By Russ Ramsey
A couple years ago, my son and I took a trip to Northern Ireland. We headed to the northern coast near the Giant’s Causeway and hiked along the coastal cliffs, with the cerulean blue Irish Sea stretching out before us, and the faintest trace of Scotland lining the distant horizon across the water. Behind us were lush pastures of rolling hills framed by fieldstone walls, dotted with clusters of shaggy white sheep with their noses in the turf, contentedly chewing on soft wisps of the greenest grass I’d ever seen.
If you haven’t been to the place I’m talking about, you can imagine the beauty. You can look up pictures online. But what imagination and pictures can’t give you is the experience of the peace, the scent, the sound of the sea, the way it’s a world in motion—waves rolling, grass dancing on the breeze, sheep grazing.
If you have been there, I bet my description makes you want to go back, doesn’t it? Going to places like this awakens in us an ache for that sort of beauty and peace to be permanent. And we were created to long for beauty and peace to be permanent.
The language the Lord uses in Jeremiah 50 to talk about His people’s return—not only to their land, but to a place of peace—mentions some specific locations that would have been not only familiar to the people of Israel and Judah, but also places of affection and beauty. These were places of prosperity, hospitality, peace, and beauty. The pastures of Carmel. The hills of Ephraim. The Lord would bring them back to a place that resides in their hearts as much as on their maps.
“I will return Israel to his grazing land,
and he will feed on Carmel and Bashan” (Jeremiah 50:19).
The restoration mentioned in verse 19 refers to more than the land of Judah and Israel. It refers to future glory. It will be devoid of all iniquity; sin will be sought but not found. It’s a picture of a perfect pasture and a perfected people. This is what awaits the remnant of the Lord. They will stand in those beloved places, in the best possible conditions, in perfect spiritual and relational health. That’s what’s coming for the people of God.
When I stood on the Irish coast with my son, I felt an ache, knowing that I would have to leave. And I felt a resolve to one day return, even though I was still there and would be for a few more days. Something good and true, something glorious, something aching for perfect peace awoke in me. Later this year I will return, and I can’t wait. I’m sure I’ll feel the same ache when I leave, and the same resolve to return.
When the Lord talks about our future restoration, He blows right past all the temporal stuff we know now, with all its turmoil and imperfection, and gives us a picture of perfect, eternal peace. We ache for it. Something in us knows we were meant to be there. And the promise is that one day, because of Jesus, we will. And we’ll never have to leave.
Written by Russ Ramsey