Was the breach irreparable? Was the relationship irreconcilable? Had Israel, to use language from chapter three, backslid so far past the point of no return that any previous promises that God had made towards them or any future plans that God had for them were annulled? Not according to Jeremiah chapter three. Amidst the calls to repent and the promises of forthcoming judgment came a declarative promise of future restoration.
Listen to some of the promises that God made. He said:
“Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the Lord, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore” (vs.16).
God promised that at a future time (then it shall come to pass), when the backsliding children of Israel have repented and returned (vs.13, 14), that they would be multiplied and increased in the land. So although Babylon was coming and exile was inevitable, exile was not Israel’s ultimate destiny. The returning people would be brought back to Zion (vs.14b), they would have shepherds that would feed them with knowledge and understanding (vs.15), and they, having returned to the land, would grow and multiply in the land. But it gets better. The LORD said that the people would not say anymore, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ The restoration would be so great that the people wouldn’t long for the ark of the covenant; they wouldn’t wonder if it was still hidden somewhere on the earth, or whether it had been destroyed, or if an Indiana Jones type could retrieve it. In those days they would no longer look for the symbol of God’s presence because they would enjoy the reality. The LORD said:
“At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts” (vs.17).
This appears to point us to the end of the age; to the time when the descendent of David (Jer. 23:5a), the Messiah known as the “Branch of righteousness” (Jer. 23:5b), who would be the King who reigns, prospers, executes righteousness on the earth (Jer. 23:5c), and would be called by the name, “Yahweh our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6b), would be seated on the throne of Jerusalem. No wonder why at that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord. Though disputed among precious Gospel-believing brethren, it appears that little Jerusalem would become (and will become) the capital of the entire earth during the millennial era – all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord. In other words, the Gentile nations will not be at war with Jerusalem in those days. Rather they will say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob” (Isa. 2:3), and they will, “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (vs.4a). The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem will lead to peaceful conditions upon the earth. After all – no more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.
The question is – where are the Jewish people in all this? Some will contend that God, after the repeated rebellions of Israel, and ultimately after the rejection of the Messiah in the days of Jesus’ first coming, was done with restoring Israel to Himself as a nation. There are many reasons in the book of Jeremiah to disagree with such a position but here’s one: God promised,
“In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers” (vs.18).
In those days, the days when Jerusalem is called the throne of the LORD and when the ark is forgotten, there will be restoration for the people of Israel in multiple ways. I know it’s a quick look-ahead but there will be spiritual salvation and physical safety: “In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety” (Jer. 23:6a). That’s Jeremiah twenty-three but now back to chapter three. Israel and Judah will be reunited: the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel. The separation between the twelve tribes into two separate kingdoms will be over. They will be reconciled to God and to one another. And, out of the land of the north, they will go back to the land that [God] gave as an inheritance to [their] fathers.
Israel had done wickedly and the Northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians. Judah had dealt with the Lord even more treacherously (Jer. 3:11) and likewise the Babylonians would conquer them. But God’s heart, if you will, is on display, not only in the many calls for Israel to return but also in the promise that one day they would. Via the New Covenant promise yet to be disclosed in this book (Jer. 31:31-34) God promised to restore “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah” and bring about a Gospel-believing salvation on a national level that Israel has never known. And as a result, they would be restored to the land and reconciled to each other, to the nations, and to the King who sits on the throne in Jerusalem.