At that time, declares the LORD, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.” Thus says the LORD: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant and shall enjoy the fruit. For there shall be a day when watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim: ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.’”
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, ‘O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. 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 be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more. 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. I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the LORD.”
Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for herchildren; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Thus says the LORD: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the LORD , and your children shall come back to their own country. Jeremiah 31.1-17
Death and Life on the Razor’s Edge
By Matthew Wilcoxen
Jeremiah 31:1-17 works backward from a divine promise of the restoration of God’s people from exile: “At that time, declares the LORD, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people” (31:1). First, a vision of Israel settled in the promised land and enjoying its fruits (31:2-6). Next, the means by which this outcome will be achieved: God will miraculously gather his scattered people (31:7-14). Then, the poem arrives at the literary present: the historic matriarch of Israel, Rachel, stands at the edge of the promised land, looks off into the distance, and weeps inconsolably for her children (3:15). It is into this situation that God speaks of future deliverance (3:16-17).
In Matthew 2:16-18, Jeremiah’s vision provides a theological lens for King Herod’s slaughter of all the male infants in the region around Bethlehem after the advent of Christ. Israel under King Herod is still in exile, a fact that is painfully obvious in his raging brutality. Yet when Matthew says Jeremiah’s prophecy is being “fulfilled” in this murder of the innocents, he is also making the audacious claim that the end of such oppressive, exilic rule is at hand in the advent of the true king, the Christ child.
The advent of Christ brings us to the razor’s edge of the conflict between the old age that is passing away and the new age which is dawning—and this is where we continue to stand. The advent of Christ is an assault on ungodly rule and elicits its fiercest opposition. His people weep as they participate in the exile of Christ’s crucifixion, and their only real comfort is in his return from the dead.