Summary: God offers us hope through the redemption of sin and reconciliation through His Son Jesus Christ.
"A Ray of Hope"
If you get lost in Brooklyn, New York, and wander into the section called Williamsburg, prepare yourself for a surprise. Boys playing baseball
look rather odd... long, uncut curls of hair trail from above their ears down to their chests. Men in black, with long, untrimmed beards, coach from the
sidelines. All the women you see wear wigs because they have shaved their heads. You might wonder if this a new cult from California or the latest punk fashion from London.
Actually, you have stumbled into a community of Hasidic Jews. They live, not by the latest fad, but by ancient rules based on Old Testament laws.
They follow complicated dietary regulations. They keep one set of bowls for meat, and another for dairy products. Young men devote long hours of study to the Hebrew Old Testament. Though they are Americans, living in New York, their cultural focus points to Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Law.
The Jewish people have survived, astonishingly. The book of Jeremiah gives us a window into the lives of people who were continually hemmed in
and threatened with destruction. Because they continued to remove themselves from the presence of God through sin and apostasy, they suffered exile, punishment, and slaughter. No other nation of people has had such destructive measures taken, and yet they have survived. Even more remarkably, this survival was predicted in writing 2,500 years ago.
Jeremiah was called by God to speak His words to the people. God continued to proclaim His promises to His children throughout Jeremiah’s
life. He was to lead them, to supervise them, and yet, they would not listen. God repeatedly describes Israel’s actions as those of an unfaithful wife. And
yet, chapter 30 begins with these words from the LORD, "Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. The days are coming, when I will bring
my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess." A promise from God... a ray of hope to
a desolate, oppressed people.
Our passage today reveals that hope... that promise of restoration and reconciliation. It begins in desolation as the LORD speaks of great weeping
and mourning in Ramah. Ramah was supposedly the burial place of Rachel, mother of Israel. It was now the place where the people were assembled for
exile. Just as Rachel had cried over her lost children more than one hundred years earlier, her voice is now heard weeping over the exiles. But now, the LORD answers these cries of anguish. He says, "Stop your weeping, for the children will return... there is hope for your future." The LORD says, "I have heard Ephraim’s cries." Ephraim was a son of Joseph and this word denotes his descendants (the people of Israel). The people cry out in
remorse, like wayward children who have suffered the wrath of a strict father. They are ashamed of their actions and now beg to return home once again.
How often our lives mirror those of the children of Israel! You would think that after all this time the Jews would have learned. But, can’t the
same be said for us? Why can’t we learn from the past? The people of Israel were blessed above all nations and all they had to do was worship
God and follow His commandments. All God asks us to do is to love Him and worship Him above all else and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He promises that if we do that, we will have life and have it abundantly. We have the same promise He made through Jeremiah to the people of Israel. Why do we continue to rebel against Him? Granted, we don’t consider
ourselves as "rebellious" as the Israelites... after all, we don’t worship other gods, do we? We don’t seek fulfillment from things other than God, do we?
We don’t realize how far we are from God sometimes, because we move away gradually. The glitter and gold of the world serves to draw us,
albeit subtly, away from God’s presence. Mike Yaconelli writes in The Wittenburg Door that he lives in a small, rural community. The area has lots of cattle ranches and every once in a while a cow wanders off and gets lost. If you ask one of the ranchers how a cow gets lost, chances are he will reply, "Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of green grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next