THE FOCUS ON THE NEW COVENANT DEFINES THE CONTEXT FOR GUARANTEED FUTURE RESTORATION BLESSINGS AND PROMISES
New is not always better. We know that from the many products we have purchased over the years. When it comes to appliances, while they are certainly more energy efficient, they don’t hold up over time like the refrigerators and dishwashers and washers and dryers of the previous generation. But when it comes to God’s covenants – New is definitely better. The Book of Hebrews makes clear the vast quality difference between the two covenants. Here in this text we have the only OT exposition of the New Covenant. It is set in the context of the blessings and promises associated with Israel’s restoration (speaking of the combined northern and southern kingdoms) to the promised land. This was a restoration that had its foretaste in the historical return from captivity but can only be ultimately fulfilled in the end times.
THE FOCUS ON THE NEW COVENANT DEFINES THE CONTEXT FOR GUARANTEED RESTORATION BLESSINGS AND PROMISES
I. (:2-14) RESTORATION BLESSINGS
A. (:2-6) Security of Restoration Blessings
1. (:2) Endurance Resulting in Rest and Security by God’s Grace
“Thus says the LORD,
‘The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness—
Israel, when it went to find its rest.’”
All of the blessings flow out of God’s amazing grace;
Turmoil and suffering replaced by peace and rest and security
Parunak: In English, the verbs are in the past tense, and we are apt to jump to the conclusion that this action must therefore be past. It might be; this form of Hebrew verb is often used for past tense action. But biblical Hebrew does not really have tenses. It distinguishes completed action from ongoing action, and this is the verb form that emphasizes the completedness of the action. It is used not only for the past, but also for prophecies about the future, which are “as good as done” because they are the Word of God.
Longman: The mention of the desert fits in with a theme that we find in other prophets (Hos. 2:14-16; Isa. 40:1-5): that God’s coming judgment is in essence a reversal of redemptive history. God had previously brought Israel into the promised land from the desert. Now because of judgment he is going to hurl them out of the land and into what is theologically and metaphorically the desert, though in actuality it will entail a deportation to Babylon. But this oracle ways that God will meet the survivors of the judgment and will restore them to covenant relationship. This restoration in essence will grant them relief (rest) from the troubles of exile.
2. (:3) Everlasting Love
“The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying,
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.’”
Tremendous security found in God’s love which draws us to Himself and then holds us fast so that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Mackay: looks back to the basis of Israel’s relationship with the Lord as founded solely in the sovereign initiative and love of God. . . His everlasting love keeps the door constantly open for the returning prodigal.
Ryken: What does love mean? In the words of Geerhardus Vos:
The prophet means to describe by this term something quite extraordinary, something well-nigh inconceivable, a supreme wonder in that land of wonders which religion can never cease to be. Love is to him the highest form of the spiritual embrace of person by person. To ascribe it to God in connection with a creature is as the farthest remove from being a figure of speech. It means that in the most literal sense He concentrates all the light and warmth of His affection, all the prodigious wealth of its resources, his endless capacity of delight, upon the heart-to-heart union between the pious and Himself. And what God for His part brings into this union has a generosity, a sublime abandon, an absoluteness, that, measured by human analogies, we can only designate as the highest and purest type of devotion. It is named love for this very reason, that God puts into it His heart and soul and mind and strength, and gathers all His concerns with His people into the focus of this one desire.
3. (:4-5) Enjoyment of Restoration
“Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!”
Mackay: The whole social, economic and religious fabric of the land will be regenerated.
Thompson: Once again Yahweh will build his people securely.
“Again you will take up your tambourines,
And go forth to the dances of the merrymakers.”
“Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria;
The planters will plant and will enjoy them.”
Constable: quoting Scalise — This restoration reverses at least six aspects of the judgment suffered by Israel and Judah: no resting place in exile, a nation torn down, celebrations silenced, vines and plants uprooted, watchmen announcing the invading conqueror, and the temple destroyed. The poem also introduces an Israel transformed from a desperate adulteress (Jeremiah 4:30) to a joyful maiden on her way back to God.
Cf. Lev. 19:23-25 – takes 5 years before you can enjoy the fruit from the vineyards – so points to the permanent nature of this restoration
4. (:6) Encouragement to Visit Jerusalem
“For there will be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim call out, ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.’”
Prophecy envisions the restoration of a united kingdom – both north and south together. Ephraim is the main tribe of the former northern kingdom.
No longer are watchmen performing the function of alerting the people to the danger of invading enemy forces; now there is the security to travel in safety to Jerusalem to worship God and enjoy the holy city
Constable: Watchmen in the Northern Kingdom would again summon their fellow countrymen to make pilgrimages to God’s chosen city, Jerusalem, to worship Him there. After the kingdom divided, the northern Israelites worshipped at Bethel and Daniel, not at Jerusalem. Thus a reunited Israel is in view.
Parunak: The people will once again go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
NB: These are the people of Ephraim, the northern kingdom, who are going to Jerusalem, something that Jeroboam forbade them at the time of the split after Solomon. Not only are the people brought back to the land, but they are reunited as they have not been for centuries. Thus they are better off after the captivity than they were before!
B. (:7-9) Staging of Restoration Blessings
1. (:7) Anticipation of Triumphant Deliverance for the Remnant
“For thus says the LORD,
‘Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
And shout among the chief of the nations;
Proclaim, give praise and say,
O LORD, save Your people,
The remnant of Israel.’”
2. (:8-9) Arrival in the Promised Land
a. (:8) Regathering to the Promised Land
“Behold, I am bringing them from the north country,
And I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth,
Among them the blind and the lame,
The woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together;
A great company, they will return here.”
Guzik: quoting Spurgeon: “I believe in the restoration of the Jews to their own land in the last days. I am a firm believer in the gathering in of the Jews at a future time. Before Jesus Christ shall come upon this earth again, the Jews shall be permitted to go; to their beloved Palestine.” (1855 sermon)
Longman: the blind and the lame along with pregnant women – two classes of people who normally would find it difficult to travel in such a way. God will see to it that even they make it back safely.
b. (:9) Redirection by Divine Guidance from a Nurturing Heavenly Father
“With weeping they will come,
And by supplication I will lead them;
I will make them walk by streams of waters,
On a straight path in which they will not stumble;
For I am a father to Israel,
And Ephraim is My firstborn.”
Parunak: Why should they weep when they are returning? Can’t say that these are only tears of joy, because he also mentions “supplications.” Yet it is completely consistent: it is only when the Lord saves us from our sin that we fully realize its enormity, and repent of it. In fact, deep conviction and sorrow for sin is one of the greatest evidences of the Spirit’s work in our lives.
Constable: quoting Keil — The designation of Ephraim as the first-born of Jahveh simply shows that, in the deliverance of the people, Ephraim is in no respect to be behind Judah,-that they are to receive their full share in the Messianic salvation of the whole people; in other words, that the love which the Lord once displayed towards Israel, when He delivered them out of the power of Pharaoh, is also to be, in the future, displayed towards the ten tribes, who were looked on as lost.
C. (:10-14) Summary of Restoration Blessings
1. (:10) Shepherding – the Loving Care of God
“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
And declare in the coastlands afar off,
And say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him
And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’”
The nations are now addressed
2. (:11) Ransoming/Redeeming – the Power of God
“For the LORD has ransomed Jacob
And redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he.”
3. (:12) Prospering – the Bounty of God
“They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion,
And they will be radiant over the bounty of the LORD—
Over the grain and the new wine and the oil,
And over the young of the flock and the herd;
And their life will be like a watered garden,
And they will never languish again.”
4. (:13-14) Satisfying – the Goodness of God
“‘Then the virgin will rejoice in the dance,
And the young men and the old, together,
For I will turn their mourning into joy
And will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow.
I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance,
And My people will be satisfied with My goodness,’ declares the LORD.”
How can we turn to broken cisterns for satisfaction when all that we need has been provided for us in Jesus Christ
Thompson: The range of their former grief is indicated by three words, weeping (v.9), mourning, and grief.
Parunak: His goodness, according to v.12, consists of material bounty–yet their satisfaction is not in those things per se, but in his goodness, the knowledge that they are his gifts and come from his hand.
Longman: Interestingly, in the last verse of the oracle, the priests are specified as receiving God’s abundance. Thus, the priests who survive will reap the reward. This is notable particularly since the priests have received their share of blame for the judgment that will come on Israel because of their sin. In an unusual move, the final parallelism moves from specific (priests) to general (people). However the point is clear, the entire remnant will enjoy prosperity.
II. (:15-26) RESTORATION PROMISES
A. (:15-20) Promises of Comfort From God to Rachel and Ephraim
1. (:15-17) Comfort Based on Future Hope –
The Weeping of Rachel
a. (:15) Bitter Weeping
“‘Thus says the LORD,
‘A voice is heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
She refuses to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.’”
Mackay: This is a poetic description of great poignancy of the devastating impact deportation had had on the northern kingdom.
Longman: The significance of this Ramah in this context appears to be the fact that it was a deportation center (so Jer. 40:1). Thus, from here, the Israelites were shipped off to exile in Babylon. No wonder it was a place of great weeping.
Parunak: Rachel is the wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, Jacob’s two favorite sons. Joseph’s children Ephraim and Manasseh founded tribes that were prominent in the northern kingdom; Benjamin remained with Judah in the southern kingdom. Thus she is invoked as a figure of the nation, just as her husband Jacob is in 30:10. She sees both kingdoms, thus both of her sons, led into captivity, and mourns for them. . . Thus the turn in Jacob’s fortunes, from one bereaved to one blessed, is presented as an encouragement for the nation now. The exile both of north and of south is not permanent, but will be reversed. . .
Why does Matthew (2:18) see this as fulfilled in the massacre of the infants of Bethlehem by Herod? Herod was not a Jew, but an Edomite. In Matthew’s time, the land is still under the pagan domination that began for Judah in 600 B.C. As we have seen several times, the “restoration” under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah fell far short of what the prophets promise. Matthew, with his overwhelming concern for the kingship of the Lord Jesus, is concerned to point out that the nation is still suffering under pagan rule and in need of its royal Messiah. The specific prophecy about Rachel may have been suggested because Rachel’s tomb is near Bethlehem, where the infants were slain (Gen. 35:19). . .
Application: The Lord comforts us as well as mourning Rachel. And his comfort is likely to be along the lines of the two principles he proclaimed to her.
1) He will surely reward faithfulness. 1 Cor. 3:9-15; 4:1-5. Compare the parables of the talents in the Gospels. Heb. 6:10, it would be unrighteous of God to forget our work for him, and he will not.
2) That reward may not appear right away; we must be content to wait for payday. Heb. 10:30-39.
b. (:16) Bereavement Reversed
“Thus says the LORD,
‘Restrain your voice from weeping
And your eyes from tears;
For your work will be rewarded,’ declares the LORD,
‘And they will return from the land of the enemy.’”
c. (:17) Bright Future
“‘There is hope for your future,’ declares the LORD,
‘And your children will return to their own territory.’”
2. (:18-20) Comfort Based on Repentance in Response to Divine Discipline –
The Grieving of Ephraim
a. (:18) Submission to Discipline
“I have surely heard Ephraim grieving,
‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised,
Like an untrained calf;
Bring me back that I may be restored,
For You are the LORD my God.”
b. (:19) Shame Leading to Repentance
“For after I turned back, I repented;
And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh;
I was ashamed and also humiliated
Because I bore the reproach of my youth.”
c. (:20) Salve of Divine Mercy
“’Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a delightful child?
Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him,
I certainly still remember him;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him,’ declares the LORD.”
Thompson: The Hebrew text in the last line reads literally ‘my bowels rumble for him’ but has to be rendered my heart yearns for him. The very vivid anthropomorphism depicts God’s stomach being churned up with longing for his son
B. (:21-22) Promises Conditioned on Resolute Repentance
1. (:21) Return – Get on track
“Set up for yourself roadmarks,
Place for yourself guideposts;
Direct your mind to the highway,
The way by which you went.
Return, O virgin of Israel,
Return to these your cities.”
Parunak: “Set up waymarks.” Perhaps a reference to a common technique for navigating across the desert that lies between Babylon and Israel. With no landmarks, it’s easy to end up walking in a circle. So travelers set up pillars as they move along, frequently enough that two or three are visible at a time, and keep them in a straight line.
2. (:22a) Resolve – Don’t be doubleminded
“How long will you go here and there,
O faithless daughter?”
Guzik: In light of the great love and restoration of God, it made no sense for Israel to remain in their backslidden condition a moment longer. If this restoration was promised, they should take it by faith immediately instead of waiting for an undefined time in the future to return.
3. (:22b) Respond – Embrace your God
“For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—
A woman will encompass a man.”
Parunak: The motivation in 22b is an extremely puzzling saying. The church fathers thought it was a reference to the virgin birth, but there is no evidence of that in the context, and the NT does not allude to it as a prophecy. But if we consider it in the context of the command, we may have a clue. It is the man who usually surrounds, protects, provides for the woman, but in this transaction with Israel, God brings them to the point where they must do something in order to return to the land, something for which they are not suited by nature.
Women are legendary for playing “hard-to-get:” you’ve heard of the fellow who chased a girl until she caught him! But when God brings his people to the point of repentance, he expects them to step out and come to him. In Israel’s case, the restoration in view is to the land, and the action required of the nation is to return. He is her husband, and you might expect that she would be totally passive in this restoration, but he commands her, the virgin of Israel, to make her way across the desert and return to him. This was not a trivial command: at the first restoration, many of them did not. But God wants them to surround him, to press upon him, to make their devotion to him explicit. He has already proposed; they need to respond with a resounding “Yes.”
Application: More generally, once God presents us with the gospel and shows us our individual sin, he expects us to make an explicit decision and receive Jesus Christ. Now, we are as ill-suited to do this as a young woman is to pile up stones in the desert and maintain a highway, and the Scriptures are clear that God is the one who enables us to come to him–but still we must come. We must decide to forsake our sin, just as Israel had to forsake the homes and gardens she built in Babylon. And the way will not be easy. It is a wilderness that requires us to build stone pillars and repair the road in order to reach our destination. God will enable us to cross it, but we must actually do the crossing.
Longman: It appears that what we have here is something of a reversal of roles. We might expect the strong man to surround the female, whether surround is taken as a reference to a sexual embrace and/or protection. The reversal is likely the reason why it is called new … we might understand this as indicating that Israel has embraced God, thus expressing her repentant attitude that has turned from faithless wandering.
C. (:23-25) Promises of Celebratory Worship
1. (:23) Judah’s Worship
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Once again they will speak this word in the land of Judah and in its cities when I restore their fortunes, The LORD bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!’”
Thompson: Yahweh is Israel’s true resting place and her impregnable refuge. One again he would dwell in the midst of his people to bless them.
2. (:24) Judah’s Security
“Judah and all its cities will dwell together in it,
the farmer and they who go about with flocks.”
3. (:25) Judah’s Delight
“For I satisfy the weary ones
and refresh everyone who languishes.”
Parunak: The overall sequence of events bears repeating, as a pattern for our experience:
1. When we despair, God brings us the good news that salvation is available.
2. When we repent of our sin, he assures us of his love and of our place in his family.
3. We must turn enthusiastically to him to lay hold of the salvation that he provides for us.
4. When we worship him, he brings us blessing.
“At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.”
III. (:27-40) RESTORATION FOCUS
Parunak: Internal structure of the covenant section: three-fold repetition of the formula, “Behold, the days come.”
a) 27-30, a revised concept of sin.
b) 31-37, a renewed covenant with God.
c) 38-40, a restored capital for the nation.
A. (:27-30) Revised Concept of Sin
1. (:27-28) Planting and Edifying Instead of Destroying
“’Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast. As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,’ declares the LORD.”
Again, both northern and southern kingdoms are involved together in this restoration
Guzik: Earlier in Jeremiah, God gave the prophet the commission to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant (Jeremiah 1:10). Much of the Book of Jeremiah to this point has been a work of plucking up and breaking down; yet God promised to also build and to plant.
2. (:29-30) Personal Accountability for Sin
“In those days they will not say again,
‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.”
Constable: In that time of future blessing, people would no longer repeat a popular proverb that said that the children were suffering because of their fathers’ sins. This proverb expressed a popular misconception (cf. Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:2-4). It blamed present trouble on past ancestors inordinately. In that day, everyone would bear the consequences of his own actions. Justice would be obvious then, even though at present it did not seem to be operating. Whereas people do suffer consequences for the sins of their ancestors to a limited extent (corporate responsibility), they much more consistently suffer for their own sins (individual responsibility).
B. (:31-37) Renewed Covenant with God
1. (:31-34) New Covenant Introduced
a. (:31-32) Institution of the New Covenant Contrasted with Old Covenant
“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD.”
Guzik: Throughout the Bible, God reveals His plan of redemption through a series of covenants. After the extended story of the fall and ruin of humanity in Genesis 1-11, the story of the covenants begins.
· The Abrahamic Covenant promised to Abraham and His covenant descendants a land, a nation, and a blessing to extend to all nations (Genesis 12:1-3)
· The Mosaic or Sinai Covenant gave Israel the law, the sacrifices, and the choice of blessing or curse (Exodus 19)
· The Davidic Covenant that promised an everlasting dynasty, a perfect ruler, and the Promised Messiah (2 Samuel 7)
· God’s plan of redemption through the covenants is completed and perfected in the New Covenant. Over the span of Old Testament passages that announce the new covenant (especially Ezekiel 11:16-20, 36:16-28, and Eze 37:21-28), we see the promises of gathered Israel, of cleansing and spiritual transformation, and the reign of the Messiah. . . The writer to the Hebrews quotes this passage and develops the theme of the new covenant, especially in contrast to the old (Hebrews 8:8, 8:13, 9:15, and Heb 12:14).
b. (:33) Heart of the New Covenant Based on Internal Law Rather Than External
“‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”
Constable: Instead of God’s law being external to them, the Lord would write it on their heart (i.e., mind and will; cf. Jeremiah 17:1). He will do something for them that they cannot do for themselves (cf. Deuteronomy 30:5-6). “Writing on the heart” suggests the removal of written documents and merely human mediators. Having the Lord’s Word in the heart prevents sin and fosters obedience (cf. Deuteronomy 11:18; Psalm 119:11).
Wiersbe: The New Covenant is inward so that God’s Law is written on the heart and not on stone tablets . . . The emphasis is personal rather than national, with each person putting faith in the Lord and receiving a “new heart” and with it a new disposition towards godliness. The Old Covenant tried to control conduct, but the New Covenant changes character so that people can love the Lord and one another and want to obey God’s will.
c. (:34) Relationship of the New Covenant Based on Forgiveness of Sins Rather Than Covering of Sin
“‘They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’”
Thompson: The word know here probably carries its most profound connotation, the intimate personal knowledge which arises between two persons who are committed wholly to one another in a relationship that touches mind, emotion, and will. In such a relationship the past is forgiven and forgotten.
Longman: The fact that he will not remember their sins does not mean that God will erase his memory of them. To remember is to act upon something. To not remember is to not act upon it. He will not treat them as if they are sinners.
2. (:35-37) Covenant Commitment Affirmed
a. (:35) Sovereignty of God
“Thus says the LORD,
Who gives the sun for light by day
And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
The LORD of hosts is His name:”
b. (:36-37) Surety of Covenant
1) (:36) Permanence of Covenant Based on Natural Order in Creation
“‘If this fixed order departs
From before Me,’ declares the LORD,
‘Then the offspring of Israel also will cease
From being a nation before Me forever.’”
Guzik: The message from God is both powerful and plain. God will stop thinking of and dealing with Israel as a nation when the sun, moon, and stars stop giving light and when the sea stops roaring. As long as those things continue, God will regard Israel as a nation before Him forever.
2) (:37) Permanence of Covenant Based on Infinite Scope of Creation
“Thus says the LORD,
‘If the heavens above can be measured
And the foundations of the earth searched out below,
Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel
For all that they have done,’ declares the LORD.”
C. (:38-40) Restored Capital for the Nation
1. (:38) Physical Capital City Rebuilt
“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when the city will be rebuilt for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.’”
Guzik: God announced that the literal city of Jerusalem would be rebuilt, using specific geographic markers to clearly explain that He intended that literal, material Jerusalem be understood and not symbolic or spiritual Jerusalem.
2. (:39) Physical Boundaries Defined
“The measuring line will go out farther straight ahead to the hill Gareb; then it will turn to Goah.”
3. (:40) Permanent Dedication as Holy to the Lord
“And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the LORD; it will not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.”
Constable: The whole new, enlarged city would be devoted to Yahweh, and it would never experience invasion or overthrow again. The valley of the dead bodies probably refers to the Hinnom Valley to Jerusalem’s south and west (cf. Jeremiah 7:31). The Kidron Brook lay on Jerusalem’s east side, and the Horse Gate stood at the southeast corner of the city wall and led out to the Kidron Valley. What had formerly been unclean land, full of dead bodies, would be holy to the Lord. The city’s change in character would be even more remarkable than its change in size.