TODAY’S READING: Jeremiah 30–31
The world has long mirrored Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7). God’s original covenant with Abraham and sons was simple in its conditions and promises: God would be their God if they would be His people. God would live among them and bless them if they lived holy lives honoring Him. God’s blessing would continue and grow if His people passed on that blessing to all the peoples of earth. If any of these conditions were violated, as they were, the covenant was null and void.
Mercifully, the God of the Bible continually devises ways to bring His lost ones home, to save them. Israel broke covenant, did not bless all nations, lost the presence of God, and lost His blessing with the consequence of being sent into exile in chains. Through Jeremiah, Israel was told that God would burst their bonds, give them rest and quiet, glorify them that they be not small, give them the dignity of freedom, be their God, give them grace, and love them everlastingly (30:8, 10, 19, 21–22; 31:2, 3). All these mercies would be performed in the sight of the nations in a public display of God’s glad salvation (30:11; 31:7). God dramatically re-covenants with His chosen before all peoples saying: “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles far off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock’” (31:10).
Why the public display of Israel, both their initial covenant, their punishment, and the new covenant ransom? Because whatever God does to His people, He intends to do through His people. God’s heart has always been for all His children. God chose the weakest and most foolish of all His sons to display His glory so that all His variegated brood would marvel: If God did that for the runt, He will surely do it for us! Israelite exceptionalism is simply this: What God does for Israel, He will do for the whole earth, for every people. God’s mercy on Israel is advance notice on what He will do for all nations. The Baloch of Oman can read the biblical record and watch the prophetic word be fulfilled with great surges of joy and hope—for what God does to Israel, He does as an announcement of His intentions for the whole earth!
The people of God (whether historic Israel or the Church) at rest and at war are exemplary only in what God will do to and through them, not in any way for their own merits or strength. Whenever we are blessed, favored, chosen, anointed, used, empowered, or commissioned by God, we should rejoice with a sober sense of reality and remind ourselves: “I am mercied because I am weak and foolish. I am made an example of, so that the nations may hope. For what God does in wicked, fallen, foolish me, He can and will do in all peoples!”