The Time is Coming

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.

Looking for a new devotional book? Psalms by the Sea is now available at Amazon.

Moonrise by Victor Miles

Incomprehensible Plans

My beloved father-in-law just celebrated his 92nd birthday. Our family surprised him with a written document of our thoughts and favorite memories of him. He read each one, laughing and crying with every tenderly written word. In a Romans 8:28 way, this is a byproduct of the pandemic that forced us into lockdowns for months. We started doing a Wednesday Night Happy Hour Zoom call every week in order to stay in touch with him, and that has brought us very close with each other. From a Navy granddaughter stationed in Germany, to a grandson teaching school in Montana, to family living in Georgia, Virginia, Florida, and the Outer Banks, we come together from far and wide to be a family together.

Today we look at Psalm 139, a beautiful psalm of David. In it, he describes a kind of intimacy that only comes with familial relationships … in this case, parent to child.

Psalm 139 (Common English Bible)

 Lord, you have examined me.
    You know me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up.
    Even from far away, you comprehend my plans.
You study my traveling and resting.
    You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways.
There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord,
    that you don’t already know completely.
You surround me—front and back.
    You put your hand on me.
That kind of knowledge is too much for me;
    it’s so high above me that I can’t reach it.

What word of comfort can you glean from this? To be so fully known and loved by our creator is surely a word of majesty and hope in our ordinary lives. God surrounds us, front and back, with his hand on us. I immediately think of my father running beside me as I was learning how to ride a bike. With his hand on the back of the seat, I knew he wouldn’t let go until he knew I was safe.

So it is with God.

13 You are the one who created my innermost parts;
    you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb.
14 I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart.
    Your works are wonderful—I know that very well.
15 My bones weren’t hidden from you
    when I was being put together in a secret place,
    when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my embryo,
    and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me,
    before any one of them had yet happened.

When I think about my father-in-law’s 92 years of life, it delights me to realize that God has a plan and a purpose for every single day of it. God knows what will happen every day and he runs beside Cap with his hand on the bike.

17 God, your plans are incomprehensible to me!
    Their total number is countless!
18 If I tried to count them—they outnumber grains of sand!
    If I came to the very end—I’d still be with you.

God’s incomprehensible plans are the sure thing that we all can hang on to in good times and bad. And in the very end, we’ll still be with God.

I hope that brings you joy today.

For I Know the Plans I Have Made by Wende Pritchard