God’s Saving Word: Justice and Peace
Jeremiah 31:1‒22: Israel was made up of twelve tribes named for the sons of Jacob. After King Solomon died, the ten northern tribes formed their own kingdom (Israel), while the two southernmost tribes formed the kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah envisions a time when the LORD will rebuild Israel, the people will return to their own land, and the twelve tribes will be restored as one nation.
Israel’s Return Home
31 The Lord says, “The time is coming when I will be the God of all the tribes of Israel, and they will be my people. 2 In the desert I showed mercy to those people who had escaped death. When the people of Israel longed for rest, 3 I appeared to them[a] from far away. People of Israel, I have always loved you, so I continue to show you my constant love. 4 Once again I will rebuild you. Once again you will take up your tambourines and dance joyfully. 5 Once again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria, and those who plant them will eat what the vineyards produce. 6 Yes, the time is coming when sentries will call out on the hills of Ephraim, ‘Let’s go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’”
7 The Lord says,
“Sing with joy for Israel,
the greatest of the nations.
Sing your song of praise,
‘The Lord has saved his[b] people;
he has rescued all who are left.’
8 I will bring them from the north
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
The blind and the lame will come with them,
pregnant women and those about to give birth.
They will come back a great nation.
9 My people will return weeping,
praying as I lead them back.
I will guide them to streams of water,
on a smooth road where they will not stumble.
I am like a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my oldest son.”
10 The Lord says,
“Nations, listen to me
and proclaim my words on the far-off shores.
I scattered my people, but I will gather them
and guard them as a shepherd guards his flock.
11 I have set Israel’s people free
and have saved them from a mighty nation.
12 They will come and sing for joy on Mount Zion
and be delighted with my gifts—
gifts of grain and wine and olive oil,
gifts of sheep and cattle.
They will be like a well-watered garden;
they will have everything they need.
13 Then the young women will dance and be happy,
and men, young and old, will rejoice.
I will comfort them and turn their mourning into joy,
their sorrow into gladness.
14 I will fill the priests with the richest food
and satisfy all the needs of my people.
I, the Lord, have spoken.”
The Lord’s Mercy on Israel
15 The Lord says,
“A sound is heard in Ramah,
the sound of bitter weeping.
Rachel is crying for her children;
they are gone,
and she refuses to be comforted.
16 Stop your crying
and wipe away your tears.
All that you have done for your children
will not go unrewarded;
they will return from the enemy’s land.
17 There is hope for your future;
your children will come back home.
I, the Lord, have spoken.
18 “I hear the people of Israel say in grief,
‘Lord, we were like an untamed animal,
but you taught us to obey.
Bring us back;
we are ready to return to you,
the Lord our God.
19 We turned away from you,
but soon we wanted to return.
After you had punished us,
we hung our heads in grief.
We were ashamed and disgraced
because we sinned when we were young.’
20 “Israel, you are my dearest child,
the one I love best.
Whenever I mention your name,
I think[c] of you with love.
My heart goes out to you;
I will be merciful.
21 Set up signs and mark the road;
find again the way by which you left.
Come back, people of Israel,
come home to the towns you left.
22 How long will you hesitate, faithless people?
I have created something new and different,
as different as a woman protecting a man.”[d]
Today’s Key Verse: Jeremiah 31:17
“There is hope for your future; your children will come back home. I, the LORD, have spoken.”
Jeremiah envisions a time when all the tribes will be restored as one nation of God’s people, and the kingdom of Israel will be rebuilt. Reread verses 7‒14. How is the homecoming and the restored nation envisioned? What brokenness do you see in our world today? How can healing among nations begin? What can communities of faith do to help?
God of love and mercy, your world suffers from brokenness, war, and conflict. Forgive us for the ways in which we fail to live in community, and reveal to us opportunities for reconciliation and new life. Amen.
Jeremiah 31:23‒40: The prophet Jeremiah describes God’s new covenant with the people.