When you read commentaries on the book of Jeremiah, chapters 30–33 are often called the Book of Consolation. This is because those chapters contain really good news for the Jews. They talk about when Christ will return, set up His kingdom, give them a new covenant, and gather them from all the nations of the world. This all will happen in the last days. God will fulfill all His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What a glorious future awaits them.
These four chapters are in stark contrast to the chapters that go before them, as well as the chapters that follow. In chapters 2–29, Jeremiah tells the people that God is angry with their sin. And their sin is really bad. As a result, He will punish them. They will go off into captivity. The Babylonians will burn their cities to the ground. The temple will be destroyed. They will be in Babylon for 70 years.
After the Book of Consolation, the bad news continues. Starting in Jeremiah 34, the Babylonians are at the gates of Jerusalem. God tells the people that the dead will pile up within her walls. If they have any hope of saving their country, they can forget it. Nobody is coming to help them. In fact, God Himself is fighting against them.
Many look at the Book of Jeremiah in this way. There is a lot of really bad news. Then a few chapters of really good news. Then, the bad news is given again. Certainly, those going through those hard times would be excused if they thought that way.
But I want to suggest a completely radical way to look at those bad chapters. Even the bad chapters are good. The nation of Israel had fallen into grievous sins. They had abandoned God and had even sacrificed their own children to idols. Their other sins were mounting as well. God was going to punish them for those things.
But that was a good thing.
What would have happened if God had done nothing? What depravity would they have fallen into? What good father would allow his children to behave that way and not do anything? Jeremiah makes it clear that the Jews would not listen. They were determined to keep living and acting the way they were. God had to correct His wayward people. He had to get their attention. That is why all those “bad” things happened to them.
How loving was God in doing what He did! They went to Babylon as captives, but it was the only way to get them to turn from the evil they were doing. In Babylon, they gave up their idols. The book of Ezra tells us that the people came back with a completely different attitude.
The “bad” chapters of Jeremiah are a demonstration of God’s grace to His people. False prophets tell them to oppose the Babylonians, but the Lord sends Jeremiah to tell them that they should submit to the Babylonians. God had sent the Babylonians to teach them things they needed to know. The Lord wants them to learn their lesson and not listen to the false prophets (Jer 27:1-9).
The false prophets were also telling the Jews not to have children. God was going to go easy on them and the Babylonians would soon go away. Once again, God sends Jeremiah to tell the people He was disciplining, the people of Judah, that they should have children. The Lord did not want them to miss out on those blessings even though He was punishing them for their sins (Jer 29:1-7).
The point of all of this is that even when God is dealing harshly with His people, He does it out of mercy and love for them. He wants to teach them spiritual lessons, but He does so out of concern for them. He wants what is best for them.
The same is true for believers today. When we are convicted of our sin, or when we suffer the consequences of our sinful decisions, God is teaching us. These are not bad things. Such discipline by our God is for our own good (Heb 12:7). We should be glad that the Lord does not allow us to continue in the destructive paths we have chosen.
Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet because of all the bad news he had to give to his people. I would like to start a new trend. His whole book (Chapters 1–52) should be called a Book of Consolation.