33 While Jeremiah was still confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the Lord came to him a second time: 2 “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: 3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ 4 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the houses in this city and the royal palaces of Judah that have been torn down to be used against the siege ramps and the sword 5 in the fight with the Babylonians: ‘They will be filled with the dead bodies of the people I will slay in my anger and wrath. I will hide my face from this city because of all its wickedness.
6 “‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. 7 I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. 8 I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. 9 Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’
10 “This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more 11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,
“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty,
for the Lord is good;
his love endures forever.”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.
12 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks. 13 In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them,’ says the Lord.
(Jeremiah 33:1-13 NIV)
Today’s passage begins the last chapter of the “Book of Consolation”, where the Lord lays out the promise of restoration for His people.
Chapter 33 begins similarly to Chapter 32; Jeremiah is still in prison. But God is not limited to the constraints of humanity, as He gives Jeremiah this prophecy while Jeremiah is incarcerated. In verse 2, the Lord gives His qualifications as the creator of the universe. The Lord also reminds His people of His name, just to be clear who is speaking – it isn’t Baal or Molech or any of the false Canaanite gods that the people of Judah chased after – it is their God, the Lord Himself.
With all the above being said, the Lord issues not a command, but an invitation: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (v. 3) What an invitation for the ancients of Jeremiah’s day! And yet, the same God who was extending the offer to the people of Judah is inviting us to join Him in communion and community today.
Verses 4 – 9 are another recap of the judgment of the sins of the people of Judah as well as the promise of their restoration. Verses 4 and 5 make it clear that judgment is inevitable, especially when the Lord says “I will hide My face…”
Verses 6 – 9 are God’s promise of restoration. The Lord promises health and healing in comparison to the famine and disease they are currently experiencing, peace and security vs. the war and terror they now were living with, and cleansing and forgiveness contrasted to the guilt and judgment they were under at that moment.
As a result of God’s redemption and restoration, the Lord is glorified in Jerusalem. His renown and joy, His praise and honor would become known throughout all the nations, and the nations would respond in awe and tremble because of the prosperity and peace the Lord will give to the exiles as they come back to their promised land.
Verses 10 – 11 recap the desolation that will come as a result of God’s judgment. The city of Jerusalem will be a ghost town, with neither man nor beast occupying it. But the Lord promises to re-habitate the city. Once again there will be sounds of joy and gladness, of brides and bridegrooms, of worship and thanksgiving to the Lord. You can imagine the people of Judah singing Psalm 136 as they make their way to Jerusalem.
Verses 12 – 13 promise the healing of the land of Judah. Agriculture will be reinstated, and the shepherds will raise their flocks in abundance and safety. The Lord promises that the shepherds will be able to count their sheep once again, as in prior times. Jesus used this same shepherding imagery (Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:3-7), even calling Himself the Good Shepherd who lays His life down for His sheep (John 10:7-18).
May we take heart that God does not forget us when we are held by circumstances outside of our control. God is not constrained to a location, but goes with us where we are, even if physically confined to a prison. Joseph, Jeremiah, and even the Apostle Paul are examples of those who carried out the Lord’s work while locked away and forgotten by the rest of society.
May we take up the Lord’s invitation and pray for whatever circumstances and situations we find ourselves in (v. 3). God’s offer to call out to Him is as real to us today as it was to Jeremiah and the people of his day.