Thursday after the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:1-22 (NKJV)
1 “At the same time,” says the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”
2 Thus says the LORD: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness—Israel, when I went to give him rest.”
3 The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
4 “Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, and shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.
5 “You shall yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria; The planters shall plant and eat them as ordinary food.
6 “For there shall be a day when the watchmen will cry on Mount Ephraim, ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.'”
7 For thus says the LORD: “Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O LORD, save Your people, the remnant of Israel!’
8 “Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together; A great throng shall return there.
9 “They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.
10 “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’
11 “For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.
12 “Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, streaming to the goodness of the LORD—for wheat and new wine and oil, for the young of the flock and the herd; Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, and they shall sorrow no more at all.
13 “Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old, together; For I will turn their mourning to joy, will comfort them, and make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
14 “I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the LORD.”
15 Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
16 Thus says the LORD: “Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded,” says the LORD, “and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
17 “There is hope in your future,” says the LORD, “that your children shall come back to their own border.
18 “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself: ‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained bull; Restore me, and I will return, for You are the LORD my God.
19 ‘Surely, after my turning, I repented; And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh; I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
20 “Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,” says the LORD.
21 “Set up signposts, make landmarks; Set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel, turn back to these your cities.
22 “How long will you gad about, O you backsliding daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—a woman shall encompass a man.”
The Lord’s judgment against Israel had already been harsh by the time of Jeremiah as He drove them out of their land and scattered them among the nations. His judgment against Judah and Jerusalem would also be harsh, bringing destruction to their cities and captivity to their inhabitants. Jeremiah spent his entire ministry warning Jerusalem of their impending exile.
But the prophet also preached hope to the people of Israel and Judah. He spoke of God’s faithful love for His people. He spoke of a future time when a remnant of them would repent and be brought back into the territory that God had taken away from them. In repentance, the remnant would find forgiveness and restoration to God’s favor in the Promised Land.
These comforting words found their fulfillment first among Old Testament Israel as God brought Jerusalem back from exile in Babylon. But there is a greater spiritual fulfillment to note here.
What was Israel’s hope, and what is ours? Historically, the Church has understood that hope to be centered in the “new thing” described here in Jer. 31:22—a reference to Christ Jesus, true God and true Man, born of the Virgin Mary, the woman who “encompassed a Man.”
So Jeremiah’s prophecy is mainly about the repopulating of Israel with Jews and Gentiles from every nation—all believers in Christ Jesus. Our home is not the physical territory of Israel, but the spiritual territory of the Church, where Word and Sacrament are proclaimed and administered, heard and received. Nothing can hinder this “Israel” from being built, not even the gates of Hades.
We pray: Gracious Father in Heaven, we give You thanks for putting hope in our future and joy in our present by grafting us into Your Son by faith. Sustain us in this hope forevermore. Amen.