Jeremiah 31:9 “They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel’s father,
and Ephraim is my firstborn son.”
This is a dearly loved chapter for many, particularly Charismatic Christians. I’ve been singing songs from this chapter for over 40 years! However, I think many modern people don’t realize that this prophecy was delivered in Judah, before the Babylonian captivity, and was specifically addressed to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, that had already been wiped out by Assyria. That’s why there is a specific reference in verse five to Samaria, and why it’s so significant that in verse six the watchmen cry out, “Let’s go up to Zion.” This was a prophecy of the reunification of the 12 tribes of Israel, that had seemed like a distant dream for well over a hundred years by the time of Jeremiah. The Bible is rich even on the first reading, but understanding the context often makes it far richer and more meaningful. That’s why it’s so rewarding to really dig into it! That said, there’s a difference in translation between the NIV and the Japanese that really caught my eye. Where the NIV says “they will pray,” the Japanese says, “I will comfort them.” Those two things often go hand-in-hand, but they aren’t the same thing. Once again I regret my lack of Hebrew scholarship! In any case, this prophecy was given many centuries before its fulfillment, but even Jeremiah had no idea of that at the time he delivered it. I wonder how many Jews completely discounted this chapter in the long centuries of the diaspora? However, God’s Word is true, period. That’s something to remember, because there are many passages in Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation that have yet to be fulfilled. We live in exciting times indeed. The Chinese took that as a kind of curse, but when we are secure in Christ, it is a statement of great hope. As Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33) We do well to read the Bible at times like a “future newspaper,” knowing that if God said it, that settles it.
I have had some awareness of this even from childhood, since I was born in the same year as the modern nation of Israel. However, I have also been very turned off by people who were intensely focused on Revelation, for example, drawing up timelines and trying to figure out exactly where we were on them. I try to remember that Jesus said both, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” and, “Be on guard! Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33) I’m not to be in the business of setting schedules, but I am to be alert and available nonetheless, precisely because it indeed might be today! I’ve sung the song, What if it were Today, since childhood, but I haven’t really lived by that admonition. I’ve still got growing to do!
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the awareness that my own personal appointment with You will certainly be less than 30 years from now. Help me be faithful on every level, looking forward with hope and joy to all that You have planned, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!