Oct 16 – 22 Pentecost
Individual Retribution and A New Covenant
Background: The book of Jeremiah is fairly unique as it provides commentary and criticism of the Israelites during two periods of subjugation interspersed with a period of religious reform. Jeremiah is a descendant of the Levitical priestly line and was a descendant of Abiathar. Jeremiah was a supporter of adherence to the law and covenant relationship over the practice of temple worship. This portion of Jeremiah (Chapters 30-31) is part of an independent unit often called the book of consolation.
Theme: This passage picks up on the theme of restoration begun in Chapter 29 (last week’s reading). In this passage Jeremiah tries to assure the Israelites that there will be a new order and covenant between God and humanity and that God will enact the covenant once Israel has been restored to the Promised Land. Jeremiah relates some astounding items about God’s new relationship with Israel and humanity.
Questions to Ponder:
* Please read Jeremiah 31:27-34
* Describe the setting for this passage: when it was written, who was leading the country, what the social status is, what the religious culture of the nation is, etc.
* What do you think God intends when he claims in verse 28 “just as I have watched over them… so will I watch over them…”? Do you believe that Israel feels like God is watching over them as they are being exiled into Babylon?
* From what source would the people claim in verse 29b, “The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”? What might that proclamation be referring to?
* What do you believe is the promise given in verse 30, “But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes will be set on edge.”?
* Why do you think God was willing to make a new covenant with the Israelites?
* Which covenant was being rescinded by God? Do you think God is actually doing away with the old covenant by creating the new, or is God doing something different?
* What do you think the new covenant God created was?
* Do you think the new covenant was really appreciably different than the old covenant?
* Do you think God really believed Israel would keep a new covenant given they were unable to keep the original one? Why might the Israelites be able to keep the new covenant, at least according to God’s command?
* Our experience tells us that people need to be taught (and often retaught) the lessons and laws given by God. Yet this passage seems to say that God’s “new” law will be so pervasive (and persuasive) that people will not need to be taught about the finer points because God has planted the law so deeply inside humanity they have no choice but to follow. How do you reconcile the apparent difference between the passages?
* What do you sense is the message of hope for Israel – those in exile and those who are at home?
* What might the message of hope be for those who follow after the exiles?
* How do we embody the message of hope given in this passage today?
* How does God challenge your understanding of your personal relationship with God in this passage?