Jeremiah 23:7-8, "Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land."
This morning, man likes to think and dwell upon things other than the present. Oftentimes, man thinks longingly about the "good old days” of the past or thinks with heightened anticipation toward the future. By falling into either of these two pits, he therefore misses the here and now of today and fails to use and redeem the time as Scripture commands us to do. (Ephesians 5:19) Quite often, the past is thought about because some aspect of former things seems better than today. The future is thought about because some aspect of that is expected to surpass what goes on today. While it is important to consider the past so that previous mistakes are not repeated, dwelling in the past can hinder our walk today. Likewise, things are coming that are better than right now – heaven and immortal glory being the chief of those things – but constantly thinking about the future will similarly hinder our walk today.
How many times do well-meaning Christians pine for the events of yesteryear as recorded in Holy Writ? How many times have people remarked how great it would be to see the Red Sea part, watch David kill Goliath, or talk with Christ and His apostles in the first century? Truly, being able to enjoy such times and seasons would be a great blessing, but constantly thinking about them as somehow better than our present situation impedes our ability to appreciate the wonderful blessings of our Lord in our lives today. Consider how the Lord is known throughout time. While He never changes (Malachi 3:6), He is prominently known in different ways throughout human history.
When the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – arrived on the scene of history in Genesis, God was known as their God. After Moses came, He was known as the God that delivered Israel out of Egypt. For many centuries, that was the prominent moniker that people used for God. However, as our study verses show, that particular identifier for God was soon to be replaced with a different statement as the most often used to describe Him. This does not imply that God has changed but something much more significant would occur to supersede the general perception of Him.
In Jeremiah's day, God was dealing with His children in Judah rather severely in chastisement for their continually wayward behaviour from Him. Jeremiah would prophesy and live to see the ruin of the nation at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. While going through these things, it would be natural for people to think that God had forsaken the very people that He brought up out of Egypt centuries before. While that was not the case – they had in fact forsaken Him and not the other way around – people would generally think so. So, God gives Jeremiah a prophecy about this change of perception toward Him and how He was described. Would this change the fact that God was the One who brought them out of Egypt? No, but that would not be the first thing people thought about when considering this Almighty One.
A time was coming in which people would refer to God as the One that brought back His people from the north country and gathered them together from the places whence they had been scattered. Just as surely as God had said they would go into captivity, He just as surely promised that they would return again after 70 years. God's mercy would be seen and perceived by general description as having brought them back again. Though Jeremiah and others would never live to see it, it was still true and sure by God's own word. However, this gathering together unto Him was simply a natural occurrence that Biblical history records during the days and writings of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Even though that natural gathering would literally happen some 70 years later, it pointed in short term to something more powerful and far-reaching in the long term. Oftentimes, some are prone to think that God will at some future time (yet still future for us today) gather together natural Israel here on the earth for some great purpose. Generally, the purpose is promoted as an ingathering of natural Jews to the truth of the gospel shortly before the end of time. While there are Scriptures that can be used to intimate such an idea, Scripture seems to record a greater tenor – particularly in the New Testament – that this present age is marked less by such natural parameters. Rather, God interacts with people based on inward, spiritual factors and their obedience rather than some natural characteristic that they possess. (Ephesians 2:13-15, Romans 2:28-29, Colossians 3:10-11)
Scriptures like our study verses can sometimes be employed by people to teach some future Jewish revival and ingathering, but let us consider the immediate context and use the short term fulfillment to see what the intended meaning of the prophecy should be. In verses 6-7, we see a direct and undeniable prophesy of Jesus Christ: God in the flesh. As God's anointed and only begotten Son, He would come and do something no other could. As our LORD and our RIGHTEOUSNESS, His kingdom would supersede and outshine any other monarch or dignitary. His lasts forever, and He never fails in His governance over His subjects and domain. While He trod this earth in human flesh, He showed forth with remarkable brilliance the legal execution of God's covenant and counsel, while also vividly marking the acceptable path of obedience to God.
What is the direct result of His work? The direct result is that all of God's banished family was gathered from all the corners of the world in all ages of time by His reconciling us to God by the sacrifice of Himself. (II Corinthians 5:18-19) By His great work, all of God's family – spiritual Israel if you will – is brought from the north country and wherever they have been scattered upon the face of the earth. Big and small, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, and whatever other group we could possibly comprehend has been brought legally into justification before God in heaven. (Revelation 5:9) No charge can be laid against them, and one sweet day all – without the loss of one – will be manifestly gathered in body, soul, and spirit in the resurrection of the dead unto God.
How was God known after the captivity of Judah in Babylon was over? He was known as He who gathered His people home again. How is He known today? He is known as the Just One that put away the sin of His people by the offering of Himself unto His Father in heaven. Is He still the God that delivered from the bonds of Egypt? Truly. Is that the first thing about Him we think about? Surely not. While the deliverance from Egypt continues to amaze as we read the wonderful account on the page, the brightest act of power, majesty, glory, and abounding grace and mercy was the event that gathered us legally to God some 2,000 years ago at Calvary and the subsequent resurrection three days and three nights later. We call Him our God, and we describe Him as the God that loved us, gave Himself for us, and gathered us home to Him again. (II Samuel 14:14)
Should we pine for the days of old like the children of Israel were so prone to do? Heavens no! Should we anticipate the future to the neglect of today? Paul cautioned the Thessalonians against just such a mindset and behaviour pattern. (II Thessalonians 2:1-2) Today should be viewed with the proper lens of thanksgiving to God, describing Him as the One that gathered us unto Himself. Jeremiah could die knowing that God would surely bring His people back to their homeland again. We today can die knowing that God has gathered us legally and will just as surely gather us manifestly when time shall be no more.
Jeremiah gave the prophecy that would change God's commonplace descriptor. When Christ came, He changed God's commonplace descriptor that we should have for Him. Even though the geography will change one day when we get to heaven, the description will not. We will praise Him world without end in heaven as the Lamb that was slain to redeem us to God by His blood. This people from all kindreds, nations, tongues, and tribes will unite as one harmonious family in a song that will make the arches of heaven ring. Even though not in heaven currently, we can still unite in singing that song today and thank God through this wonderful description as One that gathered His banished home to Him.