Changing the situation (Jeremiah 31 – part 8)

editor - 4 March 2020

In the New International Version (NIV), it says that the Lord will “bring Judah back from captivity” (Jeremiah 31:23). One could also translate that God will bring about a change in Israel’s destiny. It depends on which Hebrew verb you use for the translation. But the gist is clear: God promises to change the situation of His people.

“The gist is clear: God promises to change the situation of His people.”

Not only Jeremiah speaks in this manner, other prophets do that as well: Joel for example, and we read the same at the end of the book of Zephaniah. First of all, it is clear that it is God Himself that will bring about a change in Israel’s destiny. It is not a human undertaking, although behind it God does use people. And so, the Persian king Cyrus finances the return from the Babylonian Captivity.

A question that emerges is: when will God bring about a change in His people’s destiny? During the Exodus from Egypt you see that the moment has everything to do with what is happening in the Promised Land. Only when the sins of the Amorites have reached their full measure (Genesis 15:16), God will bring Israel’s children to His heritage. The Babylonian Captivity is a purification. God purifies His people in this way. He conceals Himself for His children, so that they start longing for Him and when that happens the gates of Babylon are opened. The latest exile, that is almost over now, has to do with the light that shone upon the world from Jerusalem. Israel was there where their God’s Spirit brought the Gospel of the Kingdom. The return from the exile shows that the Gospel is now spread to the ends of the world.

Physically and spiritually
When God brings about a change in Israel’s destiny, this is firstly physical. This is what is says in Jeremiah 31 as well. The children of Judah return to their Land and they speak of God’s holy mountain again full of admiration, Jerusalem with the Temple. But it is a spiritual change as well. The first Chief Rabbi of modern Israel, rabbi Kook, made this explicit time and again: the ultimate return will end in an inner change.

“The ultimate return will end in an inner change.”

Judgement and change
But the change also casts a damp over the nations. They will be judged for the way they have treated the apple of God’s eye during the years and sometimes centuries, of the exile. God hardens pharaoh’s heart; Babel is destroyed and Joel tells that at the end the Lord will make the nations march against Jerusalem to punish them before the gates of Jerusalem. The nations have battered the Jews and divided God’s Land. And now they have to face the consequences. But that is not the end of it all. It is the change that God will bring about in His people’s destiny that heralds a world-wide change. Every knee will bow before the Lord and more than ever Jerusalem will be the blessed centre of the earth.

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