Jeremiah’s Sign Posts
Why do we look for signposts? What are we expecting them to show us? Can we find any signposts in scripture and do they direct us to Messiah?
The writings of the prophet Jeremiah are filled with warnings against sin and predictions of impending judgement against the nation of Israel. The nation will be taken into captivity in Babylon. But in Chapter 31 verse 17 Jeremiah offers hope that the nation will still have a future after the judgement of God:
"And there is hope in thine end saith the LORD, that thy children
shall come again to their own border."
In verse 21 Jeremiah reveals that to get home the people must in their hearts turn back to God and return to the relationship they once had with Him:
"Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway,
even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel,
turn again to these thy cities."
Here Jeremiah indicates that the roadmap for their return must have waymarks and high heaps to follow. These guides will be invaluable because Israel will be in captivity in Babylon for 70 years and the way home will be unknown to many. What will these waymarks and high heaps look like? First, let’s look at waymarks.
The Hebrew word Jeremiah uses for waymark is Tsiyuwn and means a conspicuous monument, a sign, or a guiding pillar. It is something set up or erected. What can ancient Hebrew pictographs tell us about this waymark? Tsiyuwn is spelled Tsade Yood Vav Noon.
Tsade is the picture of the fishhook and means to need or to have strong desire.
Yood is the picture of the hand and indicates a work or a mighty deed.
Vav is the picture of the wooden hook or the iron nail and means to fasten or secure two things that are separated from one another.
Noon is the picture of the sprout or the fish and means life or activity.
Why does Jeremiah use the word Tsiyuwn?
This waymark or guiding pillar is a strong work that
connects the desire to return home with life.
Following the directions given by this Tsiyuwn will guide them home. But Jeremiah repeats this instruction with the phrase make thee high heaps. Is he just repeating himself?
When the Rabbis study scripture, they carefully evaluate anything repeated to discover what is different in the repeated portion. They know something new may be found there because rarely in scripture is anything repeated simply for emphasis. What is added in high heaps?
High heaps in Hebrew is the word Tamruwr and means a pillar erected for a guide-board. So, both Tsiyuwn and Tamruwr can be translated guidepost. Why does Jeremiah use this second word? He is the only writer to use it; the guidepost Tamruwr is found nowhere else in scripture. Could it be that this guidepost contains something new? Is there a particular message for us not found in the first guidepost? Let’s now look at Tamruwr which is spelled Tav Mem Reysh Vav Reysh.
Tav is the picture of crossed wooden sticks and means a sign, to seal, or to covenant.
Mem s the picture of waters of chaos and destruction or gentle waters of life
Reysh is the picture of the head and stands for the master, the leader, or the prince.
Vav again means to fasten or connect two things together.
What do we have here? The first three letters Tav Mem Reysh are the word Tamar that comes from a root that means to stand erect and is usually translated palm tree. What is standing erect in these pictographs? What is on this tree?
The two letters at the end of this word, Vav Reysh, describe a prince that is connected to what is standing erect. What prince will this be? The first three pictograms show us. They tell us:
The Prince will be fastened to a cross which will be chaos and
destruction for Him but life for His people.
In the Gospel of John Chapter 12 verse 32 Jesus tells the crowd this great truth:
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men unto me."
This is what was missing in Tsiyuwn. The message of the greatest guidepost in all of history is that Jesus Christ is pointing us home. He reminds us in John Chapter 14 verse 6 that He is the road home to the Father:
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father,
but by me."
There is one more curiosity to point out here. There is another Tamruwr found in scripture. Jeremiah uses it two verses earlier in verse 15:
"Thus saith the LORD; a voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping;
Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted."
The word bitter used here is again Tamruwr but comes from a different root word Marar which means bitter. What are we to make of this? This seems a contradiction that would make it difficult for the reader to determine the meaning of the text.
In Hebrew, words with different possible meanings can be deliberately used to emphasize a wider truth. In this wordplay is it guidepost or bitter or both? Was there a deeper truth for the Israelites and is there a deeper truth for us?
The guidepost that was to lead the Israelites back home was also a bitter reminder of the unfaithfulness to God that was responsible for their captivity in a foreign land in the first place.
Whenever we see the picture of Messiah hanging on the cross of Calvary, we are to be ever grateful for the offer of salvation that is provided to us through His death. The pain and suffering He endured is also a bitter reminder of the weight our transgressions against God and what it cost Him to redeem us.