15 Thus says the Lord: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” 16 Thus says the Lord: “Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. 17 There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border.” (Jeremiah 31:15–17, NKJV)
The horrors of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (586 B.C.) and exile were followed by a remnant of the people returning to their land (Ezra 1-2). God gave hope to the exiled people through Jeremiah, assuring them their “work shall be rewarded” and “your children shall come back to their own border.” It is telling the Lord said their “work” would be rewarded. (See Jeremiah 29:1-11 for a description of their “work” and God’s promised reward.) Many teach any rewarded work of man is meritorious and against the purpose of God. This verse teaches otherwise. So, the “faith only” people have a problem because Jeremiah said God would reward their work. There are Messianic undertones to the passage. Matthew applied verse 15 directly to Herod’s slaughter of the young male children in Bethlehem and its districts (Matt. 2:16-18). Jesus survived that horrific event, and our hope is redemption from sin’s captivity in Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:1-2, 8-11). Works of faith do not merit the reward God promises us any more than the remnant’s faith earned their return to the land. Works of obedience show our faith in God and the hope we have in Jesus (Jas. 2:17-18; Heb. 10:36-11:1). Remember, God rewards the faithful (Heb. 11:6).
4 Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation, 5 That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, that I may glory with Your inheritance. (Psalm 106:4–5, NKJV)
God’s historic goodness toward Israel is recited in Psalm 106. From Egypt, to the wilderness, to the land of promise, and to their exile among the Gentiles, Israel repeatedly repaid God’s favor with rebellion. “Many times He delivered them; But they rebelled in their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity” (Psa. 106:43). Yet, God “regarded their affliction,” remembered His covenant when they cried to Him, and showed them mercy among their captors (Psa. 106:44-46). The unrelenting goodness of God compels us to learn from Israel and live faithfully in His blessings under the covenant of Christ. Today, the Israel of God is the church – those who are of the faith of Abraham, not of the flesh of Abraham (Gal. 6:16; 4:21-31; Rom. 2:28-29; 4:12, 16). Those who serve the Lamb of God share in His powerful victory over Satan and his cohorts, for we are “called, chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14). God offers this salvation to the world through Jesus Christ. In Christ we are the recipients of God’s grace, we gladly rejoice as His nation, and we glory in our inheritance (cf. Psa. 106:5; Eph. 1:3-7; 1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:3-4). Just as God gathered a remnant of Israel from the Gentiles, the church is gathered by the gospel as a remnant of grace from the nations. We thank God for His power and triumph in His praise (Psa. 106:47; Rom. 11:5; Isa. 11:11). Truly God’s mercy is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psa. 106:48).
And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. (Jeremiah 29:7, NKJV)
Judah was in Babylon, exiled by the Lord God because of her sinful rebellion against Him (Jeremiah 29:1, 4). In this letter to the elders of the people, God’s prophet instructed them to build houses, plant gardens, maintain their families, and be at peace with those who ruled over them. Like them, we live in a strange land as we live for heaven. In times of societal distress we are tempted to become militant against unrighteous governing powers, forgetting that God rules over every nation (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:17). During times of peace as well as turbulence, Christians supplicate heaven, giving thanks and praying “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:2). While the mobs gather, we live for a better country, a heavenly one. Instead of repaying evil for evil, “have regard for good things in the sight of all men” so that, “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17-18). In His time, God rights every wrong with just vengeance (Romans 12:19). We are to promote peace in righteousness. That is what sojourners do while living in a foreign land (1 Peter 2:11-12).
22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:22–24, NKJV)
The army of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem with horrific proficiency (1 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; Lamentations 2). By this drastic action, God punished His rebellious people. Yet, He did not completely destroy the nation (Jeremiah 5:18). He remained true to His justice, mercy and faithfulness. After seventy years of exile, a remnant of Israel returned to their land (Jeremiah 29:10-14; Ezra 1). As Jeremiah lamented over Jerusalem, his hope was renewed as he remembered the great faithfulness of the Lord. Instead of pridefully trusting in the power of a nation, the pleasures of sin and the wisdom of oneself, our hope must be set on God. He is the Giver and Sustainer of life, and our only hope of salvation. Even in the darkest hour, our faith is secure in Him. He comforts the faithful with these words: “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6). God accomplishes His word; Great is His faithfulness! Remain faithful to Him today, and every day.
1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, 3 and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.” (Psalm 107:1–3, NKJV)
As the Psalmist described God’s beneficent mercy, he implores his readers to give thanks to Him because He is good. God promised to return a remnant of His people from the exile into which He sent them as a punishment for their sins (Deut. 28:62-68; Jer. 25:11; 29:10). Under the proclamation of Cyrus, king of Persia, God fulfilled His word, redeeming His faithful remnant from their enemy (Isa. 10:21-22; 2 Chron. 36:22-23). The return from Babylonian captivity prefigured the greater redemption of the “remnant according to the election of grace” that is accomplished by the gospel of Jesus Christ (Isa. 11:11-12; Rom. 11:5). Oh yes, God is good. His goodness offers sinners merciful redemption from sin’s bondage. God is gathering sinners unto Himself by means of the gospel. Trust and obey Jesus. Obtain His mercy. Live in His goodness (Acts 2:36-41). Give thanks to the Lord!
2 “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” ’ ” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” 5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! 6 “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” 7 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:2–7)
The punishment of exile had past. God had returned a remnant of Israel from Babylon to Jerusalem. Now it was time to rebuild the temple, the house of God. But, the people delayed. They were more concerned with building their own houses. Their comfort came before God’s honor! God was not pleased and Israel did not receive a full measure of blessings. The lesson for us is clear. We must consider our ways and align our lives with the purposes of God. God’s people will not flourish as they could and should unless and until He has first place in their hearts and lives. As this year fades and another is on the horizon, consider your ways and bring them into agreement with God’s way, revealed in His Son, Jesus (Heb. 1:1-2; Jno. 14:6).