God’s People Brought Home
Open Your Bible
Jeremiah 30:1-24, Jeremiah 31:1-40, Amos 5:18-20, Matthew 2:16-18
You may have seen Siena, Italy, on the news, either because of the coronavirus-related quarantine in the area or because its residents were filmed singing from their windows in the face of such hardship, but it has long been one of my favorite places in the world. While Americans have football and the Super Bowl, the Sienese have horse races and the Il Palio di Siena every July and August. Not unlike our own strong team affiliations, these Italians are die-hard fans for their individual contrada, or city division. You see, Siena is divided into ten contrade, each represented by a horse and a rider donning representative colors and flags.
The race itself takes place in the city center, and includes three laps around the piazza which take roughly ninety seconds, on average. Yet it’s the most-anticipated and beloved ninety seconds of the year; the rest of the year is spent in support of their home-turf contrada, waving flags and supporting their horse and rider, as well as the division itself, a loyalty that is passed down through generations to enjoy and carry on into the future.
In Jeremiah 30, we read about another kind of communal loyalty to tradition. Judah thought they’d never see their own ancestral land again. God, however, had different plans, and a new covenant: “I will restore them to the land I gave to their ancestors and they will possess it” (Jeremiah 30:3).
When I think of God’s people returning home, I can’t help but picture the reunion in the same style of celebration as Il Palio—bright colors, hooping and hollering, beaming with pride and excitement, as they “come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion… radiant with joy” (Jeremiah 31:12). Except this time, it’s God who is cheering on His children. It is He who is most excited to claim victory and freedom for His beloved and see them back home where they belong. Just as the Italians spent all year preparing for Il Palio, I like to picture God orchestrating the new covenant, anticipating radiant shouts of joy, long before His people returned home.
As we’ve journeyed through the book of Jeremiah, there have been warnings about the future and mountain-top moments of returning-home joy. But at the heart of this book and this Lenten season of remembrance and repentance is this: God can be trusted to hold both sorrow and joy, and He is faithful through it all. Thanks be to Him.