21 May, 2024

July 16 | Hope in God’s Loving-Kindness

by | 10 July, 2023 | 0 comments

Unit: Jeremiah (Part 2)
Theme:​ ​Hope for the Hopeless
Lesson text: Jeremiah 31:1-17, 31-34
Supplemental texts: Matthew 2:13-18; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Hebrews 8:7-13; 12:22-24
Aim: Accept the Lord’s new covenant, and hope in his loving-kindness.

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_July16_2023.

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By Mark Scott

Jeremiah 31 is clearly one of the high-water marks of the Old Testament. The new covenant is announced toward the end of the chapter; its text is quoted at length in Hebrews 8:7-13. But a bit earlier in the chapter is a messianic verse dealing with the mothers of Israel losing their babies; Matthew 2:13-18 quotes that verse when telling of Herod the Butcher killing males 2 years and younger after Jesus was born.  

After writing his famous letter to the exiles (chapter 29), Jeremiah started predicting the restoration of Israel (chapter 30). But false prophets—including Pashhur (chapter 20) and Hananiah (chapter 28)—continued to play havoc with that restoration. This made life hard on Jeremiah—he was threatened in chapter 26. But the prophet moved back to the theme of restoration in chapter 31.  

God Brought Hope Out of Hopelessness 
Jeremiah 31:1-17 

This section of Scripture is divided into three parts, each starting with the phrase, “This is what the Lord says” (vv. 2, 7, 15). The key words in this section are God’s love (ahabah in Hebrew) and God’s unfailing kindness (loving-kindness in many versions; chesed in Hebrew). The God of the Bible specializes in bringing hope out of hopeless situations. The broad sweeps of the fruit of this hope are joy, peace and prosperity, and renewed commitment.  

Evidently God had in mind restoring all the families of Israel, not just Judah. The northern tribes who survived Assyria’s sword would find favor with God, who would give rest to Israel. God’s love was the key to this restoration. He wanted to rebuild Virgin Israel to where they would do the “dance of joy.” They would plant vineyards—not in Babylon but in Samaria—and eat the fruit from them. They would accept God’s call to go to Jerusalem (Zion) to worship.  

God’s people would be brought back from captivity from the land of the north (the normal path taken from the east to Israel). In fact, they would be brought back from the ends of the earth. All types of people would be welcome in this return—blind, lame, expectant mothers and women in labor. They would shed tears of repentance and joy. God would lead them beside streams of water (Psalm 1:3; 42:1) where they would not stumble. God would treat Israel as his firstborn son.  

God moved from addressing Israel directly to addressing the nations concerning Israel (v. 10). God, who scattered Israel in his judgment, would regather them—similar to how a shepherd gathers his sheep. God can gather Israel because he is stronger than Israel’s enemies. This would bring all kinds of joy and prosperity (vv. 12-14). 

But the joy and prosperity must be delayed. The Babylonian captivity will cause the mothers of Israel to weep and refuse to be comforted. They will witness their sons being hauled away to Babylon. They will return, but not for 70 years. Interestingly, Matthew finds some typological fulfillment when Herod attempted to kill toddler Jesus. The famous verse 15 is one of the Bible’s layered prophecies. It first concerned Rachel (Genesis 35:19), and it also applied to Jeremiah’s time. Later, it would apply to the mothers of Israel who lost their children to Herod’s jealousy (Matthew 2:16-18).  

God Brought New Out of the Old 
Jeremiah 31:31-34 

The baby who ultimately was spared by his flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-18)—even though the mothers of Israel would rightfully mourn—would establish a new way of being right with God. He would live and die, and in doing so, he would usher in a new covenant. The new would come from the old. The old was not bad for its time, but like the apple blossom gives way to the apple, so also the new would owe its birth to the old.  

Jeremiah looked into the future, even past the birth of Christ, to when the new covenant would be enacted. The new covenant (which delivered people from a slavery to sin) would be different from the old covenant (which delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt). God acted like a betrothed husband to Israel, but she broke covenant with him in being adulterous (i.e., idolatrous). 

When the new covenant (an agreement with one side setting the demands) was enacted, the law was not to be written on stone (think Ten Commandments), but on the people’s minds and hearts. Under the new covenant, it would no longer be necessary to encourage people to know the Lord, because it is through his covenant that people know him (cf. John 17:3). This applies to all members of the new covenant. And the best thing about the new covenant is the availability of total forgiveness for all. 


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