This paragraph is much to the same purport with the last, publishing to the world, as well as to the church, the purposes of God’s love concerning his people. This is a word of the Lord which the nations must hear, for it is a prophecy of a work of the Lord which the nations cannot but take notice of. Let them hear the prophecy, that they may the better understand and improve the performance; and let those that hear it themselves declare it to others, declare it in the isles afar off. It will be a piece of news that will spread all the world over. It will look very great in history; let us see how it looks in prophecy.
It is foretold, 1. That those who are dispersed shall be brought together again from their dispersions: He that scattereth Israel will gather him; for he knows whither he scattered them and therefore where to find them, Jer. 31:10. Una eademque manus vulnus opemque tulit—The hand that inflicted the wound shall heal it. And when he has gathered him into one body, one fold, he will keep him, as a shepherd does his flock, from being scattered again. 2. That those who are sold and alienated shall be redeemed and brought back, Jer. 31:11. Though the enemy that had got possession of him was stronger than he, yet the Lord, who is stronger than all. has redeemed and ransomed him, not by price, but by power, as of old out of the Egyptians’ hands. 3. That with their liberty they shall have plenty and joy, and God shall be honoured and served with it, Jer. 31:12, 13. When they shall have returned to their own land they shall come and sing in the high place of Zion; on the top of that holy mountain they shall sing to the praise and glory of God. We read that they did so when the foundation of the temple was laid there; they sang together, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, Ezra 3:11. They shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord; that is, they shall flock in great numbers and with great forwardness and cheerfulness, as streams of water, to the goodness of the Lord, to the temple where he causes his goodness to pass before his people. They shall come together in solemn assemblies, to praise him for his goodness, and to pray for the fruits of it and the continuance of it; they shall come to bless him for his goodness, in giving them wheat, and wine, and oil, and the young of the flock and of the herd, which, now that they have obtained their freedom, they have an uncontested property in and the quiet and peaceable enjoyment of, and which therefore they honour God with the first-fruits of and out of which they bring offerings to his altar. Note, It is comfortable to observe the goodness of the Lord in the gifts of common providence, and even in them to taste covenant-love. Having plenty (plenty out of want and scarcity) they shall greatly rejoice, their soul shall be as a watered garden, flourishing and fruitful (Isa. 58:11), pleasant and fragrant, and abounding in all good things. Note, Our souls are never valuable as gardens but when they are watered with the dews of God’s Spirit and grace. It is a precious promise which follows, and which will not have its full accomplishment any where on this side the height of the heavenly Zion, that they shall not sorrow any more at all; for it is only in that new Jerusalem that all tears shall be wiped away, Rev. 21:4. However, so far it was fulfilled to the returned captives that they had not any more those causes for sorrow which they had formerly had; and therefore (Jer. 31:13) young men and old shall rejoice together; so grave shall the young men be in their joys as to keep company with the old men, and so transported shall the old men be as to associate with the young. Salva res est, saltat senex—The state prospers, and the aged dance. God will turn their mourning into joy, their fasts into solemn feasts, Zech. 8:19. It was in the return out of Babylon that those who sowed in tears were made to reap in joy, Ps. 126:5, 6. Those are comforted indeed whom God comforts, and may forget their troubles when he makes them to rejoice from their sorrow, not only rejoice after it, but rejoice from it their joy shall borrow lustre from their sorrow, which shall serve as a foil to it; and the more they think of their troubles the more they rejoice in their deliverance. 4. That both the ministers and those they minister to shall have abundant satisfaction in what God gives them (Jer. 31:14): I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness; there shall be such a plenty of sacrifices brought to the altar that those who live upon the altar shall live very comfortably, they and their families shall be satiated with fatness, they shall have enough, and that of the best; and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, and shall think there is enough in that to make them happy; and so there is. God’s people have an abundant satisfaction in God’s goodness, though they have but little of this world. Let them be satisfied of God’s lovingkindness, and they will be satisfied with it and desire no more to make them happy. All this is applicable to the spiritual blessings which the redeemed of the Lord enjoy by Jesus Christ, infinitely more valuable than corn, and wine, and oil, and the satisfaction of soul which they have in the enjoyment of them. 5. That those particularly who had been in sorrow for the loss of their children who were carried into captivity should have that sorrow turned into joy upon their return, Jer. 31:15-17. Here we have, (1.) The sad lamentation which the mothers made for the loss of their children (Jer. 31:15): In Ramah was there a voice heard, at the time when the general captivity was, nothing but lamentation, and bitter weeping, more there than in other places, because there Nebuzaradan had the general rendezvous of his captives, as appears, Jer. 40:1; where we find him sending Jeremiah back from Ramah. Rachel is here said to weep for her children. The sepulchre of Rachel was between Ramah and Bethlehem. Benjamin, one of the two tribes, and Ephraim, head of the ten tribes, were both descendants from Rachel. She had but two sons, the elder of whom was one for whom his father grieved andrefused to be comforted (Gen. 37:35); the other she herself called Benoni—the son of my sorrow. Now the inhabitants of Ramah did in like manner grieve for their sons and their daughters that were carried away (as 1 Sam. 30:6), and such a voice of lamentation was there as, to speak poetically, might even have raised Rachel out of her grave to mourn with them. The tender parents even refused to be comforted for their children, because they were not, were not with them, but were in the hands of their enemies; they were never likely to see them any more. This is applied by the evangelists to the great mourning that was at Bethlehem for the murder of the infants there by Herod (Matt. 2:17-18), and this scripture is said to be then fulfilled. They wept for them, and would not be comforted, supposing the case would not admit any ground of comfort, because they were not. Note, Sorrow for the loss of children cannot but be great sorrow, especially if we so far mistake as to think they are not. (2.) Seasonable comfort administered to them in reference hereunto, Jer. 31:16, 17. They are advised to moderate that sorrow, and to set bounds to it: Refrain thy voice from weeping and thy eyes from tears. We are not forbidden to mourn in such a case; allowances are made for natural affection. But we must not suffer our sorrow to run into an extreme, to hinder our joy in God, or take us off from our duty to him. Though we mourn, we must not murmur, nor must we resolve, as Jacob did, to go to the grave mourning. In order to repress inordinate grief, we must consider that there is hope in our end, hope that there will be an end (the trouble will not last always), that it will be a happy and—the end will be peace. Note, It ought to support us under our troubles that we have reason to hope they will end well. The righteous has hope in his death; that will be the blessed period of his grief and the blessed passage to his joys. “There is hope for thy posterity” (so some read it); “though thou mayest not live to see these glorious days thyself, there is hope that thy posterity shall. Though one generation falls in the wilderness, the next shall enter Canaan. Two things thou mayest comfort thyself with the hope of:”-- [1.] “The reward of thy work:—Thy suffering work shall be rewarded. The comforts of the deliverance shall be sufficient to balance all the grievances of thy captivity.” God makes his people glad according to the days wherein he has afflicted them, and so there is a proportion between the joys and the sorrows, as between the reward and the work. The glory to be revealed, which the saints hope for in the end, will abundantly countervail the sufferings of this present time, Rom. 8:18. [2.] “The restoration of thy children: They shall come again from the land of the enemy (Jer. 31:16); they shall come again to their own border,” Jer. 31:17. There is hope that children at a distance may be brought home. Jacob had a comfortable meeting with Joseph after he had despaired of ever seeing him. There is hope concerning children removed by death that they shall return to their own border, to the happy lot assigned them in the resurrection, a lot in the heavenly Canaan, that border of his sanctuary. We shall see reason to repress our grief for the death of our children that are taken into covenant with God when we consider the hopes we have of their resurrection to eternal life. They are not lost, but gone before.