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A Promise of Salvation (I)

Without any specific question, a reader asks that I work out two passages from the prophecy of Jeremiah. It is well to quote the two passages first of all.

"Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock" Jer. 31:10.

"Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith the Lord; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them" Jer. 32:37-42.

Because the request to discuss these passages does not come with any specific question, it is probably best to make a few remarks in general about them. They are very beautiful texts and the remarks I am going to make are very cursory.

The first remark that has to be made is that these words were spoken to Judah by Jeremiah just before the final captivity when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, burnt the city and temple with fire, and took the people away as slaves to Babylon.

Jeremiah had told the people, as God's prophet, that this was to take place because of Judah's obstinacy, rebellion, and wickedness.

But here Jeremiah comes with another word of God which was one of supreme comfort to the faithful in Judah. God would bring His people back again from captivity and restore them to the land of promise.

This great and blessed promise stands out all the more brightly in the light of the fact that Judah's entire existence was closely bound up with the coming of Christ. Judah's life in Canaan, according to the promise made to Abraham and the other patriarchs, was inseparably connected with the coming of the promised seed, the Christ Himself.

Humanly speaking, Christ could not come if God's people were in captivity. This was why, according to Ps. 137, the captives hung their harps on the willows and were unable to sing the songs of Zion. All the songs of Zion, after all, were about Christ's coming. Christ's coming was impossible in Babylon. So the songs of Zion were hushed and those who once sang them were now forced to be silent.

Thus the promise of God through Jeremiah here is the promise that through the return to the land of Canaan, Christ would certainly come as the Seed of the woman Who would crush the serpent's head.

In the second place, this promise is clearly God's covenantal promise. Although it is a promise of return to the land of Canaan, it carries with it all the overtones of God's covenant. This is especially evident from vs. 38 of chapter 32. "And they shall be my people, and I will be their God."

Repeatedly this is the language used in Scripture to describe the essential character of God's covenant which He graciously establishes with His people. And this is precisely the language which God used when He originally established His covenant with Abraham (see Gen. 17:7). It is of more than passing interest to see that this covenantal promise was, also in Gen. 17:7, tied up with the land of Canaan. So remarkable is all this that there could not be one believer in all Judah who, upon hearing these words of Jeremiah, would not think immediately of God's promise to Abraham.

In the third place, the whole text demonstrates in a remarkable and unmistakable way the faithfulness of Jehovah God, the God of His people. Judah had done wickedly, more wickedly than the nations who worshipped not Jehovah. They had exceeded the corruptions of the heathen and had surpassed the evils of those to whom God had never revealed Himself.

The wickedness of the nation was true of the nation as a whole; it was true of the carnal and reprobate seed within that nation; but it was true too of the elect remnant which had given itself over to the sins of the nation. It must not be argued that the elect remnant had remained, through all of this, pure and holy. Never did that happen in all Israel's history, and never does it happen in the church. Their sins may not have been as great; they may only have been silent when sin abounded; their sin may have been that of omission - as is so often the case in the church. Good men keep silent out of fear when they ought to speak up. But they too were guilty of the sins which characterized the nation as a whole.

But God's faithfulness to His covenant and to the promise of His covenant shines brightly in the gloom of coming judgment. Indeed, it shines all the more brightly because it shines in contrast to Judah's unfaithfulness.

God's covenant is established, maintained, and fulfilled by the work of God's sovereign, free, and unmerited grace. No human cooperation; no human merit; no human side to the covenant; no conditions man must fulfill. It is all of God. What clearer message could there be than that?

Keep this issue, because we must return to this beautiful passage and more comments on it.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 24
Hanko, Herman

Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)

Ordained: October 1955

Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965

Emeritus: 2001

Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko

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