Aug 25, 2019: Reading the Prophecies on Three Horizons

Jeremiah 30-33 is known as the Book of Consolation, since its primary purpose is to bring comfort and hope to the despairing exiles, urging them to trust in what God had promised, and to know that he has plans for their good (cf. Jer 29:14), plans for the future that lay through and beyond the judgment they were now suffering. God makes a promise to the exiles that goes beyond (though it includes) the prediction of a physical return, and grants a range of assurances, envisages a scale of blessings, anticipates an intensity and purity of relationship between God and his people—all of which transcend the boundaries of “what actually happened in history.” And that is what we should expect, since the promise comes from God, and God himself transcends the bounds of what seems historically possible or actual. The exiles were being summoned not just to look forward to a prediction coming true, but to re-imagine their relationship with God in a way that opened the future to fresh possibilities only God could create.

When we come to realize that the prophecies of Jeremiah and other prophets of the Old Testament are not merely predictive, but promissory, then we can see that we must interpret the prophecies on three horizons. That is to say, we need to understand that the same text may find fulfilment at different points, or horizons, along the great biblical story line.

Horizon 1 is the horizon of the prophet’s own world, or the Old Testament era itself. And so we need to take note of the way in which the future anticipated in the prophetic word was indeed realized in the remainder of the Old Testament history. In the case of these chapters, Horizon 1 is clearly the actual return of exiles from Babylon, in several waves starting with the decree of Cyrus of Persia in 538 BC. God did gather his scattered people and their life continued in the post-exilic era.

Horizon 2 is the horizon of the New Testament. There are dimensions of God’s promise here that Christians necessarily interpret in relation to Jesus Christ—such as the promise of a new king David, and a new covenant that ensures eternal forgiveness of sin. The good news preached to the exiles finds its deepest fulfilment in the gospel preached by Jesus and accompanied by his life, death and resurrection.

Horizon 3 is the eschatological horizon of the return of Christ and the new creation. There are soaring visions in such chapters of a relationship between God and God’s people, and God’s people and God’s creation—a relationship of perfect love, obedience, unity and harmony that we do not yet see or enjoy, but which will be realities in the new creation, according to the promises of God that flow right up to Revelation 21–22 .

In light of the three horizons, then, when we read the words of Jeremiah, we first need to sit with the exiles and hear the words of hope for their literal future in their return to the land, and recognize the fulfilment of these prophecies at that level through the end of the exile. But we also need to hear the fuller biblical interpretation of these texts as being fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and ultimately in the new creation when Christ returns.

* Taken from The Message of Jeremiah by Christopher Wright.

This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:

Monday: Jeremiah 38 Thursday: Jeremiah 41
Tuesday: Jeremiah 39 Friday: Jeremiah 42
Wednesday: Jeremiah 40 Saturday: Jeremiah 43