One of the greatest mysteries of the Old Testament involved the reconciliation of the justice and the mercy of the Almighty. God would certainly send forth the fury of His wrath upon the wicked. How then could He forgive His people and restore their fortunes, since they deserved His punishment? Jeremiah 30 ends with this answer: “In the latter days you will understand this.”
Before the appearing of the Son of God and His death on the cross, it was very difficult to comprehend what the solution to this dilemma might be. But now we live in those “latter days,” for the Son of God has come, and the Spirit of God has been poured out upon the church. In the shining light of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, we can honestly say that we do “understand this,” and it is very good news.
God instructed Jeremiah to write down His divine message for our benefit. In this book of prophecies, Jeremiah was to record for posterity all that God had spoken to him. This included an announcement of a great future time of blessed living for people that were about to go off into captivity, people who would hear of the destruction of their city and the defilement of everything that they considered holy. Before the siege of Jerusalem had even taken place, Jeremiah was recording the message of a bountiful restoration after a limited time of divine discipline.
How bad would the trouble be for Judah? Men would be in such pain of soul over the destruction all around them that they would be compared with women in labor. It would be a day of great distress.
When a woman is in labor, eventually the baby is delivered. In due time the mother may forget the pain she experienced because of the overwhelming pleasure of the gift of a new child. Would there be any happiness for God’s people that could more than compensate for their horrible losses?
Yes, a day would come when the yoke of foreign powers over the Lord’s people would be broken. They would serve the Lord God, and “David” their king. Imagine the satisfaction of being gathered from the nations to which they were once scattered! When Judah’s time of correction was completed, God would eventually bring the other nations to an end that He had used as agents of discipline against Judah.
Are we supposed to assume that God’s kindness to His people was on account of their moral superiority over their oppressors? No, it was clear that God’s own people had a wound that was incurable. Nonetheless the Lord would heal them.
This recovery would not be a meager restoration. Even the return of the people from Babylon was not enough of a blessing to be the complete fulfillment of all the great things that God promised through Jeremiah. Yes, the temple would be rebuilt and even the palace of the king would again be seen. More than that, Jerusalem would be filled with celebration. There would be great fruitfulness and growth. The people would be a congregation of worshipers. They would have a ruler from their midst who would draw near to God. Best of all, this communion with the Almighty would not only be for the king, but for all His subjects, for the Lord promised that they would be His people, and He would be their God.
Despite these wonderful pronouncements, the storm of God’s wrath would go forth and burst upon the heads of the wicked. The fierce anger of the Lord would not turn back until His righteous anger was expressed. Knowing that we might be confused about this, God reassured us that one day we would understand.
That day has now come. The Lord has provided a Lamb to stand in our place. The perfect sacrifice was offered when Jesus took the fullness of His Father’s wrath for us, so that we who are recipients of His kind mercy could receive a joy so abundant that the celebration would begin even now. God has healed what could not be mended by mankind. He did this through the miracle of the gift of His Son. Through Him and through Him alone, God is able to be both just (punishing sin) and the Justifier of him who has faith in Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:26) It is only through the cross of Christ that the mystery of the Old Testament is solved. The day of understanding has come for the people of God. Even now we are enabled to enter into the joy of our Father’s heaven through hope in the sure promise of the Lord.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
O Lord, God of Israel, when will You restore the fortunes of Your church? We live in fear and distress, yet You will save us out of every trouble. If we are far away, You will draw us back. If we are near in body, but far away in spirit, You are able to bring us home. If we face the strongest enemies, You will still restore us by Your compassion. There is no enemy who can destroy us. We thank You for the Ruler of the Church, for He is our strength. He will accomplish all the intentions of His heart.