“For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.’
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labour, together; a great company, they shall return here.” (Jeremiah 31:7-8)
The themes we were introduced to in Advent and Christmas, renewal and re-commitment to God continue throughout the who lectionary year. Because God has in the past promised to save and deliver the Lord’s people, we can feel confident that if we call on God, God will save us also.
“With weeping they shall come, and with consolations[a] I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:9)
The people of Israel wandered away from God many times, and whatever mess they got into, God set about bringing them back.
“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coast lands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.(Jeremiah 31:10-12)
Whatever you think you have lost, beloved reader, will be restored to you. Well, maybe not restored in the way you think it will. The writer of Jeremiah wrote this as the words of God and as a promise to God’s people. But if you would do a careful accounting of material things, then maybe not all was restored to them. But we have been told, and we know it as a truth, that we should not place value on material things. What then, you may ask, do we have to look forward to?
“Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:13-14)
I don’t know about you, beloved reader, but I would trade in my material possessions for the Lord’s bounty – joy instead of mourning, and gladness instead of sorrow!
“Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.
He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down hail like crumbs— who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances.
Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 147:12-20)
In the Revised Common Lectionary the Psalm passage often functions as simply an praise exuberance. It is a glad voice and chorus raised up to God that may not be specifically applicable to our own situation; but is usually pretty good about matching to the Old Testament reading. I think you can see when you read Psalm 147 that what is being given thanksgiving for is what was promised in the passage from Jeremiah. One thing I want to point out, however, is that this told as being exclusive to God’s people, Israel. If one knows God’s ordinances, though, you can assume that person is part of the family of God. And the family of God is throughout the world. That is one of the other wondrous things about the Revised Common Lectionary; it is used throughout the world and binds us together as God’s people. Selah!