This chapter stands as a reminder that God was not the author of these chapter divisions. These chapter breaks were put in long after the books of the Bible were written. Many centuries after. Generally, these divisions are helpful, but can be misleading to the unwary.
Thankfully, the first verse of this chapter makes it clear that we are still within the time frame of Jeremiah 30:
“At the same time,” says the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”
So, we should consider Jeremiah 31 to be directly connected to Jeremiah 30. It’s a part of the same vision and prophecy that God gave to Jeremiah.
Moreover, this verse implies something interesting. It indicates that before this time, Yehovah was NOT the God of all the families of Israel – that there will be a time when Israel is not His people.
Looking back, it is clear that this has been the case for more than two thousand years. And, it is the case now. But, when this prophecy is fulfilled, it will no longer be the case. Some might be puzzled by this distinction. So, let’s talk about that a little bit.
When we talk about the Jews being the Chosen people, we do not mean that they are in a current state of perfect relationship with God. They aren’t, and they cannot be in perfect relationship with God without the Messiah. The Savior.
Without Jesus, the prophesied Messiah, you cannot have a relationship with God. Period.
Yet, an eternal promise was given, and a people were chosen. It’s as if there are two pieces:
When they come together, Jehovah will be the God of all the families of Israel. How that happens is what we are talking about. But, let’s get back to what Jeremiah 31 says.
The next verse refers to the terrible time prophesied in chapter 30:
2 Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness—
Israel, when I went to give him rest.”
Unfortunately, Zechariah says that only a third of those living in the Land of Israel will ‘survive the sword’ (Zech 13:8). I live in dread of this fact, but I must remind myself that God knows what He’s doing and has His reasons for why He does what He does.
The next verse clarifies God’s attitude towards the children of Jacob:
3 The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
This verse presents us with yet another translation mistake. The words, ‘of old’, should actually say, ‘from far away’ or ‘from afar’. The Hebrew word is meh-rah-hoke (מרחוק). If I want to say that something is ‘far away’, I say that it’s rah-hoke (רחוק). Rahoke has NOTHING to do with age. It’s about distance.
I consider it to be a crime that the translators of the Bible are so sloppy. If you can’t translate the Bible properly, you shouldn’t do it at all.
Yet, the meaning of the verse is still obvious and visible:
God’s love for the children of Jacob does not end, and has never ended.
Yet, they rejected Him and crucified His Son on a cross, to die for our sins. They did it in ignorance and rebellion, and have suffered terribly for that, for 2000 years. And, when the final tragedy of Jacob’s Trouble hits, only a third will have survived. Yet, the point of this chapter is that these survivors will be greatly blessed. They will receive all of what we’ll be talking about below.
So, let’s see that blessing:
4 Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!
You shall again be adorned with your tambourines,
And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.
5 You shall yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria;
The planters shall plant and eat them as ordinary food.
6 For there shall be a day
When the watchmen will cry on Mount Ephraim,
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
To the Lord our God.’ ”
Usually, the Bible refers to the ‘Mountains of Ephraim’, so I’m not sure that we can be completely sure where ‘Mount Ephraim’ is. Some think that it is ‘Mount Ebal‘. If it’s not, it’s still somewhere in the vicinity of the modern city of Nablus, firmly in the middle of the northern part of the West Bank, called Samaria.
For a ‘watchman’ to stand on a mountain deep in the areas where the Palestinians live, it must mean that the Palestinians aren’t there anymore. Zechariah 12 speaks of Jerusalem being under seige, during the time of Gog and Magog, and I’m assuming that the Palestinians will have risen up to attack Jerusalem, while the rest of Israel is concentrated in fighting in the North. The Palestinians have always been a dagger at the heart of Israel, and God will finally push them out. And, I’m afraid that a large part of the two-thirds that die in Zech 13:8, will be the Palestinians who have been trying to kill Jews for decades. You’ll see more of this, when we get to Zechariah 13.
Also, notice that the watchman cries that everyone should go up to… Zion. That word is always, ALWAYS Jerusalem.
I am tempted to go into detail about the rest of the verses of Jeremiah 31, but most of them are about the blessing that God will give to the remnant of what we often call ‘The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel’. They might not know the tribe that they belong to, or that they are of any tribe, but they will be there. And, they will be blessed. But, there is one passage, later in this chapter, that is of specific importance:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
That covenant sounds familiar. In fact, Moses spoke of this, here:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear,
That Prophet was Jesus, and most of Israel – at that time – did NOT hear Him. But, they will. When everything that we are talking about comes to pass. This singular event, the salvation of the Children of Jacob will be – and can only be – the recognition and acceptance of Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Jesus was, is and will always be, the final sacrifice.
The Return of Israel can ONLY be through Jesus Christ. There is literally no other way to obtain salvation. It is heresy of the worst kind to even hint that there is any other way to God, other than through Jesus.
He is the only way of salvation.