Unremitting guidance (Gert Kwakkel, Chairman of FEET)
The wretched conditions of Jerusalem evoked in Jeremiah 33 are similar to what is going on in Europe nowadays in several respects. When reading the description of the downfall of the city in verses 4 and 5, the ruins of Bakhmut in Ukraine immediately came to my mind. Even Jeremiah’s being in prison is not without parallels in our society. Jeremiah was incarcerated because his fellow-Israelites did not want to hear the word of God anymore. Is not this refusal akin to what many preachers are facing today?
Amidst all misery, Jeremiah receives a message of hope. God assures him, among other things, of the ongoing presence of a descendant of David on the throne of Israel. Besides, he affirms that there will always be a Levitical priest to offer sacrifices (Jeremiah 33:17- 18). Both promises are part of a covenant made with David and the Levites respectively. The Israelites, who were reputed for breaking the covenant with God (Jeremiah 11:20; 31:32), will never be able to make these two covenants fail. This is as impossible for them as annulling God’s covenant by virtue of which the sun rises every morning and darkness falls every night. In other words, it is absolutely inconceivable that God will not keep his covenants with David and the Levites. Quite the contrary, he will assure the continued existence of the royal dynasty and the Levitical priesthood, by making their offspring as innumerable as the stars and as immeasurable as the sands of the sea (33:19-22). Still, one may wonder whether God has really fulfilled all these marvellous promises. In this connection, it is wise to pay close attention to the tasks of the king and the priests mentioned in the chapter. According to verses 15-18, they are there to accompany and lead the people of God, so that justice and righteousness will be done, and God will be honoured with offerings. God has indeed provided for these needs. However, until now he has apparently preferred not to do this by means of entirely literal fulfilment. Instead, he has given something stronger and even better than what Jeremiah himself may have expected. He has installed Jesus Christ as our eternal king and permanent priest. By his word, his Spirit, and by all those he sends to serve his people, Jesus Christ provides for the guidance which God’s people so desperately need.
As is well know, evangelical theologians differ on the question whether a literal fulfilment of these prophecies may still be expected. This should not prevent us from applying the chapter’s revelation of God to our own situation. He has promised his people unremitting guidance. If we desire to see this promise fulfilled, we must receive it with faith and, just like Jeremiah, call upon his name (Jeremiah 33:2).