So, there’s this passage in Jeremiah that keeps me following me around these past 6 months or so. I guess this must mean there’s something in it for me, I pray for others, too.
It is interesting that, after the Boston terrorist attacks, and the sad news of the death of Rick Warren’s son a few weekends ago, this passage has once again found me, but this time, while my heart breaks for the sorrow of others, I find my own existence not on the mourning side, but on the tambourine side.
1 “And when that happens”—God’s Decree— “it will be plain as the sun at high noon: I’ll be the God of every man, woman, and child in Israel and they shall be my very own people.”2-6This is the way God put it: “They found grace out in the desert, these people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again, dear virgin Israel. You’ll resume your singing, grabbing tambourines and joining the dance. You’ll go back to your old work of planting vineyards on the Samaritan hillsides, And sit back and enjoy the fruit— oh, how you’ll enjoy those harvests! The time’s coming when watchmen will call out from the hilltops of Ephraim: ‘On your feet! Let’s go to Zion, go to meet our God!'”7Oh yes, God says so: “Shout for joy at the top of your lungs for Jacob! Announce the good news to the number-one nation! Raise cheers! Sing praises. Say, ‘God has saved his people, saved the core of Israel.‘8″Watch what comes next: “I’ll bring my people back from the north country And gather them up from the ends of the earth, gather those who’ve gone blind And those who are lame and limping, gather pregnant women, Even the mothers whose birth pangs have started, bring them all back, a huge crowd!9″Watch them come! They’ll come weeping for joy as I take their hands and lead them, Lead them to fresh flowing brooks, lead them along smooth, uncluttered paths. Yes, it’s because I’m Israel’s Father and Ephraim’s my firstborn son!10-14″Hear this, nations! God’s Message! Broadcast this all over the world! Tell them, ‘The One who scattered Israel will gather them together again. From now on he’ll keep a careful eye on them, like a shepherd with his flock.’ I, God, will pay a stiff ransom price for Jacob; I’ll free him from the grip of the Babylonian bully.The people will climb up Zion’s slopes shouting with joy, their faces beaming because of God’s bounty— Grain and wine and oil, flocks of sheep, herds of cattle. Their lives will be like a well-watered garden, never again left to dry up. Young women will dance and be happy, young men and old men will join in. I’ll convert their weeping into laughter, lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy. I’ll make sure that their priests get three square meals a day and that my people have more than enough.'” God’s Decree.15-17Again, God’s Message: “Listen to this! Laments coming out of Ramah, wild and bitter weeping. It’s Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel refusing all solace. Her children are gone, gone—long gone into exile.” But God says, “Stop your incessant weeping, hold back your tears. Collect wages from your grief work.” God’s Decree. “They’ll be coming back home! There’s hope for your children.” God’s Decree.18-19″I’ve heard the contrition of Ephraim. Yes, I’ve heard it clearly, saying, ‘You trained me well. You broke me, a wild yearling horse, to the saddle. Now put me, trained and obedient, to use. You are my God. After those years of running loose, I repented. After you trained me to obedience, I was ashamed of my past, my wild, unruly past. Humiliated, I beat on my chest. Will I ever live this down?’20″Oh! Ephraim is my dear, dear son, my child in whom I take pleasure! Every time I mention his name, my heart bursts with longing for him! Everything in me cries out for him. Softly and tenderly I wait for him.” God’s Decree
Tonight this passage snuck back in because I’m currently doing a week long study on joy. Turns out, joy is often something that must be discovered… amidst pain, difficulty, and suffering. Oh, good. We all like those things. Super fun. Bust out the tambourines, right? No. NO!
Wait, yes. Yes. Bust out the tambourines! Because perhaps the most beautiful thing about joy is restoration. There is no celebration that is truly heartfelt if mourning has not first been experienced. The woman rejoiced over the lost coin because what was lost was found again.
There was a time not too long ago, when I thought all my hope was lost. These verses gave me hope that one day, my joy would be restored. I read this passage now, and I am thankful that I can see God handing me the tambourine I now hold, reminding me that even in all of the pain, He was ever present, waiting to restore, waiting to hold my hand as I danced again. And so, there is just as much hope and beauty on the fulfilled, satisfied side of this text, as there was on the expectant, waiting side.
I don’t have any miraculous words of healing or some mystical offer of hope for those who are hurting, who I know are many. My heart bleeds for you. And yet, my soul rejoices, because I know that on the other side of Calvary and Golgotha and the bitter waters of the wilderness … is Zion.