God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 14
March 19, 2017
Sunday, March 19 – Jeremiah 31:31-37
31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
35 Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name:
36 If this fixed order were ever to cease
from my presence, says the Lord,
then also the offspring of Israel would cease
to be a nation before me forever.
37 Thus says the Lord:
If the heavens above can be measured,
and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,
then I will reject all the offspring of Israel
because of all they have done,
says the Lord.
Points of Interest:
- Jeremiah was a prophet to the Southern kingdom of Judah in the early sixth century B.C., over a hundred years before Nehemiah but after everyone else we’ve met so far. Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet, as he had sad things to say in sad times. Jeremiah interpreted what God was doing in Judah in the country’s final years, just before Babylon destroyed the city and its temple and dragged its best and brightest residents into exile.
- While Jeremiah’s insight into the present was overwhelmingly sad, he often sounds a cheery note about the future. Here Jeremiah says that God’s connection with people in the future will far eclipse any of even their best experiences in the past.
- A covenant defines the terms of a relationship between two parties, including the promises they make to one another. Our marriage vows are an example of a contemporary covenant, just as God is referred to as Israel’s husband in this passage. Generally, in the Ancient Near East, covenants set terms between a more powerful ruler and a servant of that ruler, or a kind of sub-ruler that served under a greater leader’s authority.
- In the waning days of his nation, Jeremiah sees God bringing an old relationship to a close. God brought Israel and Judah’s ancestors out of Egypt and gave the people laws to follow to live well as God’s people. In the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah says, those days are over. But God will make a new covenant in the future. The new covenant will involve a different experience of:
- Law: God’s ways will be inscribed onto human hearts, rather than stone tablets or books.
- Authority: All types of people will have direct access to and relationship with God, so that teachers and priests don’t need to mediate connection to God for people.
- Connection: A rich relationship with God will be restored, with total forgiveness of all wrongs past.
- In ancient covenants, blood often played a symbolic role in marking or sealing the promises. In his final dinner with them, Jesus told his friends and followers that his death marked the beginning of this new covenant of God with people.
- Jeremiah ends this passage with poetry that celebrates God’s reliability and faithfulness. This is a good covenant partner, whose promises can be kept. Here the beneficiaries of this faithfulness are the offspring of Israel, who followers of Jesus understand to include all people on earth who connect with God through the person of Jesus.
Taking It Home:
- Spiritual Exercise – Jeremiah and Jesus say that if we relate to God through the person of Jesus, God’s law will be written on our hearts, and we will know ourselves to be people known and loved by God. Choose one phrase from this passage. I recommend one of the following: “I will be their God,” “they shall be my people”, “they shall all know me,” or “remember their sin no more.” Sit quietly for a few moments, paying attention to your own breath and heartbeat. Then meditate on one of these phrases for a few more moments, seeing what it says to you today.
- Prayer for your six– The new covenant vision is nothing less than all people, from the least to the greatest, knowing the goodness of God. Pray that each of your six will become aware of and appreciate God’s inclusion of and attention to them.