Monday, October 01, 2012

THE BOOK OF CONSOLATION - PART 1

THE BOOK OF CONSOLATION: PART 1
JEREMIAH 30

After many chapters about judgment, Jeremiah gets to write an encouraging message from the Lord. Chapters 30-33 are sometimes called The Book of Consolation.  Here is a general outline of these three chapters:

I.  God will restore the nation. (30)
II. God will make a new covenant with Israel. (31)
III. God will bring Israel back to the Promised Land. (32)
IV. God will honor the Davidic covenant. (33)

The Preface
30:1-3

These two verses signal a new message. The word for YHWH came to Jeremiah. The Lord told Jeremiah to write down all the words the Lord spoke in this message. The English text says to write it down in a book, but the word refers to a scroll. (see 36:2)




Since many rejected Jeremiah’s messages, it was important to record them so the people would come to see that God kept his word and Jeremiah was his true prophet.

The subject of the message is: God will restore the fortunes of his nation.( The King James Version misses the translation by saying “captivity” instead of fortune.) Interestingly, God includes both Israel, the northern kingdom, and Judah, the southern kingdom, in his intentions. 

Most of Israel was taken into captivity in 722 B.C. Foreigners were settled onto their land by the Assyrians. The first exile of Judah was 597 then again in 587. Some people remained, but God’s intent was to work through the exiles, not those who remained. In chapter 24, he referred to them as bad figs that could not be eaten, a metaphor saying those who remained could not be used for his purposes. Rather, his people, his remnant, would be those who were refined in the exile.

“The days are coming”, the Lord said, when he would bring restoration. Those days were 70 years away, but they were certain because the Lord decreed them.


Distress & Deliverance
30:4-11

First came distress. Verses 5-6 use the image of a woman in labor to show the fear and distress of the defeat and exile. There is a cry of panic and terror. Faces turned pale. In fact, verse 7 says the day was so great there was none like it. By great, he means awful. It was so terrible, there was no other day like it.  The day he is talking about is the day or time Babylonia would finally and fully defeat Jerusalem and take the rest of the people into captivity.



Yet, God would save Israel out of the distress. (7) When God says “Jacob” here, he does so as the father of the whole nation of Israel, north and south.  On that day, or at that time, the Lord would “burst their bonds”, meaning he would get them out from under bondage to the Babylonians and Assyrians. “Bonds” are straps that tie up your hands, like modern handcuffs.

He further explained this with a little play on words. He said foreigners would no longer make Israel a servant. (8) Rather, Israel would serve the Lord (YHWH). (9) This is the opposite of the early promise of captivity. Then the Lord said, you would not serve me so you can go serve these foreigners. Now he said, the day will come when you will not serve the foreigners, but you will again serve me.

This reminds me of Romans 6:16, where Paul said you can either be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. He also said we were set free from slavery to sin to become slaves of God. (Romans 6:22)

Then in verse 9, he says they will also serve David their king, whom God would raise up for them. This is a repeat of the promise to restore a king from David’s line. We know this king to be Jesus.

In verse 10, God told them not to fear. It was not that there would be no scary events. Defeat and captivity were coming. But they did not need to fear extinction or total rejection from God, for he promised to bring the nation home and give it peace. 

What you see here is a complex prophesy or word from God. He told them many things would happen, but they would not all happen at the same time. There would indeed be a return from exile in 70 years. But the Davidic king would not appear for around 500 years and the peace of God’s people has yet to occur and will only occur when Christ returns.

This word does include a present comfort, for God says he would be with them to save them. (11) So, even though they left the land God said aside as the place he would dwell with them, he would not forget them.

The next thought in this section is vindication. Part of deliverance was vindication. Vindication means to make it right. This is also in verse 11. God said he would make an end of the nations that scattered Israel.  This is the conundrum of the books of the prophets. A conundrum is a puzzle or riddle that usually involves a play on words. The Old Testament prophets said God would use nations to punish Israel, but would punish those nations for the harm they caused to Israel.

Vindication is also a theme in the book of Revelation. In chapter 6, the martyrs under the altar call out “how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” The book goes on to show Christ defeat all of the enemies of the church.

And God did vindicate Israel. Assyria was destroyed. Babylon was destroyed. Elam was destroyed. Edom was destroyed.  That vindication gives us confidence that God will vindicate us.

Yet, this promise was grounded in reality. The reality was that, although God would not make a full end of Israel (11), he would disciple them fully. He would not leave them unpunished. God displayed his glory in grace by not destroying them. God also displayed his glory in justice, by disciplining them in “just measure”.

Remember that God was not dealing with non-believers or lost people here. He was dealing with his people, the nation with whom he made a covenant. He warned them of sin, then punished or disciplined them for their sin when they did not repent and heed his word.

The church today is God’s family, temple, kingdom and people. All of these terms are used for the body of believers in the New Testament. We participate in the New Covenant. Therefore, I believe there is an application here for us.

Once we have been saved, or converted, we cannot be taken from God and destroyed. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:39) Yet, we will sin as individuals and as a body. The Holy Spirit will convict us of that sin. We may confess and repent. We may, however, resist the Spirit and continue in sin. Either way, God will not destroy us. But he may discipline us.

All of us want forgiveness and relief from consequences of sin. But, God does not always relieve us of the consequences. Hebrews 12:3-11 speaks of God’s discipline. Sometimes God disciplines by letting us bear the consequences of our actions. David was a good example of this. He suffered terribly. But the result was his sanctification.

God cares more about the sanctification of his people than their comfort or status. He would rather you be humiliated than sinful, devastated rather than carnal and repentant rather than hypocritical. His discipline is often painful. It is so much better to learn his word and obey than to disobey and suffer.

Think on these things.

And if you are in a period of refinement, where God is working on your sanctification, give him thanks that he has not let you go off into sin unheeded. He has not dropped you from his hand of salvation. And, like Israel, the day will come when the trial is over and you return to the full possession of your blessings in Christ, as Israel returned to the Promised Land.



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