Sunday, November 20, 2016

Posted on Nov 19 2016

Background on Jeremiah: Jeremiah was a ‘reluctant’ prophet, called by God as a youth. He has the thankless task of speaking God’s Word to the Southern Kingdom (Judah) before and during the time of exile to Babylon, around 608 BC. Jeremiah is also known as a ‘writing’ prophet. It was his scroll that was read before an arrogant king, who cut it up and burned it. (His writings reflect a shift in 100 years from an ‘oral’ culture, to a ‘literate’ culture, where people are learning to read and write!)

Digging Deeper: 1. Jeremiah 31 is part of a section nicknamed “Book of Consolation”. While much of his writing involves words of harsh judgement from God, the goal of God’s judgement is always to renew. That’s comforting!

2. The New Covenant (vs. 31-34) is a complete gift! The people couldn’t manage to be faithful to God on their own. Instead of abandoning them, God starts over and takes full responsibility for the relationship. Why does God do this? Is God changing? Or is the people’s understanding of God growing? Or is God pulling us forward into a better understanding of the grace that has been there all the time?

3. This new promise “I will put my law within them, I will write it on their hearts” is amazing! The goal is that “all may know the Lord, from the least of them to the greatest.” God is interested in what’s in our hearts and what’s in our minds! When Jesus names the greatest commandment, he puts it this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind!” In what ways is your heart drawn to God and God’s ways? How firmly is your mind focused on God and God’s ways? How can we ‘tune’ our hearts and minds towards God? What do we need to “tune out” in order to be focused on God and God’s ways?

4. The New Covenant includes the promise that God will forgive AND forget! This gift of full forgiveness challenges us to also forgive AND forget. We’re not God, so the ‘forgetting’ part will be difficult at times. (And sometimes, we may need to remember the offense-rather than try to bury it.) But forgiveness calls us to act like God, in that we choose to no longer hold someone’s sin against them.

5. When Jesus was with his disciples for the last supper, he took the bread, and he took the cup and said “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sin.” The promise God made back in the time of Jeremiah, is most fully fulfilled in Jesus. Can we remember this every time we gather to eat the bread and drink from the cup?