This chapter begins a very distinct section within Jeremiah sometimes called “The Book of Consolation.” There have been glimmers of hope so far in his book, but here it hits the surface and become the focus of attention. In the next four chapters, Jeremiah concentrates on the hope in store for God’s people, even though they find themselves in exile.
It is worthwhile to note that as the chapter opens, Jeremiah addresses this section to both Judah and Israel. This is the first substantial reference to the long-gone northern kingdom. The idea is that both Israel and Judah are now in the same condition-entirely decimated as a result of exile-and that God’s promise of hope applies to all His people. Israel, though long gone into Assyria, has not been forgotten by God.
Jeremiah, though, sees the turmoil and difficulty the nation is currently in. He sees the best, brightest and strongest doubled over in pain as if they were women in labor: “Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale?” (vs. 6) When women go through labor they bring forth life, but when Judah’s warriors went through their labor, it only produced death and destruction.
But that is not the whole story. God will rescue His people from their captivity in order to return them to their homeland to serve Him. As with the prophecy of the yoke in chapter 28, God’s people will either be slaves to their sin, or will willingly serve their God.
Then Jeremiah says, “fear not.” (vs. 10) The command, “fear not” is the most repeated command in all of Scripture. Of everything commanded by God, the prophets, the apostles, angels, and others, “fear not” shows up more often than anything else. This communicates at least two very important things. First, the most common human condition is something like fear and anxiety. And second, it is the emotion or reaction to life that is least warranted for a follower of Christ.
God just doesn’t give us the command without any support behind it, however. Later in this little section, He tells us why we should not be afraid. He says in verse 11, “For I am with you to save you.” “I am with you”: those have to be the four most encouraging words in Scripture.
They show up at pivotal points in the lives of God’s people. When Jacob was fleeing from Esau to only God knows where, God showed up in the wilderness and told Jacob that He was with him wherever he went (Gen. 28:15). When Moses stood before the burning bush full of excuses, God told him that He was with him (Ex. 3:12). After Moses died over a million people stood on the edge of the Promised Land. The burden of their futures fell on one man, Joshua, and what do you think God’s message was to him? (Joshua 1:9) When Mary and Joseph faced a complicated and problematic social situation with the birth of their child, what did the angel tell them to name him? His name was Immanuel-God was with Mary and Joseph.
And when the disciple Matthew reflected on his life with Jesus and composed his book-when he arranged the beginning, middle and end, and included the stories and discussions he wanted us to hear-what was the last thing he wanted you to hear Jesus say? “And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”