THE MESSAGE OF RESTORATION
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
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
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
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.