Sermon on Jeremiah 31:7-9
Text: This is what the LORD says: “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ 8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. 9 They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son.”
Hope is an important part of everyone’s life. Without hope, life on this earth would be next to impossible. When things are going badly, we always hope for a better tomorrow. The farmer hopes that rain will fall at the right time for his crops. The student hopes for a good grade after taking a hard test. Even the small child, as their birthday or Christmas draws near, hopes for that special toy that they want to receive. We find that we live on hope. However, while we live on this earth, we quickly realize that not all of our hopes will happen as we would like. The rain doesn’t come and the crops dry up. The garde on the test was lower than expected. Rather than finding that special toy in the present, you find clothes. Our hopes can be quickly shattered. However, there is one message of hope that we can put our trust in. JEREMIAH PLANTS A MESSAGE OF HOPE: 1. Hope For A New Life and 2. Hope For A New Relationship.
The prophet Jeremiah spoke to a people that was in desperate need of hope. The king of Babylon had taken control of the land of Judah. Jeremiah had earlier prophesied, “This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:11) Jeremiah had to speak some very stern words to the people of Israel. They had forsaken the worship of the true God and turned to idols. Jeremiah’s task was to preach the law to these people and show them what they were doing was wrong. When Jeremiah was called to be a prophet, he was told he was to “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow.” (Jeremiah 1:10) Jeremiah was to tell the people, in no uncertain terms, that they were sinning and would feel God’s hand of anger against them. Jeremiah spoke this message again and again to the people. He was to tear down the wall and expose sin.
When the law is spoken, it cuts very deeply. When the sinner sees themselves in the light of God’s law, he sees how far from perfect that they really are. Then, the gospel salve can be put on those wounds. The gospel message says that Jesus loves us so much that he was willing to do everything, including suffering and dying, to take away all of our sins. Jeremiah was also to speak a message of hope to the people. He was not only “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow,” but also to “to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10) He was also sent with a message of hope to the people of Judah in these dark days. Although they would be in exile in Babylon, after seventy years, they would be allowed to return to their homeland.
Jeremiah calls upon the people to rejoice, as they returned home. “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’” (Verse 7) The people are called upon to praise God as they returned from their exile. ‘Let your happiness show forth as you travel from the land of captivity to your homeland. Sing! Make music! Rejoice in God’s love for you!’
The Lord shows why they can rejoice, “See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth.” (Verse 8) All the people will be returning home. “Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return.” (Verse 8) Even the weak and frail will make the journey back home. God will preserve them on the way. One can almost hear their songs of joy as they traveled. Jeremiah tells the people to look beyond their current situation, their captivity, to the joy that will be theirs as they go home.
Jeremiah tells us the same thing to us, as well. There is no hiding the fact that we live in an imperfect, sinful world. People sin against one another every day. Disease may enter our lives. Financial burdens seem too much for us. Death may come and take those closest to us. We may be tempted to lose all hope. We may be tempted to walk around with our heads hung low. “What’s the use? ,” we hear ourselves say.
At these times, we, too, need to be reminded to life our eyes from our present situation to the hope that every Christian has: the promise of eternal life in heaven, where there will be no more tears, pain, death, etc. We can praise our God, just as the Israelites did as they returned from Babylon. We, also, have been released from captivity. We have been released from sin, death, and the power of the devil. We were under their control. We were their slaves.
Then, the one came who set us free. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the earth to free us. He died on the cross, so that we might live forever with him in heaven. We go from the land of captivity to the land of freedom won for us by Jesus. Take note of whom this promise is given. It is given to “the blind and the lame.” We were not able to save ourselves. We could not start off on the path to this eternal rest. Jesus came and took away all of our sins. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, we have been healed and put on this path that leads to our eternal homeland. We travel on this path rejoicing, knowing that all of our sins have been forgiven.
We have been set free. Heaven is ours. This will happen. There is no doubt about it. With this truth firmly in our minds, we can face the sorrows and troubles of this life with a different outlook. This world’s problems are minor compared to the joy that is ours from knowing Jesus as our Savior. We can approach our day-to-day lives, looking away from the sorrows that we face now to the joys that will be ours. When we focus on them, we will fully enjoy the new life that is ours for Jesus’ sake. We have hope for a new life.
As Judah traveled back to Palestine, they may have been fearful of God. They had just spent seventy years in exile because of their sins. They needed to be assured that their sins were forgiven. They wanted a new relationship with God. God tells them that all has been forgiven and forgotten. He, too, wants a new relationship with them. God describes this new relationship in this way, “They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son.” (Verse 9) Judah is pictured as returning with tears of penitence and joy. God does not reject them. He brings them back to himself. He calls himself their fath, symbolizing the close relationship that would now exist between them. He would be their father, with all of the responsibilities of fatherhood. Rather than the anger that they were currently experiencing, they would, instead, feel God’s love toward them.
We, too, have a new relationship with God. Rather than fearing him as one who will punish us for our sins, we can now come to him as dear children approach their dear father. This week we celebrate Reformation Day. On that day, we celebrate the fact that God caused Martin Luther to uncover the fact that we are saved through Christ, and not from our own works. At one time, he was afraid of God. He wrote, “I knew Christ only as an angry judge, whom I wanted to flee but whom I could not escape.” In an effort to try to please God, he abused himself. He whipped himself. This was all in an effort to try and please an angry God. His sins caused him no end of grief. He wrote how he felt in the hymn “Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice,” “Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay; Death brooded darkly o’er me. Sin was my torment night and day; In sin my mother bore me. Yet deep and deeper still I fell; Life had become a living hell, So firmly sin possessed me.” (CW 377 v.2)
However, then, God opened his eyes through the pages of the Bible to see that all of his sins had been forgiven. He had nothing to do except to believe in Jesus to be saved. He no longer saw God as an angry judge, but a Father who loved him. Upon this revelation, he wrote, “Here I felt that I was altogether born again and entered paradise itself through open gates.”
We, too, can appreciate the grace that God has shown to us. Rather than thinking of God as an angry judge, we can now think of him as our loving Father. He tells us to call him “Father” in the Lord’s Prayer. God calls himself our Father and promises to take care of us. He knows all that things that we need for our lives and has promised to provide them. So, again we can have hope on a dark night in our lives, because our Father has promised to take care of us.
We are also encouraged by the fact that God is our Father. We may now approach him in prayer, as confidently as dear children ask their dear father. We can go to him with all of our requests and problems, confident in the fact that he will hear us and do what is best for us. Even though the answer to our prayer might be “No” from time to time, we know that this answer was given because our Father wants what is best for us. Our human fathers didn’t always say “Yes.” Sometimes, they said “No,” because they knew what was better for us. Since that is the case with human fathers, who make mistakes, surely we can see God love for us, when he, in his love for us, says, “No.” We have hope in this life because we have this special relationship with God, even calling im “Father.” This hope will not fail us, as so many earthly hopes do. God’s promises do not fail. When he says something, it is so. We can put our hope in him.
Famed radio commentator Paul Harvey once made this observation. He noted the fact that he saw so many sad Christians. He was surprised at that, for if anyone had a reason to be happy, it was a Christian. They have the peace that comes from sins forgiven. They have reason for joy. Dear friends, we have reason for hope. May we show that hope in our lives. We know that this life of sadness will soon be over. We know that heaven is waiting for us. We can also have hope for this life, because we are not facing it all alone. Our heavenly Father will be with us, no matter what may come our way. The hope that we have in the Lord, as the apostle Paul said in Romans 5:5, “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Dear Christians, live and rejoice in this hope. Amen.
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