The Word Made Fresh
1A second time the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah while he was still under arrest and confined in the court of the guard: 2“The One who made the earth, the LORD who shaped it and put it in place, says, 3Call out to me and I will answer you. I will tell you important things that have been hidden from you. 4This is what the LORD God of Israel says about the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to defend against the siege ramps and the sword: 5The Babylonians are coming to make war and fill these ruins with the dead bodies of those whom I shall strike down in anger, for I have turned my face away from this city because of their wickedness. 6But I am going to let it recover and heal. I myself will heal them and give them prosperity and safety. 7I will restore Judah and Israel and rebuild them as they were before. 8I will remove the guilt for all their sins against me and I will forgive their rebellion against me. 9And it will be to me a place filled with joy. It will be a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear about all the good things I will do for them. They will be afraid and will tremble because of all the good things and all the prosperity I give it.”
10The LORD says that in this place you call a wasteland with no people or animals, in all the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are empty, where no one lives, not even animals, there will once more be heard 11the sounds of joy and celebration, the vows of the bridegroom and the bride, and the sound of people singing as they bring offerings of thanksgiving to the LORD’s house. They will sing, “Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good. The LORD’s love is steadfast and will endure forever.” “I will restore the goodness of the land as it once was,” says the LORD.
12The LORD Almighty says that in this very place that was wasted, devoid of people or animals, and in all the towns roundabout, there shall once again be pastureland for shepherds tending their flocks. 13“In the towns of the hill country – the Shephelah and the Negeb – and in the territory of Benjamin, and in the villages around Jerusalem and all the towns of Judah, shepherds will once again count their flocks as they pass,” says the LORD.
14The LORD says that the days will certainly come when the promise made to the people of Israel and Judah will be fulfilled. 15“Then I will raise up a holy branch for David who will rule the land with justice and righteousness. 16Then Judah and Jerusalem will dwell in safety. Those days will be known as ‘the LORD is our righteousness.'”
17The LORD says that David shall never be without a descendant to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18and the priests of the tribe of Levi will never be without someone to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings and make sacrifices from now on.
19The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, 20“This is what the LORD says: If any of you could break the promise I have made with daytime and nighttime so that they would no longer come around at their appointed times, 21then the promise I have made with my servant David can be broken so that he would not have a descendant to reign on his throne, and my agreement with the Levites would end. 22Just as the inhabitants of heaven cannot be numbered, and just as the sands of the ocean floor cannot be counted, so I will increase the number of David’s descendants and the descendants of the Levites who serve as my ministers.
23The word of the LORD came again to Jeremiah: 24“You have seen, haven’t you, how the people around here say I have rejected the two families I chose? You have seen how they have such contempt for my people that they no longer acknowledge that they are a nation? 25This is what the LORD says: If I had not made my agreement with day and night and all the rules of heaven and earth, 26would I then reject the descendants of Jacob and of my servant David? Would I then not select any of his descendants to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? I will restore their fortunes. I will have mercy on them.”
1-9: I don’t know how God communicated with Jeremiah, whether through an audible voice or through images and ideas that came to him in such a way as to convince him that they were not his own thoughts. In any case it must have been quite comforting to him that God would not be silent while he is confined and under guard and surely afraid for his life. God repeats the prophesy that has been given to Jeremiah for some time now; the Babylonians (known as Chaldeans in some translations) are going to breach the city walls and destroy the city and kill much of the population, but God will restore the city and the nation, and they will be given a new and glorious beginning.
10-11: Jeremiah imagines (with God’s prompting) the streets filled once again with wedding processions and the noise of festivals.
12-13: The towns and villages ’round about will not be left in ruin either, but will be restored completely, with fertile pasturelands in which flocks are well fed.
14-16: A “righteous Branch” will be raised up to rule over the city and the countryside, God says. Christians have interpreted this as a reference to the Christ. Many Jewish scholars see it as a prophecy fulfilled by the leadership of the priest Judas Maccabeus around 160 BC who led a revolt against foreign powers then occupying Israel.
17-18: The throne of Israel will be restored, and the religion of Israel will be also.
19-22: The covenant with David and with the Levites (political and religious arms of government) cannot be broken any more than day and night can stop following each other. God tells Jeremiah that David’s progeny will grow until they are uncountable. The reference to the host of heaven and sands of the sea reminds us of the promise God made to Abraham (Genesis 22:17).
23-26: These verses simply repeat the sentiment expressed in verses 19-22, couched in slightly different terms.
The witness of Jeremiah and other prophetic books in the Bible is that people tend to wander from God, and God will allow their wandering, but will bring punishment on them because of it. But God never entirely gives up on God’s people. There is always the promise of renewed relationship.