Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jeremiah 30: You will be my people and I will be your God

The phrase "you will be my people and I will be your God" is a popular one in the Bible. The phrase is a popular one with Jeremiah as he uses it six times! The expression (or rather equivalent expression) is first found in the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 17,
5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.
6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.
7 I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.
8 I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (Gen. 17:5-8).

Verse eight will find fulfillment in the Messianic Kingdom on earth. Dr. Matthew Henry writes, "All the privileges of the covenant, all its joys and all its hopes, are summed up in this. A man needs desire no more than this to make him happy. What God is himself, that he will be to his people: his wisdom theirs, to guide and counsel them; his power theirs, to protect and support them; his goodness theirs, to supply and comfort them. What faithful worshippers can expect from the God they serve believers shall find in God as theirs." 

The Usage of the Phrase in Jeremiah
Since out of the fourteen times the expression is used in the Bible, Jeremiah uses it six times! The first time this phrase is used in Jeremiah is in 7:23. In this passage the Lord reminds the nation Israel of what He told them after their release from bondage, but they did not listen.
22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.
23 "But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’
24 "Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward.
25 "Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them.
26 "Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers.
27 "You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you.
28 "You shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God or accept correction; truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.
Jeremiah uses a quote from Deuteronomy 6:3 which contains a promise of "a land flowing with milk and honey" (cf. Ex. 3:8). The nation did not heed the word of the Lord and obey, because in their stubbornness, they walked in their own counsels (Jer. 7:24). Since the nation would not listen, they were all told to cut off their hair and clip their beard - a sign of lamentation. So, Jeremiah cut off his hair (Jer. 48:37). In his famous Temple Sermon (7:1-8:3), Jeremiah recalls Israel’s history and corrects their temple superstition and empty formalism, calling them substitutes for true religion.

The "Temple Sermon" contrasts with the "Book of Hope" (Jer. 30-33), where a new day would see a return to the land in peace and they would see and experience life with the true and living God. A return to the land that will be flowing with milk and honey. A metaphor for abundance in the land. After all, God’s words are said to be "sweeter than honey to the mouth" (Ps. 119:103).

Again in Jeremiah 11:4 we read,
2 Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
3 and say to them, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, Cursed is the man who does not heed the words of this covenant
4 which I commanded your forefathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, ‘Listen to My voice, and do according to all which I command you; so you shall be My people, and I will be your God,’
5 in order to confirm the oath which I swore to your forefathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then I said, "Amen, O LORD."
It is here that Jeremiah reminds Judah of the consequences of covenant violation described in Leviticus 26:3 and Deuteronomy 4:20. Cursed is the one who does not heed the words of the covenant. That is, obey the words of the Lord that He spoke to their "forefathers" at the time of their rescue from Egyptian bondage. A sign of conformation is the land covenant which provides a land "flowing with milk and honey," the land they still possessed. Dr. Hannah writes, "The phrase a land flowing with milk means that Canaan was ideal for raising goats and cows. Feeding on good pastureland the goats, sheep, and cows were full of milk. Flowing with honey means that the bees were busy making honey. Milk and honey suggest agricultural prosperity." The nations gave credit to false gods for their prosperity, and they worshiped idols with the pagans.
In chapter twenty-four, the Lord moves to a prophetical section contained in four specific prophecies of judgment (chapters 21-25). In 24:7 Jeremiah writes,
5 Thus says the LORD God of Israel, Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans.
6 For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up.
7 I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.
After describing the contrast between the godless leaders and the Messiah king in chapter twenty-three. Jeremiah moves to the parable of the good and bad figs. The good figs are to be taken into captivity for their own good (24:5), but will return to the land (24:6). Then, the Lord will give them [the good figs and all the exiles] a heart "to know Me." Dr. Feinberg says, "The word ‘good’ refers not to the character of the exiles but to their circumstances. They were not taken to Babylon for their piety and godliness. But the Lord promised them that he would look with favor on them (v. 6)." This promise will occur at the end of the Tribulation and have its ultimate fulfillment in the millennial kingdom.
In Jeremiah 30:18-22, the Lord says to Jeremiah,
18 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob And have compassion on his dwelling places; And the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, And the palace will stand on its rightful place.
19 ‘From them will proceed thanksgiving And the voice of those who celebrate; And I will multiply them and they will not be diminished; I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant.
20 ‘Their children also will be as formerly, And their congregation shall be established before Me; And I will punish all their oppressors.
21 ‘Their leader shall be one of them, And their ruler shall come forth from their midst; And I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; For who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?’ declares the LORD.
22 ‘You shall be My people, And I will be your God.’
It is clear that the context of verse twenty-two is the restored millennial kingdom. Indeed, when the Lord speaks of His people Israel as being His people and He being their God, it will have its ultimate fulfillment in the kingdom.
In Jeremiah 31:33, this phrase is again repeated, but here it is repeated with reference to a "new covenant!"
31 "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.
33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Here, the Lord tells the people that the reality of the phrase "I will be their God, and they shall be My people" will occur when He, Himself puts His law within them – on their hearts! The heart is the word used to describe who a person is; it defines a person, what motivates him or her into action. If emotion is involved, it will bring about the will resulting in motion or movement. The heart defines one’s very being, one’s life! It is God who does this. It is He who accomplishes this work! At the time of Jeremiah’s writing, the nation is said to be "With a diamond point it [Judah’s sin] is engraved upon the tablet of their heart" (Jer. 17:1). What a contrast to have sin removed and replaced with the law of God!
What is important in chapter thirty-one is that this is the great New-Covenant chapter. The New Covenant is an extension to the Abrahamic Covenant. The first time the phrase is uses is in the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis chapter seventeen.
In Jeremiah 32:38, again the context of the phrase is with reference to the Lord causing the relationship between Him and the people to be defined as "My people." Thus characterizing their fear or reverence of Him.
37 Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety.
38 They shall be My people, and I will be their God;
39 and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them.
And again the context is a new covenant! It is within this new covenant that in the future for both Judah and Israel (the two representing the whole - the twelve tribes) will find fulfillment. The ultimate fulfillment of this phrase involves the land of Canaan, a people – Israel (collectively – made up of the twelve tribes, but brought back together as one), and a special relationship with God in a kingdom characterized by peace, prosperity, safety, and His word!

The first time the phrase is used in the Bible is in Genesis 17:8. Here, the Lord details the great Abrahamic Covenant. A covenant that is eternal and unconditional (Gen. 17:7). This contrasts with the covenant that Jeremiah said was broken, the Mosaic covenant given to the people as they came out of Egypt. In the Abrahamic covenant, they are promised a land that would be an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:8), and that He "would be their God!" The sign of the Abrahamic covenant is circumcision, the cutting off of the male foreskin, probably a foreshadowing of the cutting off of the "foreskins" of their heart (Jer. 4:4)! In fact, in Jeremiah’s day, it is said "all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart" (Jer. 9:26; cf. Acts 7:51; 2 Cor. 3:15)! The idea of foreskin on the heart and its removal is likened to eyes being opened (Eph. 1:18), and hence the new covenant realization of a new heart, a picture of salvation!

The context is the Abrahamic covenant, an unconditional, eternal covenant that will find ultimate fulfillment in the millennial kingdom! Then, along with the book of Jeremiah, the prophet Ezekiel contains the phrase in 11:20; 36:28; 37:23; 27. Finally, the Old Testament testifies this truth in Zech. 8:8. All of these speak of a future fulfillment.
In the New Testament, the phrase is found in 2 Cor. 6:16, and Heb. 8:10. Both quoting from the Old Testament and both seeing fulfillment, not in the present, but in the future, when the Lord "will walk among them," a clear expression of the millennial reign of the Messiah.