Reader: “I will turn their mourning into joy.”
Response: “I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.”
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:7-14
Now this is what the Lord says:
“Sing with joy for Israel.
Shout for the greatest of nations!
Shout out with praise and joy:
‘Save your people, O Lord,
the remnant of Israel!’
For I will bring them from the north
and from the distant corners of the earth.
I will not forget the blind and lame,
the expectant mothers and women in labor.
A great company will return!
Tears of joy will stream down their faces,
and I will lead them home with great care.
They will walk beside quiet streams
and on smooth paths where they will not stumble.
For I am Israel’s father,
and Ephraim is my oldest child.
“Listen to this message from the Lord,
you nations of the world;
proclaim it in distant coastlands:
The Lord, who scattered his people,
will gather them and watch over them
as a shepherd does his flock.
For the Lord has redeemed Israel
from those too strong for them.
They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem.
They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts—
the abundant crops of grain, new wine, and olive oil,
and the healthy flocks and herds.
Their life will be like a watered garden,
and all their sorrows will be gone.
The young women will dance for joy,
and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration.
I will turn their mourning into joy.
I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.
The priests will enjoy abundance,
and my people will feast on my good gifts.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
These are tough days in our world wherever you live. It is so important to remember what is absolutely true―God will ultimately bring complete restoration to his people. We turn to Jeremiah for encouragement. Known as the “weeping” prophet, his message of repentance and turning to the Lord was never received by the people even once in forty years! Talk about being discouraged! For Israel was rebellious, forsaking God and chasing all forms of idolatry. And God brought a heavy judgment upon the people and sent them into exile as a result. Jeremiah had to endure it all as he lived among the people. While the Bible doesn’t tell us how he died, tradition tells us that he was stoned by his own people, the Jews in Egypt.
But God promised to love his people with an everlasting love. Eventually, he brought together his people from the four corners of the world back to their homeland to rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. This occurred in 539-538 B.C. But in 70 A.D. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans and the nation once again scattered over the following centuries. It was not until 1948 that the nation of Israel was reborn.
While Jeremiah’s words applied to the situation in his day, there is an element of these words that speaks to our day. Like the rebellious Israelites we too are in a kind of exile, an exile from the Lord in our nations and in our cultures. The world around us has clearly rejected anything having to do with God, his truth, his Son. But make no mistake, “The Lord, who scattered his people, will gather them and watch over them as a shepherd does his flock.” Note the all-encompassing joy in the last half of today’s reading. The Lord has promised there is coming a day when the grief, evil, hatred, rebellion, lawlessness, immorality of our world will end. There will be no more sorrow, sickness, or sin for God will live in the midst of his people and there will be everlasting joy in his presence. The sheep and the goats will be separated in judgment and our Savior Jesus Christ will reign forever and ever. Be encouraged, this day will surely come to pass for “I, the Lord, have spoken!” May the song you are about to hear be our song for the coming year!
Music: “Everywhere I Go, Somebody Talkin’ ‘bout Jesus” Chanticleer
Father Almighty and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks. For from the beginning to the end of days you are the eternal Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But at this season we thank and praise you because through love for us men, the eternal Son came down in humility. Eternal Wisdom became a child in time. He dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only-begotten Son. He took upon him our weakness and shame that he might give to us his own splendor. He shone for a little while in our darkness, that we might forever dwell with him in light. He has not left us lonely in the midst of time but is ever with us through the power of his Spirit to govern, to inspire, and to save. Therefore, in joyful hope of his coming again with the universal Church, and with all the company of heaven we praise you in the angels’ hymn, “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might . . . ―Prayers for Sunday Services, p.63.