A reflection on Jeremiah 31:7-14 & Psalm 147:12-20 for Sunday, January 3, 2021
For thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘Save, O Lord, your people,
the remnant of Israel.’
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labour, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the Lord.
Jeremiah 31:7-14 (NRSVA)
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
He grants peace within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down hail like crumbs—
who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his ordinances.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 147:12-20 (NRSVA)
Long before the arrival of the Christ child, there was a promise. It was made by YHWH to the people God cherished. A scattered people would be brought home.
Jeremiah has heart. The weeping prophet spoke into the lives of a captive people. A people taken. A people oppressed.
And into their unexpected circumstances Jeremiah shared God’s words of hope.
Our reading today includes only some of them. They are, however, memorable: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
Israel, even in captivity, remain a people held. Even in Babylon they have a shepherd. They are neither forgotten nor abandoned. God has a plan to exchange their ‘sorrow’ for ‘gladness’.
Of course, as we look on from the miracle of the incarnation – and the revealing of Jesus – we are able to glimpse this plan unfolding.
It is a far greater vision than just the restoration of a nation.
It is the restoration of all creation.
So once again our Psalm calls us to worship with the chosen. We are no longer outsiders – but insiders.
In Jesus we are all abundantly blessed and invited to see ourselves in Jeremiah’s gathered ‘blind and lame’.
Here Jeremiah causes me to consider again the healing, gathering, and restoring mission of Jesus. Each healing Jesus performed was so much more than an historic reality, a one-off good deed or even proof of the identity of Jesus.
It is the revealing of the Kingdom of Heaven. Two-thousand years after this coming this revealing continues in every act of grace, forgiveness, healing and restoration.
Here is something far greater that the coming home of a nation.
This is the coming home of the universe!
When are you most overcome by the bigness of the salvation Jesus offers? When are you least likely to hold this perspective?
How does the vision of Jeremiah impact your sense of hope?