Hope for Judah
Jeremiah 30–33 and Luke 1–2
You’ll notice a shift this week as we begin our readings, as we enter into Jeremiah’s book of consolations. As hard as the proclamations on judgment have been, the overwhelmingly good news is that God isn’t finished yet. In these three chapters, we hear of the hope of restoration for God’s people. He punished them for their sin, yes, but that punishment was for the purpose of restoration. He will bring them home again. We chose to read the traditional Luke 1 and 2 narrative in concert with these readings from Jeremiah because, in many ways, the events of Luke 1 and 2 show the fulfillment of promises God made to his people in Jeremiah 30–33. This week, we pray you are encouraged by the hope found in the baby lying in a manger and the promise that God isn’t finished yet.
“The God Who Can Do Impossible Things”
Today, the tide turns in Jeremiah’s prophecy from judgment to restoration. In Jeremiah 30, God makes a number of promises to his people that seem impossible. He will bring his people back home, protect the line of David, heal their seemingly incurable sin wounds, restore their fortunes, and bring them to a place of celebration and joy. God will give them a Prince who will be like them and yet who can approach God. They will be God’s people again.
I have to be honest: After three difficult weeks trudging through prophecies of judgment because of the people’s sin, these words should bring joy. But if you’re slightly cynical like me, this reversal might be hard to believe. And can you imagine how the people might have felt hearing this prophecy? Surely they had their doubts, too, as they sat on the shores of Babylon watching the consequences of their wickedness play out under foreign rule.
Yet as we turn to Luke 1, we see glimpses of fulfillment. Seventy years after captivity, God did, in fact, bring the people back to their land. In Luke 1, we see this prophecy partially fulfilled as we find faithful Jews like Elizabeth and Zechariah living in the land God had given his people so long ago; though they are living under the rule of Herod and Rome, God had brought his people back home nonetheless.
In Jeremiah 30, God describes their hurt as being incurable and their wound as being grievous. Who could heal them? Who could save them from themselves? But in verse 17, God declares, “I will heal your wounds.” It might seem impossible that God’s people will ever come back from this, having sunken so far in the depths of sin, but God will heal them. God can do what we think is impossible. Likewise, in Luke 1 he promises to do the impossible for Zechariah and Elizabeth, who have experienced barrenness for many years, not because of their sin but so that the good purposes of God might be fulfilled in his timing. From Elizabeth’s womb would come another prophet who would boldly speak truth—a man named John who would “make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17 ESV).
John’s preaching would prepare the way for the Lord, for the birth of Christ, the Messiah and the Son of David. Those hearing Jeremiah’s prophecies probably scoffed at the idea that a son of David would reign on the throne of Judah again one day. Yet this week, we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, a descendant of David. God would indeed send the people a ruler like them, and yet One who could approach God himself (Jeremiah 30:21). Like God’s people, and like Elizabeth, we lift our voices, too, in celebration with songs of thanksgiving for the One who came to take away the reproach of his people!