The Background of the Text
Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the prison, saying, Thus says the LORD who made it, the LORD who formed it to establish it (the LORD is His name) Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. (Jer. 33:1-3)
Jeremiah 33:3 is not a foreign verse of Scripture to most. In fact, it is often quoted as a life verse for many believers. We all enjoy these kinds of verses. They give us the guarantee that God hears and answers our prayers. The best part of all is that God promises to show us GREAT and MIGHTY things! Well, what does that even mean? What does that look like? Does that apply to me? I believe we should look into this text and allow it to answer these questions.
The passage starts off by showing us the background of the text. Jeremiah was in prison, and the Lord appeared to him a second time (Jer. 33:1). Oddly enough, Jeremiah was in prison for telling King Zedekiah the exact message God instructed him to share. The people of Israel grew weary of Jeremiah’s message of repentance, and even asked the king to silence him by putting him into prison. Babylon was coming just as Jeremiah had prophesied, and the people of Israel continued to ignore the message of God. In fact, the “spiritual” leaders of Israel had advised King Zedekiah and the people to continue on as they were, and claimed that there would be peace (Jer. 6:14). Jeremiah was, no doubt, in a state of hopelessness, but God had not forgotten him in prison.
In verse 2, God declares Himself to Jeremiah by reminding him that He was the all powerful God, who created, and formed all things. God invited Jeremiah to call unto Him and promised that He would answer him. There is no doubt that Jeremiah, while sitting in prison for sharing the message of God, was struggling in his mindset. Speaking truth had only brought him sorrow and frustration. There was a time where Jeremiah told God that he would no longer speak in His name (Jer. 20:9). Jeremiah watched his countrymen ignore God and continue on in their sin. It appeared that people were getting away with sin, false prophets looked spiritual, redemption was a joke, and the people of God were hopeless. Then God invited Jeremiah to look at His power and to inquire of Him what He would do about it (verse 3). He told Jeremiah that He would SHOW it to him.
The Meaning of the Text
For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah, which have been pulled down to fortify against the siege mounds and the sword: They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but only to fill their places with the dead bodies of men whom I will slay in My anger and My fury, all for whose wickedness I have hidden My face from this city. Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return, and will rebuild those places as at the first. I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me. (Jer. 33:4-8)
We continue into Jeremiah 33:4-5 and it’s as if we jumped into another passage of Scripture. One minute, we are given exciting promises of answered prayers and great things ahead; the next minute, a bunch of people die and God is furious. What is happening here? By the time we get to verse 6, it looks like we are back on track again. Were verses 4-5 misplaced? No! What is happening is that God is showing Jeremiah that judgment must come first and redemption second. We would all love to jump to verses 6-17 and read about healing, abundance of peace and truth, rebuilding, pardoning sin, joy, praises, goodness, prosperity, and mercy. We would all say, “those are the great and mighty things of Jeremiah 33:3 that we all want to see!” So why the doom and gloom in verses 4-5? The truth is, God cannot perform any of those things until He has first dealt with sin. People cannot heal when they are consistently wounding their souls with sin. People cannot find peace and truth when they are ignoring the truth. People cannot be pardoned of sin when they have not repented and forsaken their sin.
God wants to show all of us great and mighty things. Often, we pray and ask God to heal, rebuild, restore and show mercy just to see the opposite take place. We cry out to God to answer us and He shows us more hurt and disappointment! No doubt, this is how Jeremiah felt while he was in prison. The truth is, God has to deal with the sin before he can perform verses 6-17. When the sin is dealt with, then God begins to do the great and mighty things he promised in verse 3. Do you remember what God promised Jeremiah in verse 3? Take a look again, “I will SHOW you.” Take a look at verse 6, “BEHOLD.” The promise has finally arrived! God now begins to do the work of great and mighty things all the way down to verse 17. In the midst of all these great promises, the greatest one of them all is found in verses 15-16. He describes the coming of the Lord Jesus, giving him the title, “The Branch.” The Branch would come from David’s lineage to execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. This is a reference to the second coming of Christ based on the description of his mighty acts.
The Conclusion of this Text
…which you do not know. (Jer. 33:3)
We do not always see what God is doing behind the scenes. Yet, He invites us to call unto Him and trust Him anyway. He promises to show us great and mighty things. The great and mighty things are His healing, bringing peace and truth, rebuilding, restoring, and showing mercy. However, I do not want us to miss the source of it all. It is the person of Jesus Christ (Jer. 33:15-16). He was the answer for Israel in this text! He is also the answer for all of our lives today! He would come and execute judgement and righteousness (Jer. 33:15) and then bring deliverance (Jer. 33:16).
God must deal with the sin, first, before we can see the great and mighty things. It is also important to note that this sin was not caused by Jeremiah, but rather it was the sin of Israel. Like all sin, it affects everyone involved, and unfortunately, Jeremiah also bore the affects of Israel’s sin. So when we are tempted to question God about the great and mighty things, we need to remember that He does the work of purging first before He brings about the work of redemption. Obedience will save us all from the miseries of verses 4-5 and actually speed up the process of verses 6-17. But if we choose disobedience and God has to step in to deal with us, we should rejoice! If we respond to God dealing with our sin properly, great and mighty things are around the corner for even those of us who failed. However, if we choose to harden our hearts against God as Israel did, we can expect to be a tragic story similar to Jeremiah 33:5. God wants to do the great and mighty! Call unto Him. He will answer you. Get ready to be amazed. Get ready to worship Him like you’ve never worshiped Him before.
-Dr. Stephen Boyce