• Living in the days of Advent we are looking forward to what the Lord is about to do | Photo credit: Image by Myriam Zilles via Pixabay

Ephraim, My Precious Son (Jeremiah 31 – part 6)

Rev Henk Poot - 7 January 2020

When you read Jeremiah 31:18 through 20 it is as if you taste two hearts. The heart of Ephraim, symbolizing the ten tribes, and the heart of God Himself.

What touches me is that Ephraim bemoans himself. His behaviour towards the Lord was wrong. He was an untamed calf that pigheadedly walked away from the herd. And then God hears him say: “turn thou me, and I shall be turned: for thou art the Lord my God.” In my opinion that is so powerful, for myself too. It is not a question of once more brushing up my faith, my devotion, that I change my relationship with God and breath new life into it. This is not about the way I prefer to serve God again and praise Him and more. Ephraim has no faith anymore in his own spiritual life. He aims his heart at God and in fact says: would You make me look like Your child?

Precious child
But we also taste God’s heart. We detect His own emotion. Literally it says: surely Ephraim is my ben yakir? Translated with “dear son”. But yakir is a word so special that it only occurs once in the Hebrew language of the Bible. It is derived from a verb that means “dearly and precious”, like when you speak of jewels. And so that is what the ten tribes are to God. He yearns for them, He misses them, He can’t stop thinking about them and says that He will certainly have mercy on them. I wrote earlier how striking it is that God, on the brink of Juda’s exile, here in Jeremiah also speaks of the other tribes of Israel who have been away for so long, so far away. But they are included as well. And when God promises that He will restore His people, it involves all of Israel, all sons and children of Jacob.


We live in the days of Advent and we look forward to what the Lord is about to do. We expect Him and we expect His Son. The rabbis are apparently so touched by what God is saying here in Jeremiah that they too related these sentences to the Messiah. Often, they call the one who will come Messiah Ephraim. And in a way they are right: Messiah is God’s precious Son. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read what God says when Jesus is baptized: “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17b). But Matthew also tells that He is the son of David. And when we look at the prophets for what the promised son of David is going to do, we find that He is going to take Ephraim home.

Jeremiah says in another chapter: “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch and a King shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely…” (Jeremiah 23:5-6a). We are allowed to notice that these words are fulfilled. In this time of Advent, we not only look forward, but we also look around us and we see that God has mercy upon Ephraim.


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