We have seen that Jeremiah 31, from which this quotation was taken by Matthew, brims with hope for Israel’s future. The people would return from exile in Babylon and the land of Benjamin would again be filled with children. Mourning would turn to joy. Moreover, God would “make a new covenant with the house of Israel.”
I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. Jeremiah 31:31, 33-34
The time would come when God’s people would obey Him from the heart. They would know the Lord. And this would come about because God would forgive their sins. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ has ushered in this New Covenant by His sacrificial death on the Cross (Hebrews 10:16-23). Now let us return to Bethlehem and the slaughter of those innocent young boys. We can see why Matthew recalled the words of God recorded by Jeremiah, for they infuse hope into an otherwise dark and dismal story. Jesus, who was called God’s Son only three verses earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (2:15), later heard the Father say at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). He is the true Israel, who alone pleased God by His flawless conduct. This uniquely innocent Son of God suffered on the Cross that His people might be saved from their sins (1:21). The single guiltless boy in Bethlehem was saved from Herod’s cruelty in order that guilty souls could be delivered from God’s righteous wrath. We were by nature “sons of disobedience” and therefore “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:2-3). Now, in Christ Jesus, we are “sons of God”, indwelt by His Spirit, Who enables us to call God “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:14-15). As a result, nothing – not even death – can “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Knowing God and His love, we can mourn earthly loss with everlasting hope.