Monday, December 28, 2015

Jeremiah 31:7-14 Israel as God's Redeemed and Ransomed People

KEY TEXT:  Jer 31:10-11 "Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.' For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. 

KEY THOT: Jeremiah used the words “ransomed” and “redeemed” to refer to the Lord’s relationship with Israel. The two words suggests some kind of pre-payment already made on behalf of Israel to keep this relationship. And whether Israel was aware of the eternal fact of Christ's atoning sacrifice on behalf of sinful humanity, they were nevertheless beneficiaries on the basis of their faith in the Lord their God. Christ's atoning sacrifice is not a temporal reality but an eternal reality, of which intimations of it is found in the Levitical sacrificial system. The Levitical sacrifices and offerings were shadows cast by the Eternal Reality of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice which remained hidden to Israel but was revealed when the Eternal Word became flesh on Christmas day. 

Paul spoke of Christ as the only mediator between God and men whose offering of himself as our ransom was dated from the beginning of time:
  • 1 Tim 2:5-7 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all (Israel included), which is the testimony given at the proper time. 
  • 2 Tim 1:9-10 This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (NIV)
The Lord has ransomed and redeemed Israel on the same basis He ransomed and redeemed the Church. And He will restore them and regather them on the basis of their faith, not on the basis of the Law. This same grace first offered to Israel is now extended to everyone once Christ came to unveil this Eternal Fact which was hidden in ages past. The Law was never the basis for their relationship with God but it has always been faith in the Lord that kept them as God's chosen people: "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,  as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" (Rom. 1:17). The Law was never the condition for maintaining their status as God’s chosen people but on God’s gracious provision based on Christ's mediatory work and on His promise made to Israel’s forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

Just as God did not abandon Israel but will restore them “as a shepherd keeps his flock” (v.10), so we know that He will always be our shepherd even when we have strayed from His presence, for He will restore us on the basis of faith, for His initial acceptance of us was never based on what we have done but on the basis of what Christ has done. Israel remains God’s chosen people on the same basis as Gentile believers—on the basis of the grace “given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time”. And this grace of God is accessed through faith, for “by grace are we saved through faith”. So long as we keep our faith in God, God’s grace is continually extended to us, for “without faith, it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6).

The root of apostasy is not breaking of God’s law but unbelief: Heb 6:4-6 describes the seriousness of rejecting Christ's atoning sacrifice through unbelief: “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” Once we reject Christ’s ransom payment of sin through unbelief, we cannot be restored back to repentance, for unbelief reverts us back to our original state of separation from God.

Father, thank You that You have ransomed and redeemed us not because we are good but because You are gracious, for You have done for us what we couldn’t do by offering Your Son as the ransom payment to redeem us. Help us to remain faithful to You despite our failings and sins. Amen.

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