“Yes, God’s Message: ‘You’re going to look at this place, these empty and desolate towns of Judah and streets of Jerusalem, and say, “A wasteland. Unlivable. Not even a dog could live here.” But the time is coming when you’re going to hear laughter and celebration, marriage festivities, people exclaiming, “Thank God-of-the-Angel-Armies. He’s so good! His love never quits,” as they bring thank offerings into God’s Temple. I’ll restore everything that was lost in this land. I’ll make everything as good as new.’ I, God, say so.
“God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: ‘This coming desolation, unfit for even a stray dog, is once again going to become a pasture for shepherds who care for their flocks. You’ll see flocks everywhere—in the mountains around the towns of the Shephelah and Negev, all over the territory of Benjamin, around Jerusalem and the towns of Judah—flocks under the care of shepherds who keep track of each sheep.’ God says so.
“ ‘Watch for this: The time is coming’—God’s Decree—‘when I will keep the promise I made to the families of Israel and Judah. When that time comes, I will make a fresh and true shoot sprout from the David-Tree. He will run this country honestly and fairly. He will set things right.’” (Jeremiah 33:10-15)
Only after the discipline of God has been planted, can we harvest the fruit of that plowing and recognize that God did something good to us. In the middle of the sorrow, when the nation was a blasted wasteland and the cities were rubble piles, it was impossible for the Israelites to see the presence of God, to discern any hope. The hopeful words of the prophets were just so many empty platitudes. As hard as it had been during prosperity to hear God’s promised judgment, so in the midst of judgment, it was hard to hear his promise of renewal.
Our circumstances dictate what we hear, what we see, what we think we know. When times are good, rejoicing comes naturally. The world is bright and happy. All circumstances are interpreted in the best possible way. When the score is in our favor, every missed basket was “almost there” and “they’re hot tonight.” But when the other team is ahead, the same missed basket becomes evidence that “they can’t hit anything.”
The “sprout from the David-Tree” was a promise fulfilled when the Messiah came and Jesus brought in the kingdom of God into the hearts of his people. Just as everything was awful, God promised that someday soon, everything would be wonderful. God is more than our circumstances. He asks us to stand where he’s standing and learn to see things from his perspective.