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.
I began my comments on this passage in the last issue. I pointed out that this was God’s covenantal promise, though it referred specifically to Judah’s return from captivity. And I also noted that the outstanding truth in the passage is God’s great faithfulness against the background of Judah’s wickedness. Now I must make some more comments.
One may very well ask the question: Why was it necessary for Judah to go into captivity? One may answer, of course: Because of Judah’s sins. But that is not an entirely satisfactory answer because the question remains: If God is faithful and preserves His covenant in spite of Judah’s sins, why does God still require that the nation be 70 years in Babylon?
The answer to that question is this: God saves His people through judgment! This is the grand theme of the prophecy of Isaiah when Isaiah is speaking of the captivity: “Zion shall be redeemed through judgment, and her converts with righteousness” (Is. 1:27).
The captivity was chastisement upon Judah for all her sins. It was God’s way of bringing Judah to repentance. It was the way of the covenant Jehovah, chastising His people that they might be made perfect through the instruction and correction of God’s hand upon them.
But even that does not answer the question completely. Isaiah speaks of Judah being redeemed through judgment. And so it always is in the church. God’s covenant is established only with the elect in Jesus Christ. They are the heirs of the covenant and of the promises. They are the seed of the woman-- those who belong to Christ.
Chastisement always has as its purpose the destruction of sin and the purification of the one being chastised. And so it was with Judah. Judgment came on the whole nation. It was God’s fury on the reprobate element. It was, at the same time, chastisement of His people. And so two things took place through the chastisement of the captivity.
The first result of this chastisement was that the elect remnant was delivered from the reprobate element in the nation. When they went to Babylon, they found there a satisfactory home because they had no love for God’s promises. And so they stayed. Only a handful, a remnant according to the election of grace, went back. Thus chastisement separated the elect from the wicked element in the nation.
The second result was that the elect themselves were humbled and brought to repentance. That is, the wickedness in themselves was subdued, eradicated, and driven out of them through the horrors of the captivity. They remembered the land of promise. They sword: “Let my right hand forget her skill if I should not remember Zion (Ps. 137). They, with Daniel, prayed three times a day with their faces towards Jerusalem, in the hope and longing that God would restore them. So chastisement destroyed the wicked in the nation and destroyed sin in the elect.
And so it is in all creation. The wheat is separated from the straw and chaff through the “chastisement” of threshing and winnowing. The corn is gathered through the “judgment” of being stripped of the stalk, the husk, the cob. The wicked are driven away as chaff before the wind. The righteous, though brought through judgment, are preserved unto the harvest.
So it is always with the church, especially in times of reformation. For Zion is redeemed through judgment. But God preserves His cause and maintains His covenant. He saves His chosen ones, though it be, because of their sin, through the chastisement of judgment.
We shall return to this passage one more time, so please keep this issue in a place where you can easily find it when the next issue comes out.
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 25
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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