“A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
Remember Rachel, whom Jacob loved and wanted to marry, was the younger sister of Leah. However, the father of the girls, Laban, tricked Jacob into marrying Leah first. So Leah and Rachel both became Jacob’s wives and Jacob’s sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. The voice is Rachel weeping over the destruction of her descendants, the Israelites, which became Northern Israel, who was overthrown by the Assyrians, and Southern Judah, who is being overthrown by the Babylonians.
The Lord tells Rachel to stop weeping because there is hope for her children’s future. God says He will bring His people home and make a new covenant with them since they broke the old covenant – “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Throughout the story, the Lord has been working His plan of redemption through covenants with His people. In the Patriarch Era, the Lord made a covenant with Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, that He would give his descendants land and they would be a nation that would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. In the Exodus Era, the Lord established the Mosaic Covenant where He gave the people the law and established the sacrificial system. And in the Kingdom Era, He made a covenant with King David, promising him an everlasting dynasty from which the perfect King, the Messiah, will come.
This New Covenant to which the Lord is referring will complete His plan of redemption. It will be established through the shedding of the blood of the innocent, Jesus Christ, on behalf of guilty sinners, us. While Jesus is having supper with His disciples before His sacrifice, He will take a cup of wine as an illustration and tell the men, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). And later Paul will explain how this is a better covenant than the old covenant which was based on the law (Hebrews 7:22).
The people are in need of a new covenant because they are unable to keep the old covenant under the law. Under the New Covenant, the Lord will give the people a new heart which desires obedience to Him, and He will cleanse them from their sins. The sacrificial system only provides a covering for the sins, but the final sacrifice by Jesus Christ will provide a complete forgiveness of sins. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus will ascend to heaven where He currently sits at the right hand of the Lord as the High Priest. Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ will be saved by grace through faith. Therefore, Jesus “has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). As Charles Spurgeon said, “Things required by the law are bestowed by the gospel. God demands obedience under the law: God works obedience under the gospel. Holiness is asked of us by the law: holiness is wrought in us by the gospel.”
We end the reading with the Lord saying that He will punish Babylon because they took such joy in destroying His inheritance just as He destroyed the Assyrians – “‘Israel is like scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away. First the king of Assyria devoured him; now at last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones.’ Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. But I will bring back Israel to his home, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan; his soul shall be satisfied on Mount Ephraim and Gilead. In those days and in that time,’ says the Lord, ‘The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found; for I will pardon those whom I preserve.’”
Tomorrow, Babylon besieges Jerusalem and takes the final wave into captivity. Keep reading. (Jeremiah 31:15-40, Jeremiah 49:34-51:14)