Old Testament Lesson 42 (Jeremiah 16; 23; 29; 31)
Evil vs. Righteous Pastors
● The prophet Jeremiah lived through one of the most troubled periods of history.
He witnessed the Fall of a great empire (Assyria) and the rising of another (Babylon).
In the midst of this turmoil the kingdom of Judah was ruled by five kings, four of them deplorable.
● Jeremiah declared God’s message for forty years, warning of coming disaster and appealing in vain to the nation to turn back to God.
● Judah became increasingly insensitive to spiritual things during Jeremiah’s time.
● The pastors (religious leaders) of Judah had not fed and protected the sheep (Israel), but had scattered them and driven them away (Jeremiah 23:1–2).
● Both the prophets and the priests were profane (Jeremiah 23:11–14).
— They prophesied in the name of Baal and led the people into error.
— They were as evil as Sodom and Gomorrah in God’s sight.
● They spoke their own words, not those of the Lord (Jeremiah 23:16, 31).
● They told the wicked they would have peace and that they were not evil (Jeremiah 23:17).
● They called themselves to the ministry and prophesied without revelation (Jeremiah 23:21).
● In the midst of all this wickedness, the Lord showed Jeremiah a vision of the future that put things into a perspective of hope. These visions and prophecies by Jeremiah have for centuries provided hope to Israel. They also hold a very important place in the latter-days and the work of restoration.
CHRIST WILL RULE OVER ISRAEL
The “Branch” Will Be King
● The “righteous Branch” will be king over Israel (Jeremiah 23:5–6).
— He will be a king who will reign and prosper.
— He will execute judgment and justice.
— In his day, Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell safely.
— He will be called “the Lord our Righteousness” (v. 6).
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Christ is the Son of David, the Seed of David. the inheritor, through Mary his mother, of the blood of the great king. He is also called the Stem of Jesse and the Branch, meaning Branch of David. Messianic prophecies under these headings deal with the power and dominion he shall wield as he sits on David’s throne, and have reference almost exclusively to his second sojourn on planet earth . . . That the Branch of David is Christ is perfectly clear . . . He is also called David. . . . he is a new David, an Eternal David, who shall reign forever on the throne of his ancient ancestor.”1
— Isaiah told us who the Stem (Branch) is (Isaiah 11:1).
— “David” (Christ) will be their king (Jeremiah 30:8–11).
— Jerusalem will be “the throne of the Lord” (Jeremiah 3:17–18).
— John identified Him as the “Lamb of God” (Revelation 17:14).
— He is the “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16).
Priesthood Leaders and Missionaries
● The “shepherds . . . which shall feed them” are righteous priesthood leaders who, unlike the priests and prophets of Jeremiah’s time, lead their people to do good and obey the Lord (Jeremiah 23:3–4).
● Missionaries (“hunters” and “fishers”) will perform a great gathering of Israel (Jeremiah 16:14–16; 23:7–8).
— Elder LeGrand Richards said concerning these verses:
“Just contemplate that statement [vv (v. 16). 14–15] for a few moments. Think how the Jews and the Christians all through these past centuries have praised the Lord for his great hand of deliverance under the hands of Moses when he led Israel out of captivity, and yet here comes Jeremiah with this word of the holy prophet, telling us that in the latter days they shall no more remember that, but how God has gathered scattered Israel from the lands whither he had driven them.
“And Jeremiah saw the day when the Lord would do this very thing, when he would call for many fishers and many hunters, ‘and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.’ (Jer. 16:16). Where do you find those fishers and hunters that we read about in this great prophecy of Jeremiah? They are these 14,000 missionaries of this church, and those who have preceded them from the time that the Prophet Joseph Smith received the truth and sent the messengers out to share it with the world. Thus have they gone out, fishing and hunting, and gathering them from the hills and the mountains, and the holes in the rocks. I think that is more literal than some of us think!”2
— The Lord described the Apostles of his day “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18–19).
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “The gathering of Israel consists of receiving the truth, gaining again a true knowledge of the Redeemer, and coming back into the true fold of the Good Shepherd. In the language of the Book of Mormon, it consists of being ‘restored to the true Church and fold of God,’ and then being ‘gathered’ and ‘established’ in various ‘lands of promise.’ (2 Nephi 9:2).”3
— President Spencer W. Kimball said: “[The Lord] said through Nephi, ‘The house of Israel [sooner or later will] be scattered upon all the face of the earth.’ (1 Nephi 22:3). And now He says, ‘I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them.’ (Jeremiah 23:3). The gathering of Israel is now in progress. Hundreds of thousands of people have been baptized into the Church. Millions more will join the Church. And this is the way that we will gather Israel. The English people will gather in England. The Japanese people will gather in the Orient. The Brazilian people will gather in Brazil. So that important element of the world history is already being accomplished. It is to be done by missionary work. It is your responsibility to attend to this missionary work.”4
● The gathering of Israel from the four corners of the earth and the bringing of the ten tribes from the north will be a greater miracle than ancient Israel’s crossing the Red Sea on dry ground (Jeremiah 23:7–8).
● The Lord speaks of an earlier gathering, after 70 years in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10–14; 50:17–20).
● Jehovah will again be the God of all the tribes (families) of Israel (Jeremiah 31:1–5).
— Thither: They will be gathered “thither” and not “hither”—a place other than old Jerusalem where this prophecy was uttered by Jeremiah
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Ephraim was blessed with the birthright in Israel, and in this dispensation he has been called to stand at the head to bless the other tribes of Israel. . . . It is essential in this dispensation that Ephraim stand in his place at the head, exercising the birthright in Israel which was given to him by direct revelation. Therefore, Ephraim must be gathered to prepare the way, through the gospel and the priesthood, for the rest of the tribes of Israel when the time comes for them to be gathered to Zion. The great majority of those who have come into the Church are Ephraimites. It is the exception to find one of any other tribe, unless it is of Manasseh.”5
● Israel will return with weeping—of both joy and sorrow for their past mistakes (Jeremiah 31:9).
● There will first be a time of punishment and testing for Israel, because of the sins of their “fathers” (Jeremiah 16:17–21).
● Do children pay the price of their fathers’ mistakes?
— A proverb about “the fathers’ sour grapes” (Jeremiah 31:27–30).
— Children may, in fact, suffer consequences of parental sins (Exodus 20:5–6).
— Ultimately, however, the parents will pay the price of it (D&C 68:25–28).
● “They shall not sorrow any more at all” (Jeremiah 31:10–14). These verses picture the great joy and happiness that will accompany the return of Israel—abundance (v. 12), rejoicing (v. 13) and the end of sorrow (vv. 15–16).
—Elder LeGrand Richards saw a parallel in the early history of the Church.
—The Saints left Nauvoo with weeping and supplications, not because they wanted to.
—He saw the rivers of waters they walked by in a straight way as being the North Platte River, by which they traveled about six hundred miles.
—He says singing in the height of Zion refers to the Tabernacle Choir.
—Their mourning being turned into joy (v. 13) refers to the Saints finding joy with one another in dancing and other activities as well as in testimony meetings.
— Elder LeGrand Richards said: “While the members of the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not paid for their services, and thousands of them have left their families for years at a time to do missionary work in the nations of the earth, paying their own expenses and without remuneration from the Church, yet, in their hearts, they feel they are better paid than any other religious leaders in the world, because of the joy and satisfaction the Lord plants in their hearts, which could not possibly be purchased with money. Thus He has satiated ‘the soul of the priests with fatness,’ and His people are satisfied with His goodness.”6
● Rachel weeping for her children (Jeremiah 31:15). These words are embroidered in Hebrew on the covering of Rachel’s tomb, which is located between modern Jerusalem and Bethlehem. They are also quoted by Matthew [2:18] in describing the sorrow in Judah over the slaughter of the firstborn by Herod after the birth of Christ.
● Ephraim will be restored it its “pleasant cities” again (Jeremiah 31:16–21).
● Restoration shall occur in a day when “a woman shall compass a man” (Jeremiah 31:22). The Hebrew word translated ‘compass’ means to encompass with love and care, to surround lovingly and carefully. The woman, considered in Jeremiah’s day to be the weaker sex that needed help, will lovingly and solicitously surround the man, providing as well as receiving strength.
● “In those days [the latter days]” the punishments of God will not be delayed unduly; they will come almost immediately (Jeremiah 31:29–30).
● Judah will also be restored in the latter days (Jeremiah 32:23–26).
● In the midst of prophesying the “full end of all the nations” (v. 27), Jeremiah promises the eventual gathering of Israel (Jacob) (Jeremiah 46:27–28).
A New and Everlasting Covenant
● A “new” covenant will be restored (Jeremiah 31:31–34).
— The Lord promises to make a “new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (v. 31).
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I will proceed to tell you what the Lord requires of all people, high and low, rich and poor, male and female, ministers and people, professors of religion and non-professors, in order that they may enjoy the Holy Spirit of God to a fulness and escape the judgments of God, which are almost ready to burst upon the nations of the earth. Repent of all your sins, and be baptized in water for the remission of them, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and receive the ordinance of the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power, that ye may receive the Holy Spirit of God; and this is according to the Holy Scriptures . . . and the only way that man can enter into the celestial kingdom. These are the requirements of the new covenant.”7
— All Israel, “from the least . . . unto the greatest,” will “know the Lord” (v. 34).
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “The Lord has promised that the time shall come when every man shall be his own teacher, that is, he will know because of righteous living what to do. He will be so filled with the Spirit of the Lord that he will be guided and directed in doing right without the necessity of someone coming into his home to set it in order. Now is a good time for us to begin.”8
— The restoration included the re-establishment of God’s covenant with Israel (D&C 1:17–23).
— The “new and everlasting covenant” embraces the whole gospel, including the covenants of baptism, priesthood, and eternal marriage, each of which is properly called a new and everlasting covenant (D&C 66:2; 39:11; 22:1–4; 132:4).
— Neither the ordinances nor the covenant will ever depart again from the earth (Jeremiah 31:35–37).
— The Lord’s part of the covenant—he will do his part “with my whole heart and with my whole soul” (Jeremiah 32:36–42).
● The Lord will cause their captivity to end, and he will keep his promises to Israel (Jeremiah 32:42–44).
● Happiness and joy will be restored to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 33:6–14).
— “I will cure them (vv. 6, 8). . . I will cleanse them . . . I will pardon all their iniquities”.
— Even the desolate land shall be restored to its former condition (v. 12).
— The cities that were once desolate will be full of people and flocks (v. 13).
— The Lord will perform all that he has promised unto Israel and Judah (v. 14).
1. The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ , 192–193.
2. In Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 143; or Ensign, June 1971, 98–99.
3. “Come: Let Israel Build Zion,” Ensign, May 1977, 117.
4. In Conference Report, Sao Paulo Brazil Area conference, Feb.-Mar. 1975, 73.
5. Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:247, 252.
6. Israel! Do You Know? , 179–180; also 177–179.
7. History of the Church, 1:313–314.
8. Doctrines of Salvation, 1:319.