1st Reading – Jeremiah 31:7-9
Thus says the LORD:
Shout with joy for Jacob,
exult at the head of the nations;
proclaim your praise and say:
The LORD has delivered his people,
the remnant of Israel.
Behold, I will bring them back
from the land of the north;
I will gather them from the ends of the world,
with the blind and the lame in their midst,
the mothers and those with child;
they shall return as an immense throng.
They departed in tears,
but I will console them and guide them;
I will lead them to brooks of water,
on a level road, so that none shall stumble.
For I am a father to Israel,
Ephraim is my first-born.
The prophet Jeremiah lived through one of the most tumultuous periods of ancient Near East history. He witnessed the fall of a great empire (Assyria) and the rising of one even greater (Babylon). He served as prophet during the reign of the reformer King Josiah and during the time that led up to the sack of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile. His ministry lasted about forty years, from 627-587 BC.
In today’s reading, Jeremiah offers words of hope to his fellow Israelites while they were in exile in Babylon.
Because God had promised King David that his kingdom would be secure forever, the Israelites thought it would be impossible for them to be conquered. However, they were conquered by the Babylonians, and many of their upper-class citizens were taken into exile to Babylon. In addition, their temple was destroyed and their land ravaged.
Not only had the Israelites lost their homes, their country, and their temple, they’d lost their certainty that they were God’s chosen people.