35 This is what the Lord says,
he who appoints the sun
to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
so that its waves roar—
the Lord Almighty is his name:
36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”
declares the Lord,
“will Israel ever cease
being a nation before me.”
37 This is what the Lord says:
“Only if the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
will I reject all the descendants of Israel
because of all they have done,”
declares the Lord.
38 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. 40 The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the Lord. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.”
(Jeremiah 31:35-40 NIV)
As we conclude Chapter 31 today, the Lord promises to protect His people and His city. Verses 35 – 37 address God’s people, and verses 38 – 40 speak about Jerusalem.
In verse 35, the Lord uses the verbs “appoints” and “decrees” – similar to the words employed in Genesis 1:14-19 (the fourth day of Creation) where the Lord created the order of day and night, of days, weeks, months, and years to mark the passage of time.
In verse 36, the Lord is saying that He created the light and sustains it, and He is the same God who guarantees the protection of His people.
In verse 37, the Lord says that only when the earth and heavens can be measured, will He reject His people. In Jeremiah’s day, this was a physical impossibility. Rolling back many centuries before Jeremiah, the Lord challenged Job with the same questions (Job 38) – did Job lay out the dimensions of heaven and earth? Job had no answer to the Lord.
Even in our day of modern technology, we still do not know the extent of the heavens or even the earth. Scientists think the deepest part of the ocean (the Mariana Trench) is about 7 miles (11 kilometers) deep, but they are not sure, as it’s hard to measure. And space is an even bigger mystery – using devices such as the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists can see further than ever before, but admit there is a greater “beyond” that is awaiting further exploration.
In verses 38 – 40, the Lord speaks of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The Lord had said the city would be destroyed and desolate, and the inhabitants banished for a time. After that time, the city would be rebuilt and alive with the returning exiles.
The Lord describes the boundary points around the city perimeter, such as the Tower of Hananel (also mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1, when Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls). The boundaries also included the “valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown” (presumably the Valley of Hinnom, 7:31-32), all the way out to the Kidron Valley. Even these places of former human sacrifice, of sin, death, and destruction are now “holy to the Lord”.
While scholars readily acknowledge the link to the rebuilding of Jerusalem in the ancient days (via Nehemiah and others), they also point to the building of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21), the city that “will never again be uprooted or demolished.” (v. 40).
May we look back with thanksgiving to what the Lord had done, as well as look forward to what the Lord is doing and will do for eternity.
May we remember Jesus’ promise that He is “going to prepare a place” for us (John 14:2-3) in heaven. And if He could create the heavens and the earth in seven days, how beautiful must our new home be if He has been working on it for over two thousand years?