When I was in my late teens, I was cleaning our home’s gutters when the ladder slipped from under me. In the mercy of God, I landed hand-first, with the weight of my body falling on my hand, crushing bones in two fingers. Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the therapy on my hand after having a cast and pins removed. So to this day, I lack full range of motion in the fingers that were crushed. I have little hope that full use of my hand will ever be restored.
There are things greater than weakened fingers for which we hope for restoration. Some people hope for a relationship between adult siblings to be restored. Others desire to recoup funds lost in a poor investment scheme of a so-called friend. Still others look to regain the position and respect lost due to an untimely job layoff late in life, or through a foolish mistake made in haste.
Jeremiah records words of restoration that come during the 70-year exile and captivity of Judah in Babylon. The Lord promises to Israel and Judah will be complex and thorough, and contains words of hope of restoration for all who trust in Christ.
First, restoration means that God will fulfill his word (chapters 1-3).The Lord’s promises of restoration demands that Jeremiah write in a book the words spoken to him as trustworthy. The word concerns restoration to the land of given in promise to their fathers, the Patriarchs (Gen. 15:19-20; Dt. 30:3-5; Josh. 1:3-4). The Lord is the one with promises to restore his own in an unspecified future. We can trust him to be faithful to his word, even as the Lord’s word was faithful to take Israel out of captivity.
Second, however, restoration means you might suffer more before being fully restored, but with hope (chapters 4-7).The Lord’s word of a day of surpassing distress for Jacob comes with the hope of salvation. Grown men were in such agony from Babylon’s defeat of Israel that they held their stomachs in pain like a woman in labor. The pain foreshadows a future day “so great there is none like it” (7). “That day” is Jeremiah’sway of speaking of The Day of the Lord, also known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” with respect to Israel and Judah. Yet the Lord promises to rescue Israel out of that day (31:7).
Often, the hope we carry to Sunday worship is that the sermon will give us a ray of sunshine in our pains – a ray that will offer an uninterrupted path to blessing, peace, and joy. This makes sense, for who comes to worship naturally looking for a message gloom? Yet hoping for such sermons is not a proper perspective on worship. God’s people will suffer because we live in a fallen world in need of redemption. Yet we have the hope of Christ’s return.
Third, restoration means deliverance, but it is tied to discipline (chapters 8-11).The Lord’s promises to reverse Jacob’s slavery removes fear of bondage to the nations, but comes with a word of discipline. When “that day” of restoration occurs, Jacob (the nation) will be free from oppression and Gentile rule. They will serve King David – a seemingly odd promise in light of David’s lifespan and the time of the captivity, but not in light of the promise of the resurrection of the dead!
The Lord will not sweep Israel away with the wicked, but discipline her for her sins, as he already is doing by means of the captivity. This is the loving discipline of a Father who does not wish for his children to err or stray (Heb. 12:5-11).
Fourth, restoration means healing comes with recompense (chapters 12-17).The word of the Lord to heal the God-inflicted wounds earned by Zion’s guilt also promises recompense upon her enemies. The wounds are described in physical terms for which there is no medicine, for there is no medic who can aid you when God is inflicting wounds (12-13)! Jeremiah also portrays Israel as a jilted, adulterous lover – a reference to their attempts to make alliances with the Gentile nations of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon rather than trust in the Lord (30:14; see too 27:3). Israel’s incurable situation – at Nebuchadnezzar’s sword – came from the Lord himself (14). It is his just response to their sins (14, 15). It left her temporarily rejected and alone.
Although the nations were instruments of God to bring about his discipline upon Israel, they are not acquitted from the sin of oppressing Israel. They will be judged justly when the Lord heals his people (16-17).
Fifth, restoration means celebration through Christ that is beyond human understanding (chapters 18-24). The Lord’s word to restore the fortunes of Jacob promises celebration, and Jacob herself will be great. The word also makes reference to a prince and ruler from their midst who will draw near to God in a way that no other man can do. Jeremiah foresees a day when Jacob will serve her Messiah.
I love watching the process of an old house being restored. A new roof is added, shiny new hardwood floors replace old warped ones, insulated storm widows stand where there were leaky ones, bright lighting shines where there were dim ones. Amazingly, restored homes often look far better than their original constructions. In the same way, when Christ brings about the restoration of Israel, and the church, all things for us will be better than their original conditions. We cannot yet imagine how glorious it will be (24)!
Eric C. Redmond is Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church, Washington, DC.