God is God, and we are not. God makes promises, and we break them. We do things that break God’s trust. Yet God keeps coming back to us. God sees us in all our human frailty and offers us abundant love. In this passage, Jeremiah invites us to remember the long, unfolding love story of God and God’s people. The Israelites, our ancestors, were slaves until the Lord led them to freedom. God gently took them by the hand, assuming the posture of husband. Think about wedding vows. It’s not just “I love you” or “I am in love with you” but “I promise to love you. No matter what.”
Yet the Israelites fell short. Freedom from slavery was not enough. Being taken by the hand was not enough. Being loved like a spouse was not enough. The Israelites broke the covenant. They worshiped other gods. They complained and got greedy. They forgot their history and their savior. It sounds too familiar doesn’t it? We fall short. What have we been complaining about? What have we been worshiping? What part of our history have we forgotten?
Broken promises hurt, creating distance between two parties, and requiring time to build up trust again. God could give up on us; yet God chooses healing, reconciliation, restoration, and love. When God makes covenants with us, it creates limitations on God’s power that allow for an authentic, loving relationship where we have agency. We are free to break God’s heart. God comes to us today, in all of our brokenness, and offers us promise. We belong. God is our God. We are God’s people. We can leave our complaining and greed at God’s feet and live into the joy of freedom. God is available to us to know and love.
God of unending love, thank you for your steadfast presence. Thank you for offering us freedom again and again. Help us to live into that freedom and to dwell in your love. Amen.
We can maintain outward appearances for only so long. At some point what is in our hearts will come to the surface. God understands this, of course, which is the reason for the promise in Jeremiah. God promises a day when God’s law will no longer be an external standard that we are trying to follow but will be written on our hearts. In the aftermath of his sin with Bathsheba, David cries out in Psalm 51 for God’s forgiveness and a new heart. The New Testament readings begin to focus our minds toward the end of Jesus’ life. God’s transformative work comes at a cost to God through the death of his Son, who suffered in obedience but through his death was glorified.
Read Jeremiah 31:31-34. What are the covenant relationships in your life? How do you fulfill your part of the covenant with God?
Read Psalm 51:1-12. What are the things that clutter your heart, limiting your availability to fully love?
Read Hebrews 5:5-10. When have you offered your prayers “with loud cries and tears” as Jesus did? How does knowing Jesus’ vulnerability impact your life of faith?
Read John 12:20-33. How does this example of the grain of wheat help you to understand Jesus’ crucifixion and death?
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