapter one, God tells this prophet that he would be a messenger to the nations to tear down, to uproot, to destroy, and then to plant, and then to build. Now, is this set of predictions that God would plant and rebuild. So finally Jeremiah gets around to this, and it's, oh, yeah. I've been waiting for these promises.
In those days they shall no more say-- or say no more-- the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge. That was an ancient proverb. And they were saying it among the Gentiles.
You can sort of see them along the road. They're going to Babylon, they're taking that long walk, they're in chains. And they're saying, we're suffering the consequences of our forefather's sins. What did we do?
They're the ones that blew it. They ate the sour grapes, and we're suffering because of it. But every one shall die for his own iniquity. Every man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.
The responsibility and the culpability is personal. They weren't being punished just for their forefather's sins, they were inclusive in it. And that proverb, God says, will no longer be used.
Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand and lead them out of the land of Egypt. My covenant-- which they broke-- though I was a husband to them, says the Lord.
The Hebrew word for covenant is beriyth, and it means in agreement. It was a legal instrument that would bind two parties. It was often used between nations or between business associates. And here it's used as a relationship between God and man.
And throughout the Old Testament there are several of these covenant agreements. There was the Abrahamic covenant that God made with Abraham. And it was over the land. God would bring them into a new land, and give it to Abraham and his descendants forever. He would birth a great nation.
Then there was the Davidic covenant that has to do with the lineage of King David, that would sit upon the throne forever and ever. Then there was the law of Moses, the Mosaic covenant, which had to do with the law. And God said, if you keep the law, I'll bless you. If you break the law, I'll curse you.
All of the things that God told them to do, they broke. They ruined it. It's been marred.
They lost everything in the process. They lose the land, they get booted out. They lose the lineage. The bloodline is cursed under Jeremiah. And they break the law, and in Babylon they're unable to practice ceremonial law.
So their sin causes them to lose everything-- the land, the lineage, and their law. So they need to be restored. A new covenant is in view. Hallelujah for that.
And notice it's not according to the covenant I made with their fathers in the day that I took them to lead them out of the land of Egypt. My covenant, which they broke, though I was a husband to them. It won't be like the law of Moses. It won't be a covenant based upon their performance, but rather God's performance.
For notice, this is the covenant that I will make. And this chapter has been called the I will chapter. Because God's saying, you won't, so I will. You haven't, but I will. You broke, but I'll fix.
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put my law in their minds, and write it in their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No more shall every man teach his neighbor and every man his brother saying, know the Lord. For they shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
I love it. The new covenant promises an inner transformation. Where the people under this covenant will know God in a personal way, based upon their iniquity being taken away. Under the old covenant, the law tried to control man's conduct. The new covenant promises a change in man's character.
For Paul wrote to the Romans and he said, by the law is the knowledge of sin. But the law was unable to bring them to the knowledge completely of salvation. The new covenant promises forgiveness.
You see, it's like this. Under the law they were limited to reading the sheet music. Under the new covenant God says, I'm going to put my song in your heart. You'll just know it. You'll have a relationship where you're not working off the notes anymore-- the sheet music-- you'll have the ability to hear my song in your heart. And that day you'll really sing.
Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinance of the moon and the stars for a light by night. Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar. Boy, is that prophetic almost, isn't it, when you think of what has happened over in Asia. The Lord of hosts is his name.
If those ordinances depart from before me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before me forever. Thus says the Lord, if heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out, I will also cast off the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord. What did Paul ask in Romans 11? Has God cast away Israel? Certainly not, or God forbid.
God still has a plan, and the future will tell it. Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that the city shall be built for the Lord from the Tower of Hananeel-- that's the Northeast corner of Jerusalem in those days-- to the corner gate-- that's the Northwest corner in the same time period. The surveyors line shall extend again straight forward over the hill Gareb. There it shall turn toward Goath.
And the whole valley of dead bodies-- referring to the valley of Gehenna or Hinnom-- and of the ashes and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron. To the corner of the horse gate-- that's the southeast corner-- toward the east shall be holy to the Lord. It shall not be plucked up or thrown down any more forever.
So there were revivals at different times of Israel's history in the past. There were spiritual renewals. King Josiah, under his reign, they saw one. But they backslid.
They went into captivity there. After learning their lesson, they turned back to God. He brought them back to the land, but that didn't last perpetually. Israel had a history of going forward, going backward, moving forward, moving backward. Backsliding.
Somebody once told Billy Sunday, the evangelist, that his revivals were pretty much worthless. And he said to Billy Sunday, he said, you see, you come into town and you bring your revivals. But they're unnecessary, because they don't last. After a while, the people go right back to where they were.
And Billy Sunday said, well, you know a bath doesn't last. But it's good to get one every now and then. Bath after bath, cleansing after cleansing, chance after chance, with intermittent backsliding. And finally, ultimately, one day God will bring Israel back to the land in the kingdom age. And there will be no backsliding.
Total, ultimate, everlasting restoration. One thing I learn in studying the nation of Israel's relationship to God, God keeps his promise. Though Israel has sinned over and over again, God keeps his promise.
Heavenly Father, we look forward with anticipation to that day. We look forward to the coming, the soon coming, the soon return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. It could happen at any moment, and we believe it is soon to occur.
Keep our hearts, Lord. May we guard them with all diligence, for out of them proceed the issues of life. May we stay steadfast in serving you, joyful in worshipping you.
And, Father, I pray that we would look beyond whatever temporary trial we are experiencing. And fill us with hope. Let us know, Lord, that the future looks great. In Jesus' name, Amen.
This is the end of this message. If you would like further information on any of our products-- or to receive our free catalog-- contact The Word for Today. The address is P.O. Box 8,000 Costa Mesa, California 92628. To Or you may reach us by our toll free number, 1-800-272-WORD. That's 1-80-272-W-O-R-D.