It was a word that either came to Jeremiah in his sleep or brought him peace that prompted a measure of good sleep (Jer. 31:26) – tidings of comfort while on the verge of calamity. The Babylonian siege was reaching its end, which meant that so was the nation of Judah’s ability to sustain life and prevent invasion. And it was at that time, when the landscape of life looked bleak, and Babylonian forces were on the brink of besieging Jerusalem, that God spoke great promises of incredible hope. Such is why this portion of Jeremiah, particularly chapters 30 through 33, are known as the ‘Book of Consolation.’ So while there have been some portions in the previous chapters of Jeremiah that have communicated hope (i.e. Jer. 3:15-18; 23:5-6), what comes in these chapters is, if you will, a tidal wave of hope, with promises that would have both near and far fulfillments, promises of restoration spatially and regeneration spiritually.
Now, there is quite a bit to say in a little amount of space. For starters, while there are differing opinions concerning the breadth of the promises in this chapter, I would recommend that if the literal sense makes sense seek no other sense. Yes, I know that quaint (yet helpful) saying does not address all of the nuances of various interpretive contexts and all of the literary genres found in Scripture; yet, I think it is helpful in providing a baseline of hermeneutic philosophy that provides protection from spiritualizing things that were intended to be understood literally. Such a preface is pertinent as we come to the ‘Book of Consolation’ because here we find words that were intended to bring comfort to displaced Jewish exiles, but also words that appear to point to a future deliverance far greater than the kind they would experience when the seventy years of captivity were fulfilled.
Consider, first, how the language of this chapter would have brought great comfort and hope to the exiles. Yes, Jeremiah described hearing “a voice of trembling, of fear, and not peace” (Jer. 31:5); he saw men in such great pain that it looked as though they were in labor (vs.6); and he described that day as being “great, so that none is like it” (vs.7a). He identified it as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (vs.7b); but even though Jacob would go through it God said, “he shall be saved out of it” (vs.7c emphasis added). Even though 586 B.C. was not the apex of Jacob’s troubles (see Dan. 12:1; Mt. 24:21), the people would be able to relate to the picture Jeremiah painted.
But Jeremiah did not belabor the tribulation, God instead instructed him to declare words of great consolation. Even though Jacob’s wound was incurable by human standards (vs.12) God promised them a divine cure: “For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds” (vs.17a). Yes, they were “wounded…with the wound of an enemy…for the multitude of [their] iniquities” (vs.14) yet God told them, “all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity” (vs.16a).
And the tidings of comfort were not finished. The LORD promised to bring back the captivity of Jacob’s tents (vs.18b); the city they loved would be rebuilt, as would the palace (vs.18c); out of the city and palace would proceed thanksgiving and joy (vs.19a); the people would be many, multiplied, and honored (vs.19c); children would flourish as they did in better days gone by (vs.20b); nobles would be among the people and a governor would rise from among them (vs.21a); and greatest of all, God told them – “You shall be My people, and I will be your God” (vs.22). And even if they didn’t get it right away, “in the latter days [they would] consider it” (vs.24b). Imagine how this message would have, could have, and should have brought hope to those who were in captivity. The people should have said like the Psalmist – “This is my comfort in my affliction, for your Word has given me life” (Ps. 119:50). Better times were coming. And God wanted His people to know that. He isn’t identified as the God of all comfort for no reason (cf. 2 Cor. 1:3). He has always had a keen interest in soothing the heartache of His people (Isa. 40:1-2). And even today, whether your circumstances are good, bad, or somewhere in between, if you are in Christ, better days are coming for you too.
But the better days of Jeremiah 30 do not appear limited to 538 B.C. After all, the return from exile did not result in perpetual independence (cf. Jer. 30:8 – “foreigners shall no longer enslave them”). Recall the words of Nehemiah’s post-exile prayer: “Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers…here we are, servants in it! And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, because of our sins; also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle…” (Neh. 9:36-37). Furthermore, Judah and Israel have yet to serve under another Davidic king since that time (cf. Jer. 30:9); and, as noted earlier, there was coming a time of even greater trouble for Jacob than the kind they experienced in 586 B.C. – but God would protect them through it and lead them to repentance and restoration at the end of it.
And so, before we conclude, here comes a brief, by no means comprehensive, synopsis of what I think is the most appropriate way to interpret the ultimate fulfillment of the promises of restoration found in the ‘Book of Consolation’ (Jer. 30-34). Although Jesus came to His own (i.e. the Jewish people) and His own by and large rejected Him (Jn. 1:11), one day, in a genuine way coterminous with their conversion, they will say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD” (Mt. 23:39). It’s at that point, when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, that spiritual blindness will go away (Rom. 11:25). The Deliverer will appear out of Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob (vs.26). And with Israel’s national repentance would come the days of refreshing (Acts. 3:19; cf. Jer. 3:15-18), the kingdom’s restoration (Acts 1:6), and days where they will have rest and no one shall make them afraid (Jer. 30:10b) for a complete end will be made of the nations to whence they were scattered (Jer. 30:11a). And as far as the land, Jesus said that Jerusalem would be trampled under the feet of Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Lk. 21:24). The people who were scattered literally would be gathered literally; back to the land of Israel; and not just from Babylon but from the four corners of the earth (Isa. 11:11-12). And there, in Jerusalem, Jesus will reign (Zech. 14:9-11), the apostles will have special arenas of jurisdiction over the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28), perhaps even David as well (cf. Jer. 30:9), along with those who, by God’s grace, have overcome (Rev. 3:21). And so, there will come a time when the city that was overthrown by the Babylonians, and overthrown by the Romans, will “not be plucked up or thrown down anymore forever” (Jer. 31:40b).
And while Christians may differ on the details of eschatological fulfillment one of the many points of agreement is this – better days are coming because Jesus Christ is returning. Comfort one another with such tidings (cf. 1 Thes. 4:18). The God of all comfort commands it.