Rejoicing on the Eve of Exile
For thus saith the Lord; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel. Jeremiah 31:7
suggested further reading: Acts 16:16–34
Jeremiah now asks God’s people to sing and shout for joy. This prophecy is given not long before the utter destruction of the people, the city, and the temple. But the prophet’s intent here is to comfort everyone, even the dead in their graves, so that all might patiently wait for the promised deliverance. The people could be assured of deliverance because it is no more difficult for God to raise the dead than to heal the sick. This prophecy becomes especially helpful when the Jews are driven into exile and become so miserably scattered that they have no hope of deliverance.
So that his teaching might more effectively enter their hearts, the prophet exhorts people to rejoice, to shout for joy, and to sing. Not only the people of God, but also strangers, are told to do so. For though the joy of believers is not like that of unbelievers, the prophet seems purposely to address his words to aliens so that the Jews might be ashamed for not believing the promises offered to them.
The prophet says, “Ye alien nations, shout for joy, for Jacob.” What should Jacob do in the meantime? We now see the purpose for the prophet’s vehemence in bidding all to rejoice for the redemption of the people. His intent is that this prophecy might not only bring some comfort to the miserable exiles, but also assure them that even in the midst of death they can live before God, provided they do not despair.
In short, the prophet’s intent is not only to mitigate the sorrow of God’s people, but also to fill them with spiritual joy so they might not cease to entertain hope and to take courage. They must not only patiently but cheerfully bear their calamities because God promises to be propitious to them.
for meditation: Singing and shouting for joy when we face profound setbacks in life seems incredibly idealistic. Yet, if we are believers, that is what God asks us to do, for even on the eve of calamity we know that we will eventually come through safely because of the gracious hand of our Savior, Christ Jesus.