Scripture: Jeremiah 33:10-16
10 “This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more 11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,
“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty,
for the Lord is good;
his love endures forever.”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.
12 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks. 13 In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them,’ says the Lord.
14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15 “‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which itwill be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’
Theme- We live in anticipation of God’s completed work in the world.
- Jeremiah and many others still live in Jerusalem, why does he repeatedly talk about desolate towns without people and without animals?
- Why does Jeremiah use so much shepherding imagery in verses 12-13?
- What can we take away from Jeremiah’s prophecy of a restored Judah and Jerusalem that would provide us with hope for tomorrow?
The phrase “without people or animals” probably suggests that these areas have been forcibly cleared of inhabitants. The contrast of the passage is between God who wants to bring life and abundance and humanity which brings death and desolation.
The mention of weddings in v11 points to a restoration of social life indicating that every element of communal life has been disrupted.
The imagery of shepherds may reflect God’s care for the people, and may also reflect a community that is so stable that people and animals will be safe far from city walls.
It is one thing to make statements about God it is quite another thing to live them out. Jeremiah lived in a time when Babylon was literally on the doorstep, the desolation and destruction that he describes in verse 10 is a bitter reality. Yet, in the midst of this destruction Jeremiah portrays God as present and planning to rebuild Judah and Jerusalem. Jeremiah describes a day when the kingdom will be restored and the new king will reign in truth and justice. The picture the prophet uses is idyllic, cities brimming with life and joy, a bounteous and peaceful countryside, and a government ruling in justice. Further, this blissful picture—particularly the shepherds resting their flocks—provides a picture of a place where God is completely and directly governing the people who are living in the rich restoration. We, 2,500 years in the future, can see some solace in Jeremiah’s words; even if not everything played out exactly as this picture anticipates, Judah did return to inhabit the land and a level of peace and security did return. On one hand it is difficult to see the bright side when life looks bleak, and it becomes tempting to praise Jeremiah for being an optimist in tough times. Another angle is to say that Jeremiah can say whatever he wants because he understands neither he nor anyone else should rightly expect to live to see this happen. By this standard we can simply brush off Jeremiah as a pie in the sky dreamer who is making promises, he has no way to make happen. But neither of these is an accurate interpretation of what Jeremiah is doing nor do they lead to proper responses to his prophecy.
Jeremiah, in chapters 30-33, records a picture of the future that he believes God revealed to him, a future reality that God fully intends to bring about. Jeremiah is expressing his hope—his expectation that a future event will happen. Jeremiah’s hope is built on his belief that God is both willing and able to act in human history to transform civilization for the better. Jeremiah’s vision is not simply to lift the spirits of those around him, it is a challenge to them to change. It would be easy to hear Jeremiah’s words and relax waiting for this day to magically arrive, but Jeremiah intends his listeners to actively anticipate this future by preparing to live in in a world where God’s peace and justice are the rule of the day. Jeremiah intends his audience to understand that the death and destruction brought upon them by Babylon are only temporary, but he does not want them to stop there. The prophet is not speaking to cheer up the crestfallen, he is rallying them to recommit to living lives guided by God and this becomes a greater challenge to the people who will no longer be living in the relative comfort of Judah. Jeremiah’s audience is not going to be living in a culture focused around God’s temple with priests and leaders—at least nominally—calling for obedience to God. These refugees are being called to live faithfully to God as a minority with few rights and privileges in their new home. Jeremiah is asking the people to increase their faithfulness in a situation that will be much less conducive to their beliefs. Jeremiah’s call to hope is a serious call to live in a way that is more dedicated to God than what the audience has been accustomed.
Sunday marks the beginning of the liturgical year with Advent, we light the first candle of the advent wreath as a sign of hope and expectation of Jesus’ coming. We remember Jesus’ first advent and anticipate his second advent, and in this anticipation, we step into the shoes of Jeremiah and Judah. We expect Jesus to return our hope is grounded on this future reality. Because our lives are based on this future reality, we construct our lives according to expectation that Jesus will return and that his kingdom will be fully realized. In doing this we begin, like Jeremiah, to focus more deeply on conforming to God’s peace and justice. Advent is a time of self-examination, asking ourselves if we are ready for Jesus’ return and if our lives are reflecting his values into the world. Are we promoting peace, justice, mercy, hospitality, generosity and compassion the way Jesus would in this world. In short, are we anticipating Jesus’ return by preparing to live in his eternal kingdom?