January 3, 2021
Tennessee Valley District
31:7 For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.
9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel,
10 Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coast lands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”
11 For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.
If you were among God’s chosen, chances are you wouldn’t act like the Israelites. After hearing stories of the miraculous escape from Egypt, surely you would “toe the line.” You would be grateful for God’s fulfillment of His promises. Who could ask for anything more?
We all could, of course. And, just like the Israelites, we probably would. Because we’re all human, and the Bible is full of examples of humans who failed to appreciate God’s gifts. The remnant that Jeremiah is talking about in this passage is the Israelites who, once again, lost their way, defied God’s commandments and ended up back in bondage, this time in Babylon. This remnant of the “chosen ones” looked pretty tattered. They reaped what they sowed, and God left them alone to experience the painful results of their actions. That should have been the end of the people that forgot God’s promises and broke most of His rules. God surely looked on in disbelief as his people betrayed his loyalty and headed down the road to ruin, yet again.
But Jeremiah, in this passage, tells us that the Father will gather all the people “from the farthest parts of the earth” and rejoin them once again. Jeremiah is showing the heart of the Lord to his people and proving that, like most parents, God may be disappointed in his wayward children, but will never forsake them – no matter how many times they break His heart.
“He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock,” says Jeremiah. But that’s not all. Not only will God bring his people together again, he will lead them himself, and it won’t be across the desert, but “by brooks of water,” and “in a straight path.” The Israelites will be forgiven, and welcomed home in the best possible way.
My favorite part of this passage is when Jeremiah says “their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.” What a wonderful image, to think of a thirsty garden, parched and dying, instantly refreshed, gulping up the renewing water and becoming energized and uplifted, so that it never “languishes,” but thrives.
The image of being “watered” by God is one of the most beautiful images in the Bible to me. What is more encouraging to our spirit than to know that, no matter how far we stray, how many of God’s laws we break, God will always come for us, exactly like a shepherd, to bring us back into the fold no matter how far we depart from Him.
What a wonderful message for ushering out the end of a disruptive, divisive, and painful year in our world and welcoming a New Year, one that we hope will be a time of renewal and refreshment. We’ve been reminded of God’s promises through the celebration of His birth, and we’re ripe for a new start, a new mindset. We are all ready to be watered, and the only one who can do that is ready to overlook our transgressions and bring us to a place of renewal and rejoicing.
Father of all, forgive us our many transgressions and help us to do your will, knowing that, no matter what, your will always watch over us as we attempt to find our way through life. Water us with your saving grace, that we may grow in faith and love.