This is what the LORD says: "Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, 'O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.' See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel's father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. - Jeremiah 31:7-9

In the Bible the Jewish people are referred to by many different names. Because the nation comes from the twelve sons of Jacob, who is also called Israel, the nation is sometimes called the Children of Israel. Today’s reading from God’s Word also refers to a grandson of Jacob; his name was Ephraim. By the use of these family names our loving God shows his close relationship with his people. Just like a loving father cares for his children, the LORD cares for those who believe in him.

But Jeremiah had a difficult message to deliver. The Children of Israel had turned from their God and he was going to punish them. Jeremiah prophesied that Israel would be taken into captivity by a foreign nation. Because they had turned their backs on God, the LORD sent a punishment to show them the error of their ways. This punishment would not last forever, though. These verses from Jeremiah 31 are a picture of the return and salvation the LORD planned for his people.

The most outstanding feature of Israel’s deliverance would be that it is all inclusive. Traveling long distances was especially hard in Jeremiah’s day for those who had physical limitations. Included in this group are the lame, the blind, expectant mothers and women in labor. But because the LORD was so patient with them and caring for them, every last one of his children would be brought back safely.

Today we can still stand in awe of God’s outstanding deliverance. We, like God’s people who have gone before us, have given into sin. Sin takes us captive and we can’t save ourselves. But God showed his incomparable strength and love by sending Jesus to release us from the captivity of sin. He gave his life on the cross to pay for our forgiveness and release. Just like all the people were included in the deliverance in Jeremiah’s day, all people have been forgiven through Jesus. No wonder Jeremiah told the people to sing!