Our lectionary passage today comes from a time in Old Testament history when God was about to restore Israel and Judah and bring the people home. He had allowed the infiltration of foreign armies to come in and decimate them, but the time was coming soon for the people to be returned from the diaspora and reclaim their land. A lot had happened since they left, and their understanding of the Law, the covenant, and their relationship with God had been diluted during their time in Babylon and beyond. But God remembered his covenant and told the prophet Jeremiah that the return to their promised land was upon them:
Jeremiah 31 (Common English Bible)
27 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will plant seeds in Israel and Judah, and both people and animals will spring up. 28 Just as I watched over them to dig up and pull down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and plant, declares the Lord. 29 In those days, people will no longer say:
Sour grapes eaten by parents
leave a bitter taste in the mouths of their children.
30 Because everyone will die for their own sins:
whoever eats sour grapes
will have a bitter taste in their own mouths.
Several generations had been born and had died during the time that they were away from Israel and Judah. The sins of the fathers had taken a toll on the children. But God’s new covenant with his people would be different.
31 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord.
33 No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.
God desired now to put his instructions within each person, engraving the Law and his promises on their hearts. No longer would they have to depend on the priest to mete out scriptural teaching … God desired that everyone know him. And knowing him came with forgiveness of their past sins, which God promised to forget.
This scripture is a great reminder to us today of the importance of personal bible study, daily devotions, prayer, and meditation. We cannot rely on the pastor or priest for scriptural instruction, but rather are invited to know God in our hearts and minds for ourselves. Considering that multiple Bible translations are right in your phone, that task has never been easier.
God desires to KNOW you and be known by you. Isn’t it amazing to think that the Creator of the universe wants a relationship with you? Thanks be to God.
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