First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34 (New Revised Standard Version)
31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It 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. 33But 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. 34No 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.
Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
1. What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?
2. What delights me in this text?
3. What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?
4. What is God up to in this text?
Have you ever made a promise? Have you ever broken a promise? If so, you are in the same shoes that the Israelites are in when they received this message from God through the prophet Jeremiah. The Israelites were God’s people, and God gave them laws to obey so that they would stand out from the other people on earth. They were set apart for God’s purpose, made holy so that everyone could see that they belonged to God. But being chosen isn’t always easy. Keeping promises that involve every moment of every day of your entire life can be too hard of a standard to be held to, even for God’s own people.
This section of Jeremiah is kind of like pushing the reset button. Wiping the slate clean. And it begins with a promise from God to the people. “You can’t seem to keep your promises,” God says, “even though you want to and you try (most of the time). So, let me make a promise to you. A promise about your future people.” God goes on to say:
“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. 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…” (Jeremiah 33:33b-34a)
At first, this might not sound like the greatest of news. We can’t follow the law with our heads, so God’s going to tattoo it to our hearts? Force feed it to us until we submit? Or else? Maybe, but I choose to hear it as a word of grace. In the future, I won’t have to work so hard to remember God’s law. I won’t have to work so hard to do it. According to Martin Luther’s meanings of the Ten Commandments in Luther’s Small Catechism, we are all doomed to fail in this endeavor, after all. In the future, the law, the way that I can perfectly relate to God and to my neighbor, will be second nature to me. I will know it by heart, and, when I act from my heart, my actions will follow all that God intends. And, as it says in I Corinthians 13:12b “then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” And not just me, everyone. Everyone who God has ever created. This is indeed a future to look forward to with hope.
This reading is appointed for Reformation Sunday, the day when we celebrate the beginning of the Reformation of the church and the founding of Lutheranism. As we prepare for this feast day within our churches, I pray that our study of this text may be fruitful, and stir up in us a joyful anticipation of the true feast to come. I can’t wait to hear what this text will stir up in you!