Tuesday of Pentecost 22 – Jeremiah 31:7-9

For thus says the Lord:
“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
    and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
    ‘O Lord, save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.’
Behold, I will bring them from the north country
    and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
    the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
    and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
    in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

He had misplaced it once, and now it was gone. A couple of moves, some tough times, a bout of depression, these all contributed to separating a man from his possessions and memories. But he missed that old guitar that had fit him just so. He had gotten a few others. They played just fine. But he missed that old guitar. But it was gone, gone forever.

Decades later, when he was living alone and in a different city, he was shocked to get a call out of the blue. He had apparently lent the guitar to a friend who had not returned it before he moved. That friend had passed it along to another fellow with a note saying to whom it really belonged. It passed hands again, with the note, and this person had finally tracked the man down. A couple of days later a meeting was scheduled and sure enough, it was his old guitar. It still fit, just right.

When Jeremiah wrote these words, the northern ten tribes of Israel had been in exile for well over 100 years. By every human estimation they were gone. This prophecy must have struck the hearers a little like that phone call to the old musician who had been long separated from his guitar. He could hardly believe it. We often only expect God to do the possible, the good work which seems within reach. We hear the story of the man who got his guitar back and we are impressed that it could happen, but we want to know just how it happened, what was the trail of possession and good will which led to its return. Jeremiah asks us to believe today. God has in mind the rescue of his lost people, people who seem to be irretrievably lost. The ten tribes of Israel, Ephraim as they often were called, the house of Jacob, seem to have disappeared from history. But they have not disappeared from God’s mind. He who once called the world into being from nothing, makes strong promises to us as well. Trust him. He keeps his promises.