Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I restore their fortunes:
“‘The Lord bless you, O habitation of righteousness,
O holy hill!’
And Judah and all its cities shall dwell there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks. For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”
At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say:
“‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. – Jeremiah 31:24-30 ESV
God continues to speak of the future restoration of Judah. Their fortunes were going to change dramatically. Just a few chapters earlier we read of God’s pronouncement of Judah’s demise for their unfaithfulness:
“I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them.” – Jeremiah 29:18 ESV
Their sins would be punished and, as a result, they would become “an object of damnation, horror, contempt, and mockery” (NLT). The nations that watched their fall from God’s grace would stand by ridiculing and cursing them. The once mighty nation of Judah would no longer be a threat to them. But God promises that a day is coming when that scenario will change drastically. Rather than the curses of its enemies, the streets of Judah will resound with the blessings of its people once again.
“The Lord bless you, O righteous home, O holy mountain!” – Jeremiah 31:23 NLT
Curses will be turned to blessing. The weary will find rest and satisfaction. Joy will replace sorrow. But why? What will have changed to make all this come about? This won’t all come about just because the people get to return to the land from their exile in Babylon. In fact, when they did eventually return from captivity, they found a land filled with destruction. The city of Jerusalem was empty and its walls and once-great structures were lay in ruins. Even fourteen years after the first wave of exiles returned under the leadership of Ezra and Zerubbabel, Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and found that little had changed.
I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. – Nehemiah 2:13-14 ESV
The walls had yet to be rebuilt. The city was still not occupied. They would eventually complete the walls and repopulate the city, but the glory days of Judah and Jerusalem would still remain a memory. All of this was because of their sin and rebellion against God.
How the faithful city
has become a whore,
she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers. – Isaiah 1:21 ESV
So what was going to change to make Judah a place of blessing and hope? God was going to restore their fortunes. And notice what the words of those living in the land at that time will use to describe the city of Jerusalem: “habitation of righteousness”. God will return righteousness to the land. Justice will once again reign. And the prophet Isaiah describes how that will happen.
Look, a king will promote fairness;
officials will promote justice.
Each of them will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from a rainstorm;
like streams of water in a dry region
and like the shade of a large cliff in a parched land.
Eyes will no longer be blind
and ears will be attentive.
The mind that acts rashly will possess discernment
and the tongue that stutters will speak with ease and clarity.
A fool will no longer be called honorable;
a deceiver will no longer be called principled. – Isaiah 32:1-5 NLT
The Messiah will rule and reign in Jerusalem. The Son of God will take His place on the throne of David, bringing justice and righteousness back to the land. When the people arrived back in Judah after their return from exile, something was missing. They were still the same rebellious and stubborn people that went into exile in the first place. Their hearts had not changed. Their allegiance to God had not increased over time. They found themselves back in the land, but without a king and with no real hope for the future. But in this passage, God is giving Jeremiah a glimpse into what is coming. And when he woke up from his sleep where this vision appeared to him, he was well rested and satisfied.
God had given Jeremiah renewed hope. The day was coming when God would bless the lands of Judah and Israel by making the people and the livestock fruitful. They would multiply and fill the land once again. The barrenness left in the wake of the Babylonian siege would be replaced with abundance. God promises Jeremiah that “in the past I deliberately uprooted and tore down this nation. I overthrew it, destroyed it, and brought disaster upon it. But in the future I will just as deliberately plant it and build it up” (Jeremiah 31:28 NLT). God’s choice of words would have had a special impact on Jeremiah, because they were reminiscent of what He had said to the prophet on the day He called him.
“Look, I have put my words in your mouth!
Today I appoint you to stand up
against nations and kingdoms.
Some you must uproot and tear down,
destroy and overthrow.
Others you must build up
and plant.” – Jeremiah 1:9-10 NLT
Jeremiah had been given the unenviable task of bringing God’s message of destruction to the people of Judah. Rarely did he get to build up and plant. His was predominantly a message of doom and gloom. But now God was giving him a glimpse into what the distant future held for the people of Judah and Israel. The bad news was going to be followed by unbelievable good news.
In that day, justice will take place because the Messiah will rule. There will be no more injustice and unrighteousness flowing down from the throne. The King of kings and Lord of lords will serve up justice. Everyone will be responsible for their own sins. There would be no passing the buck or placing blame. There was a popular proverb in Jeremiah’s day that said, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste” (Jeremiah 31:29 NLT). It was basically a way for one generation to blame their suffering on the sins of their ancestors. This sentiment is expressed in the book of Lamentations:
Our forefathers sinned and are dead,
but we suffer their punishment. – Lamentations 5:7 NLT
And while the people of Judah could easily point their fingers at the previous generations and accuse them of causing their suffering, the day was coming when each person would have to be accountable for their own sins. Even during the ministry of Jeremiah, he had warned the people that they were responsible for their own sins. They couldn’t blame their troubles on their parents and grandparents. God had made that point perfectly clear.
“When you tell these people about all this, they will undoubtedly ask you, ‘Why has the Lord threatened us with such great disaster? What wrong have we done? What sin have we done to offend the Lord our God?’ Then tell them that the Lord says, ‘It is because your ancestors rejected me and paid allegiance to other gods. They have served them and worshiped them. But they have rejected me and not obeyed my law. And you have acted even more wickedly than your ancestors! Each one of you has followed the stubborn inclinations of your own wicked heart and not obeyed me.” – Jeremiah 16:10-12 NLT
Once again, God reminds Jeremiah and the people that a day is coming when perfect justice will rule in the land. “All people will die for their own sins—those who eat the sour grapes will be the ones whose mouths will pucker” (Jeremiah 31:30 NLT). In this future state of Israel, things will be radically different. God seems to be indicating that sin will be rare in this future kingdom. There will not be the mass rejection of Him as had taken place in Israel for generations. The book of Ezekiel contains God’s promise to give the people of Israel new hearts and a new desire to serve Him.
“I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior. I will give you good crops of grain, and I will send no more famines on the land. I will give you great harvests from your fruit trees and fields, and never again will the surrounding nations be able to scoff at your land for its famines. Then you will remember your past sins and despise yourselves for all the detestable things you did.” – Ezekiel 36:29-31 NLT
No passing blame. No denial of culpability. The people, whose hearts have been softened by God, will own their own sin and repent. They will take full responsibility for their rebellion against God. And their future behavior will be righteous, not rebellious. Their relationship with God will be marked by fidelity, not adultery. God will satisfy the weary soul, restore joy to sorrowful, and replace the life of sinfulness with that of righteousness.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.