Friday, February 6, 2009

March 29, 2009 - Jeremiah 31:31-34 - Cathy L. Smith

Gleanings From the Text

The prophet Jeremiah speaks to dejected people of Israel and Judah. By force they have become semi-free subjects of a Persian King, and they have lost their land. God speaks to these people through a vision that Jeremiah relays to them.

Covenant - People are reminded of the Old Mosaic Covenant God engineered between them. Due to their ancestors’ inequities of disobeying God, a new covenant will be employed. God realizes the shortcomings of passing a covenant from generation to generation. God says he will establish a covenant that cannot be misinterpreted or forgotten, because it shall be written on everyone’s heart and mind. Jeremiah enacts a future covenant that speaks of God’s mercy. The
catastrophic punishment for disobeying God will no longer exist. God
promises to for iniquity and remember their sins no more.

Husband - God wishes to remain in an intimate relationship with the people. In Biblical times, the husband was appropriated with overseeing the good welfare and health of the family. Old covenants were broken, and a disappointed God only says “I was their husband”.

Teach – Torah is the Hebrew word for teachings. The style of teaching God’s covenant to children by their parents has past. God intends to write this covenant so that all will know him.

Food for Thought

Powerful visions enable Jeremiah to become a restoration oracle. Why?
He had broached a new beginning. God’s people are not to think that they have been left abandoned. God sends a message through Jeremiah that was filled with hope when wounded people need it the most. It was a Hebrew belief that suffering was caused by some past transgression.

Jeremiah’s words caused people to lift themselves back up and again. Instilled with a new hope, people began rebuilding, and looking for prosperity.

This is a reminder to all people that everything is from God. God often leads people through disaster, only to bring them out of it. God is going to enable people to remember how to live as God’s people. God is going to empower people to recognize their Lord and Master, the one who secures their lives and provides for them.

It is very easy when reading this pericope, to interpret the hint of Messianic promise as disemboweling the people of Israel and Judah as God’s chosen people. Jeremiah’s prophecy of a New Covenant does not represent a radical disjunction with the Jewish people. Rather, it is a representation of a renewed relationship between God and the people of Israel. It is to be a relationship that will be stronger than those of the past. The New Covenant will embrace everyone in the community of faith. God, not the community will create love and fidelity so that everyone “from the least to the greatest” will know God.

Sink Your Teeth Into This

This passage reminds me of expectations I held, and actual events that transpired. I was offered a position at a church that seemed full of opportunity for a Christian Educator.

Prior to accepting the position I dreamed three times of the Pastor teaching me as a mentor. With my vision for Christian Education firmly in place, I deducted that I was truly called to this position. I was sure that this person undoubtedly had a great deal to teach me!

Nothing is ever as it seems. Teach me, he did! It was not a lesson I wished to learn. There was great mental anguish associated with the lesson. I was not in control, God was. God was using the situation as a means to an end. My “vision” was something other than I expected. Perhaps those people of Judah and Israel were never able to look back upon the New Covenant and have an “ah ha” moment. Yet, with complete faith in God, did they ever wonder who God intended to become chosen?

Works Referenced

Mays, Jarvis L. (et al). (2001) The New Interpreter's Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes (vol. VI). (Nashville: Abingdon Press). P.812

Meeks, Wayne A. (ed) (1993). The Harper Collins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version with Apocryphal/ Deutercanononical Books. (New Your: Harper Collins Publishers). p.p 1173-1174

Biographical Information

Cathy L. Smith graduated Union-PSCE in May of 2008 with a Masters in Christian Education. She was honored to do a directed study with Professor Henry Simmons in the area of Spirituality and Gerontology. Her FBL topic dealt with Christian Education among Older Adults. Currently, she is gaining her Certification as a Presbyterian Educator.