Gathering the Exiles - Kingdom through Covenant

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers. 14 “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the Lord, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. 17 For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. 18 But first I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.” (Jeremiah 16:14-18) As already stated, Jeremiah has a consistent message: “the Babylonians are coming! Judah will be carried away into exile.” This, however is not the whole message. There is also a message of consolation: “God will bring his people back from exile.” This message of return from banishment and exile is expressed first in plain speech in verses 14 and 15 and then repeated in figures of speech in verse 16. In verses 14 -15, the return from exile is described as a new exodus. The exodus from Egypt was the big event in the history of Israel. Nonetheless, in terms of magnitude and significance, the exodus will be overshadowed by the future return from exile. In the future, the renewed people of the Lord will be defined and determined not by the exodus from Egypt, but rather by a “new exodus” event in which all exiles are brought home. In the new exodus, the Israelites are brought back from the land of the north, according to verse 15, because the normal routes of travel from Assyria and Babylon enter Israel from the north and not from the east. Verse 16 employs some unusual figures of speech to depict and portray the effort and length to which the Lord goes to bring back all the exiles. A comparison is drawn between fishing and hunting and bringing back the exiles. Those who fish and hunt require patience, strategy, and time to catch their prey. In a similar way, God will expend considerable patience, strategy, and time to catch his “prey,” i.e., the exiles. It is instructive to pause and follow the interpretation pf Jesus and the apostles in the fulfillment of this prophecy. There is a clear and unmistakeable illusion to Jeremiah 16:16 in Matthew 4 as Jesus is in the process of choosing twelve men whom he would train as his special agents: 18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18-19) When Jesus says to Peter and Andrew that he will make them “fishers of men,” he is referring to Jeremiah 16:16 and he is saying that he will use his followers to bring the exiles home. We saw earlier that the return from exile entails two stages: (1) (physical) release from Babylon and (2) (spiritual) release from sin, condemnation and death. The second stage of return from exile is inaugurated with the coming of Jesus and his ministry. This is substantiated from the many passages in the Gospels that indicate that the new exodus has begun in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The work of bringing the exiles home is, in fact, begun by the first coming of the Lord Jesus and concluded with his second coming. This is made plain by Paul’s clear allusion to Isaiah 27:12-13 in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[d] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) The descent of the Lord is heralded by an archangel blowing the trumpet of God. The trumpet of which Paul speaks is not something he was told about by direct revelation, but it is something from his own Bible, the Old Testament, in Isaiah 27: In that day from the river Euphrates[f] to the Brook of Egypt the Lord will thresh out the grain, and you will be gleaned one by one, O people of Israel. 13 And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:12-13) Isaiah is referring here to the final gathering of the exiles, which is compared to gathering a grain harvest. A great trumpet is sounded, and the exiles in Assyria and Egypt will be brought home. The great trumpet, then, blown to announce descent of the Lord for his own in 1 Thessalonians 4, is the signal for the final phase of bringing the exiles home. According to Jesus and the apostles, then, the gathering of the exiles is what is inaugurated by the first coming of Christ and completed by his second coming. (Taken from the excellent book, Kingdom through Covenant by Peter J. Gentry and Stephen G. Wellum. It is section, pages 489-490, taken out of chapter 13, entitled - The New Covenant: Jeremiah)

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