I am far from an expert or scholar when it comes to the Old Testament prophets. However, having read through them at least once a year for the past several years, I do feel like I’ve become more familiar with the “big ideas” and the general themes within them. For example, the LORD, through His prophets, not only warns His people in various ways of the judgment to come for their rebellion and spiritual infidelity, but also promises them a day when they would return to the land after the discipline of their exile.
Also quite common in the prophets is the declaration that God would judge Israel’s enemies. That not only would He raise up the Babylonians as His sword against His people, but also use them to destroy those who, over the years, had repeatedly opposed and oppressed them.
So, this morning, it really hit me when I came across a phrase in Jeremiah 49 that I recalled (or, I’m thinking, the Spirit reminded me of) from yesterday’s reading in Jeremiah 48. And not only did I encounter it once in today’s reading, but twice. And, as I chewed on this thrice repeated phrase, these three witnesses testified, “For God so loves the world.”
“Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in the latter days, declares the LORD.”
“But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, declares the LORD.”
“But in the latter days I will restore the fortunes of Elam, declares the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 48:47; 49:6; 49:39 ESV)
It’s not the first time I’ve encountered God’s promise to restore the fortunes in Jeremiah. But up to this point it has been the fortunes of Judah (Jer. 30:3, 18; 33:7,11). The promise to bring back the captives of His covenant people from captivity. To return them to their former prosperity. And it’s kind of what you’d expect from a God who had made unconditional promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob concerning their descendants, a promised land, and the blessing that they would know, and the blessing that would proceed to all peoples through them.
But to also promise to restore the fortunes of Moab? Of the Ammonites? Of the arrogant, highland dwellers of Elam? Honestly, wasn’t expecting that. But also, as I noodled on it a bit, not surprised by it either. For God so loves the world.
A reminder that all men and women are created in the image of God. A reminder that God’s purpose in choosing a people was that He might rescue all people from their bondage to sin and the destruction of death. A reminder that while He might be known as the God of Jacob, He is the LORD over all nations, the Sovereign determiner of who will rule, for how long, and to what ends. Even if that end is to know His sword through another conquering nation in order that they might experience His grace when, by His determination and power, He restores their fortunes.
All pointing to the ultimate restoration of fortunes, eternal life, which was to come through the finished work of the cross of Christ. And will be fully realized when, face to face, we behold the living King of kings.
The sure promise for all who believe.
For God so loves the world.
Because of His grace. All for His glory.