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We’re continuing in the Book of Encouragement which takes up Jeremiah 30:1-34:7.
Last time, we studied the first 20 verses of Jeremiah 31, seeing the promises of Millennial Blessings for Northern Israel.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | Don’t Forget the Way You Came Because You’re Going Back
God continues his message of encouragement by addressing all Israel – not just Northern Israel. He tells them, as it were, that as they leave the land for their time in exile they should remember the way they take.
Because their descendants are coming back that very way some day. Verses 21-22.
21 [God will say…] Set thee up [waymarks/road markers],
make thee [high heaps/guideposts]:
[set thine heart toward/consider well/keep in mind] the highway,
even the [way/road] [by] which thou wentest:
[So that you may someday…] [turn again/return], O virgin of Israel,
[turn again/return] to these thy cities.
You’re coming back, Israel! That’s the promise of God.
22 How long wilt thou [go about/waver/vacillate],
O thou [one-time] [backsliding/faithless] daughter?
All of that backsliding and faithlessness will stop one day…
for the LORD [hath created/will bring about] a new thing in the earth,
[Something as unique as…] A woman [shall compass/encircles/protecting] a man.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | Joyful Return and Sweet Rest Promised for All Israel
What is that “new thing?” This thing that is as unique and unusual as a woman protecting a man?
This – that all Israel will enjoy a joyful return to their land and a sweet rest when they get there. Verses 23-26.
23 ¶ Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;
[As yet/Once more] they shall use [this speech/these words] in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall [bring again/restore] their [captivity/fortunes];
The LORD bless thee, O habitation of [justice/righteousness], [and/O] [mountain of holiness/holy hill].
Now, as this “Book of Encouragement” was being written, there was nothing encouraging going on with these people. The people of Judah were a few years away from being invaded and exiled. The people of northern Israel were long-gone already. The people who were left in the land – they certainly weren’t expressing to one another genuine blessings in the name of the Lord. They had no concern for “holiness” or “justice.”
But that was going to change. Someday, God will bring these people back to their land – again, I think we have great reason to believe this happens in the Millennium – and when they’re back they will come with repentant hearts. They will be changed. And because of that, they will be uttering blessings in the name of the Lord to one another. Those blessings will be genuine. And these people will be loving justice and holiness.
But that was all future to their perspective. And it’s yet future to ours. But it will happen.
>>Is there anything future from our perspective concerning us that we struggle to accept?<<
Well, as these righteous individuals are totally restored to their land, they will experience natural abundance that will give them sweet rest.
24 And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, [husbandmen/farmers], and [they/shepherds] that go forth with flocks.
25 For I [have satiated/will satisfy] the weary soul,
and I [have replenished/will replenish] every [sorrowful/languishing/fainting] soul.
26 ¶ [Then they will say…] [Upon/At] this I awaked, and [beheld/looked];
and my sleep was [sweet/pleasant] unto me.
By the way, that’s either Jeremiah saying that he received this information in a dream and he woke up from it with great sweetness. Or it’s saying that the people of Israel at that time will sleep and wake up with great sweetness because of all the righteousness and blessing they’ll be receiving from their good Lord.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | Agricultural Metaphors
And while the Lord is on the subject of physical abundance – husbandmen and shepherds, etc. – he’s going to take verses 27-30 to make metaphors concerning agriculture to describe how things will be for all Israel in the Millennium. So, he’s going to compare his people Israel or things related to them in the future to agricultural phenomena.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | Sowing Seed
The Lord starts in verse 27 with comparing the territory of Israel and Judah to a field. He compares himself to a farmer who will plant seed in that field. The seed though is actually people – Jews, to be precise – and their farm animals.
27 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | Gardening
Next, the Lord compares himself to a farmer who has had to pull down and destroy a lot of the equipment on his farm. But he is in the future going to be reversing those actions to instead build and fortify his equipment and plants, etc. And that equipment is literally all Israel in the future.
28 And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | Eating Grapes
The last agricultural metaphor the Lord uses concerning Israel in the Millennium is about eating sour grapes. Let’s first read the metaphor and then try to understand it better.
29 In those days they shall say no more,
The fathers have eaten a sour grape,
and the children’s teeth [are set on edge/have grown numb].
30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity:
every man that eateth the sour grape,
his teeth shall [be set on edge/grow numb].
So, there’s a comparison between what Judah was currently experiencing with what all Israel will experience in the Millennium.
In the present of Jeremiah’s day, the people were claiming that they were suffering for the sins of their fathers. Now, there was some truth to that. Even though God was emphatic with them already in this book that they were suffering for their own sin – yet, God’s patience had waited a long time as his people sinned and rebelled against him. And so, in a sense, yes, the judgment that was coming to Judah was in some ways a result of the sins of their ancestors. And yet, the people who were experiencing the judgement of Babylon fully deserved it themselves.
But in the Millennium, God’s justice won’t delay. The person who sins will be dealt with immediately. His descendants won’t suffer for his sin. No, he himself will suffer right away for his own sin.
Now, at first that seems like something that is advantageous to people…until you realize that it means that sin will be dealt with right away – your sin! Right away! In the Millennium it seems that God will not be delaying his punishment. He will carry it out right away.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | A New Covenant Promised
Well, you know, that’s a little bit of a problem for people. Because people are sinners. We sin because we’re sinners. And the history of Israel that we read of in the Scripture provides abundant evidence of that fact.
So, if a person is punished right away for his own sin in the Millennium, he’s going to need some serious help to stop sinning. And the Lord is going to give that serious help when he makes a new covenant with Israel and Judah in those days. And that’s just what the Lord says he will do in verses 31-34 – he promises a New Covenant with all Israel in the Millennium.
He begins by stipulating the parties to this covenant. It’s God and all Israel.
31 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
The Lord then goes on to contrast this promised Millennial New Covenant with the Mosaic Covenant, under which the people were living in the days of Jeremiah.
32 Not [according to/like] the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they [brake/violated], although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
Catch that one way the New Covenant will be different from the Old Mosaic Covenant. The people under the Mosaic Covenant broke it. In contrast, those in the New Covenant will not break it. And as we’ve noted before, this is because you cannot break the New Covenant.
The Lord continues by stating a few stipulations of the New Covenant. In particular, he promises a few things concerning Israel’s relation to God’s Law and to God himself.
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days [of planting them in the land…], saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
So, no more stone tablets. God’s law will be written on the hearts of Israel in the Millennium – that’s the reference to “after those days”.
So, Israel’s relationship with the Law will go from one that is external to one that is internal. And therefore, Israel’s relationship to the God of that Law will go from one characterized by rebellion to one characterized by genuineness. They will be his people and he their God.
Further, this New Covenant will be enjoyed by all Israel, not just a select few.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD:
And what about that sin that each man is going to die for? Remember, in the Millennium apparently no one will be punished for the sin of their ancestors. If you do the crime, you do the time, so to speak. Again, this calls for actually less patience on the part of God in some ways. But look at the last promise given concerning this New Covenant.
for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
How do we reconcile these two facts about the Millennium: 1) everyone will die for his own sin and 2) God will forgive the sin of his people?
First, we need to take that second truth first. So, God will forgive the sin of those in the New Covenant. There will apparently be other peopl in the Millennium. The Scripture speaks of Egyptians living in those days and entertains the idea that they might not want to go up to Jerusalem for one of the feasts. If they don’t, God will withhold rain from them. So, there you have a hint at our first truth – that God’s punishment of sin will be swift and without delay. You also have something to help us understand the second truth – there will be some people in the Millennium that are not in the New Covenant. They will be punished for their sin swiftly.
Also, we can’t forget the effect that God’s New Covenant will have on those who are party to it. God will write his Law on their hearts. They will be pressured not merely outwardly with external rules and regulations to keep them in line but they will be constrained inwardly. I don’t believe that Israel will be totally sinless in the Millennium, but they will be pressured by God’s inward Law to do right. Plus, Satan will be bound so as to not be able to tempt them anymore. In addition, what we know as “the world” now will be very different in the Millennium. The World as it is, is an organized system that is opposed to God. But in the Millennium, Christ is ruling the world. So, you think of the three major enemies of mankind – the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Devil is out of there for 1,000 years. The world is totally different and no longer ruled by the prince of the world but by the Prince of Peace. That leaves man’s flesh – his sinful nature – to contend with. And I’m not minimizing the power of man’s sinful nature, but at the same time I think we’d all recognize that God’s restraining both the world and the devil will not make the sinful nature more powerful, but would rather have the effect of restraining man’s sinful nature to some extent. At least to the point of outward conformity to God’s standards.
So, that’s a start at trying to understand how God can say that in the Millennium those who sin will be punished swiftly and at the same time, that God will forgive the sins of those who are in the New Covenant.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | Recipients and Timeframe of the New Covenant
Let’s also notice that God says here that he is going to make this New Covenant with Israel and Judah. So then, why are Gentiles – non-Jews, like you and me – why are we partakers of this New Covenant?
Also, God is saying here that he’s going to make this New Covenant with Israel and Judah in the Millennium. Why then are Gentiles enjoying this New Covenant right now?
Well, Jesus Christ is the one who inaugurated the New Covenant with his death on the cross. He is the mediator of this covenant. There is no doubt that those who have trusted in him for these last two thousand years enter into this covenant with him.
But that’s not to deny that in the Millennium, the whole nation of Israel will be brought into this covenant. Right now, Gentiles are enjoying it and a few Jews are as well. But in the Millennium, all Jews will enjoy this New Covenant.
And in the meantime, we Gentiles really are – like the Apostle Paul says in Romans – like wild olive branches that have been grafted in to the cultivated olive tree. We’re enjoying riches that we don’t at all deserve. Part of those riches is this New Covenant.
As part of the blessings of the New Covenant, we enjoy total forgiveness of our sins. We enjoy being God’s people. We experience God’s writing his law as it were in our inward parts. He has internalized his law in us. Anyone in this New Covenant automatically knows the Lord, so we don’t need to evangelize our fellow-covenant enjoyers.
The one major difference is that we’re not Israel or Judah. We’re the Church. And actually, part of our receiving mercy in terms of this New Covenant is in order to make the Jews jealous. That’s what Paul says in Romans 9-11. The Jews have for the most part rejected their Messiah and the New Covenant he brings. God will one day bring them all into this New Covenant and cause them to bow to their Messiah. In the meantime, God endures their unbelief and is intent on making them jealous of what they’re missing out on by pouring out his mercy on us Gentiles who don’t deserve an ounce of his mercy.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | God is not Done with All Israel
Now, I pointed out the difficulty in this passage regarding the fact that the New Covenant is promised to Jews whereas the modern recipients of it are mostly non-Jewish. And you heard my explanation of that.
There are some people who would have a different explanation. They would basically say that the Church has replaced Israel and so when the Lord speaks of Israel and Judah here, he’s really just speaking in “spiritual” terms. Because actually, according to such a person, the Church has taken the place of Israel. Israel has sinned and fallen out of God’s grace. They’ve been rejected by God and God has moved on with life, as it were.
But verses 35-37 really make that position very difficult to maintain. Let’s read those verses and see why.
35 Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the [ordinances/fixed order] of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which [divideth/stirs up] the sea [when/so that] the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name:
36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.
37 Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.
So, maybe you’re wondering whether God has utterly and ultimately rejected Israel. Well, he’s going to answer you with two conditional statements. Did you see those two “if” statements in those verses?
Let’s review them. First, Israel will stop being a nation in God’s eyes when the sun, moon, stars, and sea waves stop doing what God made them to do. When is that going to happen? The answer? Never! So then, Israel will never stop being a nation in God’s eyes. You might have thought that Israel stopped being a nation between the diaspora under Rome until 1948. You’d be wrong. I didn’t notice the sun, moon, stars, or waves stop during that time. Therefore, Israel has not stopped being a nation before God even then.
The second conditional statement tells us that God will totally cast off Israel because of their sin … when heaven above can be measured and when people can fully explore the foundation of the earth. Has that happened yet? No, we don’t know even how far out the universe expands. We can’t get to the center of the earth either. And we won’t ever do either of these things. Therefore, the Lord will never utterly reject Israel even though they have sinned greatly against him.
Jeremiah 31 Commentary | Jerusalem Will Be Rebuilt
And perhaps the final nail in the coffin for someone’s thinking that God has rejected Israel and replaced that nation with the Church is found in the last three verses of this chapter. Here God is going to promise that literal Jerusalem – the city in Judah – will be rebuilt.
38 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city [of Jerusalem…] shall be built [to/as the special city of] the LORD from the tower of Hananeel [westward…] unto the [gate of the corner/Corner Gate].
39 And the measuring line shall yet go [forth over against it upon/out further west to] the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath.
40 And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the [sacrificial…] ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be [holy/sacred] unto the LORD [for the purpose of being in this city…]; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.
We don’t need to consider all the details here. Suffice it to say that the last line of verse 40 guarantees that this has not yet happened. Right? If this promise of rebuilding were fulfilled when Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah returned to Israel after the Babylonian Exile then the city has been plucked up and thrown down when the Romans came and did that very thing. But there’s a time coming when the Jews’ city will be rebuilt and will never be plucked up or thrown down again forever.
Lord, haste the day!