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 (Showers of Blessing 6B)
The Message of Restoration
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The Old Testament prophets, who foresaw the Exile, prophesied God's restoration of His people to their own land (Jer 27.22; 30ff; Dan 9:25; Amos 9:11ff, Isa 40-66; Eze 33-48; etc.). This took place when Judah was disarray, and consequently people sought and longed for an expeditious restoration.

One such prophet is Jeremiah who wrote about future hope scattered throughout the book of Jeremiah, though without a synchronous structure and exposition (e.g. 3:14ff, 12:14ff; 16:14f,;17:24ff; 22:2ff-, 23:5ff; 24:4ff; 29:10ff; 42:7ff).  Nevertheless, he pleats together numerous poems about the nation's restoration to its own land and the rebuilding of people, cities and economy.  To these poems are added two narrative collections which evolve around the theme of the restoration of nation's fortunes (32-33).  The central leitmotif of these chapters is future salvation.  The hopes expressed by the "restoration of fortunes" (30:3, 18; 31:23; 32:44; 33:11,26; cf 29: t4) are modest ones and envisage a future of bucolic pleasures, political and economic security and the reversal of the bitter experiences of the past.

The brief poem (30: 10f) pronounces hope for the people's return from captivity to have rest and serenity instead of fear and dismay.  The God who is far off (cf 23:23) will save the people of Judah and Israel who are afar in captivity and return them to their homeland (30:3; 33:7a), where they will enjoy peace and quiet.  The savior God will annihilate the archenemies of Jacob (cf Nah 1:9) among whom the exiles have been scattered.  The promise (or prophecy) of return is further augmented by Jeremiah’s buying of family land (32:15).  From 32:36ff, return is seen as restoration of the fortunes of the people (cf 30:3), including the resumption of property deals throughout the cities of Judah (cf 31:23) and in all its territories (cf 17:26; 33:13).  These property transactions, of which Jeremiah's act is portentous of a return to normal living conditions, are no longer subjected to foreign overlords, invasions and onslaughts.

The depredations caused by encroachment and conquest, retrenched the territory of Judah to a landscape of ruins and greatly depopulated areas (30:18ff).  It is the Lord who will rebuild those places as at the first (33:7).  He will also see to repopulation as He multiplies the descendants of David His servant and the Levites who minister to Him (33:22).  The reconstruction of the community, in particular the towns, strongholds, population and organization of the sacred assembly, is the core of the restoration of people's fortunes.  The absence of a king here (contrast v9; 23:5; 33:17,2 1) indicates a program of rebuilding the community as a theocratic assembly in which the royal status of the leaders is not an important element (cf Eze 40-48).

The restoration of fortunes in the future will include the reunification of all the clans, and these together will constitute the people of Yahweh.  In the future Yahweh will become the God of all the families of Israel and they shall become His people (31:lff).  "Israel and Judah" would all be united in their own land (cf. 2:4; 31: 1; Eze 37:15ff, contrast Zech 11:7ff).  It's a wonderful idyll of restoration which spells out what it is to be a woman loved by Yahweh (31:8).  Its links with Hosea, and the late elements in Isaiah point to a continuing Poetic culture which depicts the restoration of the fortunes of Yahweh's people in terms drawn from simple rural life in which the divine blessing produces fertility, prosperity, security and merrymaking.

The pilgrimage to Jerusalem is part of the restoration (cf Ps 120-3 4, esp. 122, 126, 127, 133), and suggests a unified land which no longer divides north and south as rival kingdoms.  The poem (31: 10fo focuses on the fertility of the land to which the dispersed return (cf. v4o.  Not many metaphors are used in this poem and the dominant image is of Yahweh the shepherd gathering His scattered flock (a dispersal caused by Yahweh himself, v10) and ending it as the responsible Shepherd.

The poem in 31:7-9 depicts the restoration of God's people with great joy and much noise, which accompany the return of the Diaspora from the north (cf.  Is 43:6) and everywhere else (cf. 6:22).  It brings with it life and the remaking of the land into a place full of joy and prosperity (cf v12ff).  It does so in subtly different ways: the mighty army which came down from the north and destroyed Judah-Jerusalem was an appallingly fierce and vicious force (4:13; 5:15ff, 6:22ff), whereas the army of people which returns to its own land includes the blind and the lame, as well as the pregnant and those who have given birth recently.  The assembly comes in triumph from many parts of the world and travels with ease along well-watered, straight paths (Isa 49:8ff; 51:17ff).  The joy of restoration is further magnified, as one hears the voice of Joy and gladness of the bridegroom and bride in the land of Judah; and praises to God and beholds the bliss amidst God's people.

As time went by, the people of God came to associate restoration with the Messiah, which was envisaged by the Jews in the light of material prosperity, but Jesus viewed it in the work of John the Baptist, who fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi (Mt 17:11; Mk 9:12).  Here, as elsewhere, He reinterpreted the messianic phylum which had become distorted among the Jews.

The fullest sense of restoration is yet to be fulfilled in the future.  The disciples' precept of Israel's restoration (Acts 1:6) was put aside by Jesus' answer to their question.  An explicit inference of future restoration is in Acts 3:19ff Here Peter anticipated "times of refreshing", which he associated with the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ (v20), who is in heaven "until the times of restitution of all things".  One can envisage restoration as awaiting the Lord's return, which was seen by Peter as a thesis of prophecy.

In conclusion, the message of restoration spells out return, rebuilding, repopulation, reunification and joy.  Each individual longing for salvation needs to be restored by returning to God and rebuilding oneself spiritually.  He is also to bring more souls to God's Kingdom.  Eventually, God will restore him in His Kingdom with everlasting joy.