There is hope! After all the destruction and upheaval there will be restoration. God gives Jeremiah these words to keep hope real despite the judgment being endured by the people. Seeing that “light at the end of the tunnel” keeps us focused on the future.
Can you think of a time in your life when you felt hopeless? Maybe you had just lost your job or were looking for a new home in a crazy real estate market. Maybe you were suffering from a medical condition that didn’t have a cure. In those dark times, it can be excruciating to think positively. Clinging to hope is all you can do!
The idea of kingship continues from our last reading, but with a different focus and three unexpected promises. The author is using the image of shepherds and sheep which would mean a lot more to the people first hearing God’s message. However, while shepherds are known to be very intent on providing the best care for their sheep, these kings were being likened to bad shepherds.
Here are the promises: (1) “Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them” but there will remain a remnant; (2) a righteous descendent of King David’s line will be raised up to lead with justice; and (3) the people will one day recall the rescue from exile in Babylon rather than the exodus from Egypt. What made these promises “unexpected?”
What a beautiful scene between God and his favorite child. He loves us all, but God does have special affection for Israel. There is so much hope oozing from this passage. I have to wonder if such a plea fell on deaf ears because Israel couldn’t begin to fathom what suffering was soon to come. God’s heart cries out for his people to repent and get things right again.
There is even a section that speaks for the people of Israel as if it were their response. Was Jeremiah putting words in the Israel’s mouth? Is this truly how they felt? It would have been music to God’s ears to hear them admit that their allegiance to idols was indeed a “delusion.”
When you’re stuck in the middle of a crisis, it’s hard to see hope on the other side, isn’t it? The feeling of hopelessness can be crippling and blind us from even finding a solution. Imagine the people of Judah finding themselves in exile, mourning the loss of loved ones, and afraid for what each new day may bring in a strange land.
Our story today takes place in the thirty-seventh year of the exile and will close out the Book of 2 Kings. Thirty-seven years would mean that many of the people alive had never even lived in or near Jerusalem. Life in exile was all they knew.
Elijah is still depressed. His declaration of the situation to God focuses on what’s wrong with his ministry. Has he forgotten about Obadiah, the burned-up sacrifice on the Mt. Carmel, or the deluge of rain that came at God’s command? Not to mention the miracles Elijah had done for the widow and her son!
Even after the “theophany,” or encounter with God through a storm, earthquake, and fire, Elijah’s view of his situation remains unchanged. His response was identical. Then Elijah heard the “sound of a gentle whisper,” also known as the “still small voice” in other translations. It was then that Elijah came out from the cave where he had been hiding.