This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” This is what the Lord says: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord . “They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord . “Your children will return to their own land. “I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning: ‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the Lord . – Jeremiah 31:15-20
There is a whole lot of weeping going on here. If we can agree that tears are samples of our souls then the people of Israel are baring their souls to God. God responds to this weeping by saying “restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded”. I assume God means the work of returning to Him, but it is not very clear.
It is clear that it is in the returning “there is hope for your descendants”. So in turning back to God they have found the hope they have been missing. The people acknowledge that they have been disciplined. Instead of being angry about it they are willing to admit that they were behaving “like an unruly calf”. I am no rancher and I really have no experience tending cows, but my impression of an unruly calf would be a large animal lacking coordination or purpose bent on hurting itself or others….hmmm not a bad description of the way the people have been behaving. They have used their power and purpose to hurt themselves and others by following useless idols.
The people seem to get it in this passage when they say “Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God”. The order still seems a bit muddled but they get that they need restoration and that restoration can ultimately only come from God. Then they get the order right when they say “After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast”.
The order here is still a bit different than the New Testament. The order of restoration described here seems to be 1) stray; 2) understand; 3) repent; 4) beat my breast; and 5) return. A New Testament order of events, at least as I understand them, would be 1) stray ; 2) beat my breast; 3) return; 4) repent; and 5) understand. The last item, understanding, is something that waxes and wanes throughout our journey in pursuit of God.
Despite their imperfect understanding God remembers and yearns for his people. It is then up to us to remember and yearn for God with equal passion and pursuit. In the end God does see us and believe in us and has compassion even for those who do not fully understand Him.
Prayer: Thank You God for loving us and remembering us even when we have a hard time remembering You.