For the Love of God, Volume 2/August 3

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By D.A. Carson About Devotional Life
Chapter 215 of the book For the Love of God, Volume 2


Judges 17; Acts 21; Jeremiah 30—31; Mark 16

JEREMIAH 30—31 INTERRUPTS THE biographical material on Jeremiah with a group of utterances about the restoration of Israel and Judah. Sometimes both of the kingdoms are named (30:3); sometimes both are subsumed under “Jacob” (30:7) or “Israel” (30:10; 31:1). As in the prophecy of Isaiah, only the context determines whether “Israel” refers to the northern kingdom, already in exile for more than a century, or to all of “Jacob” (or, more precisely, that part that hears and returns to the land). The “incurable” wound and “injury beyond healing” that they have suffered is the result of their sin (30:12-14)—an invariable reality this side of the Fall. “‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” (30:17). Two high points:

(1) Jeremiah 31:15: Rachel, one of the matriarchs, whose tomb was near Ramah about five miles north of Jerusalem (1 Sam. 10:2-3; Josh. 18:25), is here pictured weeping for her “children” who were transported in 722 B.C. (when the northern tribes went into exile) and again in 587 (when what was left of the southern kingdom was transported, Jer. 40:1). Matthew 2:17-18 insists these words are “fulfilled” (typologically) when mothers weep again in the wake of the slaughter of the innocents connected with Jesus’ birth. For although the exiles returned to Jerusalem during the Persian period, the most magnificent features surrounding the end of the exile did not begin to unfold until the coming of the Messiah.

(2) Jeremiah 31:29ff.: This promise of a new covenant is extraordinarily penetrating. Because of the tribal, representative nature of the old covenant, the people had coined a proverb: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (31:29). Under the Mosaic covenant, special people— prophets, priests, kings, and a few other individuals—were especially endowed with the Spirit, and had the task of representing the people to God, and God to the people. “Know the Lord,” they exhorted them. And because of this tribal, representative structure, when the leaders fell into sin (“have eaten sour grapes”), the entire nation fell into corruption and suffered destruction (“the children’s teeth are set on edge”). But under the new covenant the proverb will no longer apply (31:30ff.). All those under the new covenant will know the Lord: God will put his law in their minds and write it on their hearts (31:33). There will no longer be mediating teachers, for all will know him (31:34); teachers will merely be part of the body, not mediators with an “inside” knowledge of God. And the forgiveness of sins will be absolute (31:34).

Identify where these themes are picked up in the New Testament.

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