Thanks Under Duress
“Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Jeremiah 33:11, scriptures from Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted).
By Jeff Earl
Jeremiah chapter 32 describes the siege of Jerusalem by the army of Babylon and Jeremiah’s prophecy that the city would be taken, and King Zedekiah captured and taken to Babylon. Jeremiah was directed by God to buy the field at Anathoth from his cousin, with the deed of purchase put in an “earthenware vessel” and hidden in the field, for a future testimony respecting ownership of the land. This purchase was completed even though the Chaldeans (Babylonians) would soon take over the land. Jeremiah explained that the Chaldeans were allowed to capture the city due to Judah’s wickedness, their worship of Baal, and their ultimate degradation, sacrificing sons and daughters to Molech. Jeremiah prophesied that the Israelites would later return to the land, fields would be purchased, and God would make an everlasting covenant with them.
Destruction of Judah by Babylon and Restoration of All Israel
As chapter 33 begins, God spoke to Jeremiah a second time (perhaps in a dream) while he was prisoner in Zedekiah’s court. God told him the future — both the near-term future with Babylon, and the distant future respecting restoration. Though the houses of the kings were torn down to defend against the Chaldeans, Judah would not be able to stop the slaughter of the inhabitants of Jerusalem (verse 4). God warned that the Chaldeans would “fill them with the dead bodies of men” (verse 5). That would be the punishment on Judah “because of all their wickedness.”
Verse six changes tone, with a promise to “bring to it [Judah] health and healing” and “abundance of prosperity and security.” Jeremiah learned that God would eventually “restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first” (verse 7). This theme of restoration is repeated three times in chapter 33 (verses 7, 11, 26).
Verse seven describes the restoration of both the two-tribe and ten-tribe kingdoms. The Assyrians had already conquered the ten-tribe kingdom. Israelites did return after Babylon’s allotted time, and were re-established in the land. However, the fuller application of the prophecy is to the restoration of all Israel during the present Harvest period of the Gospel Age. The regathering of Israel to the land of promise began in 1878, and continues even to the last deliverance of Israel, introducing the Kingdom. Then will be fulfilled Ezekiel 37:14, to all 12 tribes of Israel, “And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.”
Amos 9:11-15 also describes the restoration of Israel: “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins … I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land which I have given them.” Jeremiah 31:31 describes the time when God “will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” As Paul says in Romans 11:26-27, “So all Israel will be saved … and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” Ezekiel 37:19, 22 describes Judah and Israel as two sticks coming together to become one, a picture of the unified nation under God’s hand.
The mercy of the LORD toward His people is described in verse eight: “I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.” God’s forgiveness for their national sins will come upon confession and repentance. This confession is described in Zechariah 12:10, when the eyes of Israel are opened to recognize Jesus as their Messiah. Then, God will “put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33).
Jeremiah 33:9 describes the importance of the city of Jerusalem: “And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them; they shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.”
The Voice of Joy and Gladness
Jeremiah 33:10 describes the desolation of the surrounding land following Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem. Even here there is the promise of a future restoration. Verse 11 says, “The voice of mirth [joy] and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD: ‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!’ For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.”
This verse stands in contrast to the similar, but dire, language of Jeremiah 25:10: “Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth [joy] and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride … [and also] the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp.” These ominous warnings came when the Babylonians devastated the land, but are all remitted in the wonderful blessings to come.
In Jeremiah 33:11, the “voice of mirth” may refer to the restoration of Israel, and the “voice of gladness” to the forgiveness of sins. Joy is exhibited outwardly and spontaneously by gestures of happiness, praise, and singing. Gladness is an internal satisfaction. These same two qualities appear in Isaiah 51:3: “For the LORD will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places … joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” Jeremiah 30:19 expresses a similar sentiment. “From them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of those who make merry.” Jeremiah 17:26 (ASV) mentions burnt and grain offerings as “sacrifices of thanksgiving to the house of the LORD.” The joy of the marriage ceremony of the bride and the bridegroom will return in the land with the voices of singing when the inhabitants bring thank offerings to God. They will implement the New Covenant with Israel through the Ancient Worthies ruling in Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 33:12 and 13 speak of the formerly desolate land becoming the “habitations of shepherds resting their flocks.” This again indicates an earthly kingdom. Isaiah 51:3 speaks of the restoration of the land: “her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD.”
Jeremiah 33:14-16 is God’s reassurance that He will fulfill the promise of raising up a righteous branch (see Jeremiah 23:5, 6). The righteous branch in verse 15 “to spring forth from David” is Jesus. David himself, the faithful king of Israel, will be among the Ancient Worthies, “princes in all the earth,” guiding Israel back to God (Psalms 45:16). Thus from Zion and Jerusalem the word of God will go forth. Israel will be the channel by which the heavenly rulers of the Kingdom will exercise authority (Micah 4:1-2, Isaiah 2:3). Following Armageddon a Holy Remnant will be in Israel (Isaiah 4:2-3). Later, the law from heavenly Zion will reach the entire earth through re-established Israel.
King and Priests
“Thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever” (Jeremiah 33:17, 18 ESV).
Jesus was of the line of David, and will rule Israel and the world during the Kingdom. “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment” (Isaiah 32:1). Our Lord Jesus will be that king. The Ancient Worthies, including David, will serve as “princes in all the earth” (Psalms 45:16). The saints in glory will rule with Christ, and also serve as priests with Christ, to bring mankind back to God (Revelation 20:6).1
(1) The author favors the view that in the Kingdom, some of the rites and laws of Israel from the Old Testament will be restored. That is not the view of the editors. However, it is a view favored also by the late Br. Frank Shallieu, an earnest student. Also, this view was on occasion mentioned in the Watchtower as a possibility. The author suggests that there will be a third temple built, and that sacrifices will be restored. He cites R1733, top left, that God “may restore laws respecting the Sabbath and various festivals, and even sacrifices, to teach the world by these as object lessons. Some scriptures seem so to hint.” From R2507, “Many of the particulars connected with this vision described by Ezekiel [47:1-12] are so circumstantial to the land of Israel as to give considerable ground for belief that it will have a literal fulfillment in the future.” The author notes that Br. Frank Shallieu added considerable detail to the viewpoint of a literal third temple, and sacrifices in the earthly kingdom, in his published works.
Jeremiah 33:24 reads, “Have you not observed what these people are saying, ‘The LORD has rejected the two families which he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight.” The punishment God allowed upon Israel seemed to suggest this.
However, God spoke again in verse 25 to affirm that the punishment then visited, was not a permanent rejection. In verses 25 and 26, God says that His commitment to Israel was as firm as the rotation of day and night. “If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the ordinances of heaven and earth, (26) Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant.” But God would not “reject the descendants of Jacob and David” (verse 26). “The seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (verse 26) would again have God’s favor. The end of verse 26 closes Jeremiah 33 by repeating an assurance from verse 11, “I will restore their fortunes, and will have mercy upon them.” This is God’s guarantee that the New Covenant will be established and his mercies will extend to Israel.
Jeremiah 33 proclaims the restoration of both houses of Israel following Judah’s terrible devastation at the hands of the Chaldeans (Babylonians). God promises to forgive them completely. Those in Israel who remain faithful during Armageddon will be the first to rejoice in the fulfillment of God’s promises to the combined nation and will eagerly follow the New Covenant arrangement, led by the Ancient Worthies, bringing blessings to the entire world of mankind.