The “Daily Devos” are authored by my colleague and friend, Phil Brandt, and may contain edits and adaptations by yours truly.
Tuesday of Easter – Jeremiah 31:1-6
1 “At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”
2 Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
3 the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
4 Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
5 Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant
and shall enjoy the fruit.
6 For there shall be a day when watchmen will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’”
Last week I asked the St. Peter family to share with me their stories of “waiting.” Some phrases that stood out for me were… “uncertainty”, “I have actually enjoyed this”, “difficult with my faith”, “I’ve lost my smile”, “I am always concerned about what could happen”, “I have been waiting all my life for things”, “looking forward to being able to get close again”, “the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride will be heard…”, “patient for God to reveal His plan to us”, “take a break from the news and just focus on the family and see life through the eyes of a child”, “I can’t change this situation”, “how does Holy Week and Easter inform our waiting, our isolation, our concerns”. In these responses and stories told I was struck how they encompass the whole of our humanity: mental, physical and spiritual. We’ve gone from wondering when we can return to our regular lives of going to work, gathering with friends, worshiping in the same room, and shopping without fear to now wondering what our lives will even look like when we emerge from our isolation. The problems we faced before we were put on lock-down won’t have magically evaporated. The spiritual vacuum we accepted in our own lives won’t suddenly be filled.
Jeremiah’s ministry took place in the days leading up to and including the brutal exile of God’s people. That was an isolating event, which makes ours look like a vacation. Look again at the first verse of this passage. When Jeremiah wrote the northern ten tribes of Israel had been in exile for at least six generations. That’s a long, long time to hold onto hope, longer than any quarantine we’ve experience. They were not only gone. They had been absorbed into the peoples of the Assyrian empire. Even to this day they exist only as tiny remnants. Still, God declares that He will be the God of all the clans of Israel. A little further on it says that they shall plant vineyards and enjoy their fruit on the hills of Samaria, the abandoned capital of those northern cousins.
Easter calls upon us to look for God’s deliverance. Jeremiah urges us not to set our expectations too low. God has much more in mind than simply letting you return to work or church again, as good as that sounds right now. He says that God will rebuild virgin Israel and that virgin shall adorn herself with tambourines and dance with the merrymakers. Read the first chapters of Hosea and see how remarkable it is that God would call Israel a virgin again and restore to those abandoned homes the joy of being God’s people once more.
The day comes when Israel’s watchmen shall call, “Arise, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.” In this day we are called to hope and expect great things from our God. Do you, can you, will you? Jesus’ resurrection means we hope and expect great things from our God, even the resurrection and restoration of all that has been lost since Eden’s tragic day.
Sticky Note Challenge:
If that seems hard to envision, take a few minutes every day and write down on a sticky note what you are eagerly anticipating from God’s hand. Do this every day for as long as you experience this “exile” and put the sticky notes on a designated wall in your house. As life returns, as ‘resurrection moments’ occur, as hope is filled, as exile rescinds, then take the notes down one by one and “lift up your hands to the Lord” in prayer for His mercies in those things that you were eagerly anticipating from God’s hand. Then bring them to church when we gather again and put them in the offering plate and together one sticky note at a time we will all “lift up our hands to the Lord” in prayer for His mercies in those things that we were eagerly anticipating from God’s hand.