Week of Aug. 19: Restoration as a result of God's faithfulness
Lesson for the week of August 19
Scripture: Jeremiah 23:1-6; 33:14-18
By Kim Reindl
Opening question: Have you ever experienced a time in life when you felt so lost that you could not imagine a way out of your situation? A time when you did not know what to do? A time when it was difficult to imagine hope for the future?
A fact of life is that everyone will experience periods in life of feeling lost or hopeless. This may be referred to as a “wilderness” or “desert” experience. It’s a time in life when the people, places, circumstances, and/or traditions of our normal existence are somehow distorted or removed. Such experiences may be prompted by the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a period of financial hardship, the loss of a relationship, or the move to a new town or school. In the midst of such experiences we feel that the ground has been pulled out from under us. We’re not sure how or if we can stand again. What is known or familiar to us is no more. We may feel disoriented and without hope.
Today’s scripture passage takes place during a time in Israelite history often referred to by scholars as “the collapse.” The book of Jeremiah was written during the period of exile, when the southern kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians. During this period the people’s understanding of the Davidic covenant was called into question. What they considered to be an eternally established kingdom seemingly disappeared right before their eyes. As a programmatic move on the part of the Babylonians, those considered to be the “best and the brightest” of Judean society were deported to Babylon in 598 and 587 BCE. Furthermore, in 587 BCE, the unthinkable happened. With the second incursion of King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies, the Davidic dynasty was nullified, the city of Jerusalem was razed, and the temple was destroyed. Everything understood to be central to life as God’s people was no more.
The words of Jeremiah, who may be considered both poet and prophet, are offered at one of the lowest times in Israelite history. Jeremiah has made clear to the people that punishment for their sins has come at the hand of God alone. That Babylon is merely an agent of God, for God’s purposes (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6). Yet, in the midst of all the despair and destruction, Jeremiah also offers the people a promise of restoration.
The oracles found in chapters 23 and 33 of the book of Jeremiah confirm that God is a God of redemption. Jeremiah states, “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah… In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety” (Jeremiah 33:14, 16). Jeremiah reassures the people that no matter how bleak the circumstances appear, God has not deserted them. God’s character is such that God is faithful, even if the people are not.
Jeremiah’s understanding is that restoration will be made through the Davidic line, therefore honoring the covenant and moving the people beyond the present circumstances to a future with hope. Jeremiah’s promise is that “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5). Where there has been a void of righteous leadership, God will establish justice and righteousness once again.
As Christians, we understand the “righteous Branch” spoken of by Jeremiah to be Christ our Lord. Like the ancient Israelites who were not left in exile without hope for restoration, neither are we left without hope for redemption from our sins and waywardness. Through Christ we have been provided the opportunity for restored relationship with God. This opportunity is offered, not because of who we are, but rather because of who God is. In this, “the name by which he will be called [is] ‘The LORD is our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 23:6). Our hope rests in God’s mercy and forgiveness. The darkest circumstances of our lives never have the final word, because God has the final word. “Fear” and “dismay” will no longer be because in the face of human loss, God provides; in the face of human failure, God redeems!
Questions for further reflection:
• Where have you experienced God’s redemption in your own life, or seen God’s redemption in the lives of others?
• What is it about God’s character that allows you to trust in “a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)?
Kim Reindl is Chair of the Discipleship Ministry Team for the North Georgia Conference and is the founder of Pomegranate Christian Education & Formation. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.