Jeremiah 31:7-9 finds the prophet Jeremiah sitting amidst the ruins of Jerusalem. He had opposed the return of idolatry with his whole being, but it was to no avail. Dismissing his warnings, the false prophet Hananiah got the upper hand with Zedekiah against Babylon. Judah would subsequently be conquered. The chosen people are sent into exile. When they trusted to their own might and made offerings to false gods, they lost everything. Jeremiah speaks a word of hope. If they return to fidelity with God, then God’s mighty arm will save them. Illustrating just how incredible the return to their homeland shall be, he speaks these words for God: “I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng” (Jeremiah 31:8). The most vulnerable among them will be counted with the returning exiles. No new army will accomplish it. Compared to the will and power of God none of the factors against them will matter. Sure enough, after that generation had passed away and his own people murdered Jeremiah, Babylon would not only let them return but function as a benefactor in the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. However, they would not be a great independent nation again, at least not until the establishment of the modern state of Israel.
Christianity interprets the restitution as coming to completion in Jesus. The long exile, not to the Babylonians, but to death and sin was coming to an end. The devil was losing his grasp upon us. The Messiah comes to give us a share in eternal life and to repair the primordial rift with God. A new nation is established– a new People of God is chosen from among Jews and Gentiles– the Church.
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