Behold, I will bring them from the north country
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn. (Jeremiah 31:8, 9 ESV)
After Israel’s exile is over, God will redeem and renew. And in that renewal we see the gentle, tender heart of God caring for the people. Even the “blind and lame and pregnant,” that is, the weakest and most vulnerable, will be carried back. As they are, the greatest of care will be shown as they are brought back “by brooks of water” and “in a straight path in which they will not stumble.” God is not showing himself here as the creator or the judge, but as a father. Imagine the most tender picture you have seen of a father caring for his children.
And the result is such, “Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.” (Jeremiah 31:4 ESV). It is a scene of tenderness and love on the one hand and of great celebration on the other. And all of this is possible because something significant has changed. In the days of Noah God brought judgment but after the flood the heart of man was still the same. But now, when the exile is over, the heart of man will be made new. That once deceitful and hardened heart will be softened and made new.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV)
This new covenant is made and consecrated by the death of Christ, the true exile, thus washing away our sin and giving in its wake new hearts that are touched by God’s tenderness. Praise the Lord!