Friday 11 March 2016

Bible Book:

“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.” (v. 33)

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Friday 11 March 2016

Psalm: Psalm 55:1-8


Today's Bible passage, just four verses, not only summarises thewhole of Jeremiah's message but could be said to summarise thecentral thrust of the entire Old Testament. (The writer to theHebrews certainly thought so: these verses constitute the longestpassage quoted in the New Testament - Hebrews 8:8-12). God calls people into a new'covenant' relationship - a freely-entered mutual bond in which Godgraciously offers forgiveness and steadfast love. God invitespeople to respond with love by living no longer for themselves butin obedience to God's law. Verse 31 is the only place in the OldTestament where the phrase "new covenant" occurs. Jesus was to usethe phrase at the Last Supper (Luke22:20).

Jeremiah speaks in a context of constant failure to obey God'sLaw by both the houses of Israel and Judah. The northern kingdom ofIsrael had suffered invasion in 721 BC by the Assyrians. Thesouthern kingdom of Judah was invaded in 597 BC by the Babylonians.The reason for these invasions was the failure of both kingdoms tobe true to the covenant made between God and the people whom Godbrought out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). The tablets of stone onwhich this covenant had been written had lasted just one night, asthey were smashed to smithereens by Moses. Moses came down fromMount Sinai and found the people treating the covenant as worthlessas they worshipped a golden calf (Exodus32:15-20). The commandments were not worth the stones they werewritten on then. Six centuries later, in the time of Jeremiah, thepeople are still treating the covenant with contempt (Jeremiah 32:28-35).

In place of the stone tablets, God now offers to write the lawon people's hearts. They no longer need an external list of rules.They will obey God simply because they love God. They will not needto be taught by others about God - they will know God themselves(verse 34).

Those who are Methodists will recognise this passage as thecentral reading from most formal act of worship for Methodists: theannual Covenant Service. In an act of corporateworship, the central prayer uses the individual word 'I' ratherthan the corporate word 'we' - for no one can offer your heart toGod but you.

To Ponder

  • True religious practice appears to consist of obedience to Godbecause people 'know' God. What do you think it means to knowGod?
  • Which do you think is most important - belonging to a communityof faith or having a personal relationship with God? And if thelatter is more important, what do you think about the often-quotedphrase 'You don't have to go to church to be a Christian'?
  • How do people break the TenCommandments today? And what about you?
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