Bible Tuesday for Reformation Sunday 2016
The 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.
The context of this pericope is that God is addressing the Israelites as Jerusalem is falling and its citizens are being enslaved by Babylonia. Jeremiah prophesied about this by proclaiming God’s judgement against Israel for adopting the religions of the peoples around them and blending them into Judaism. In the above passage, God says that the covenant that he made with Israel was a marriage. Therefore, Israel’s adopting of new religions is infidelity! God’s response? Remarriage that doesn’t rely on rings and vows, but on God’s actions. God will forgive and forget. That equals grace. Christians interpret this passage as being fulfilled in Jesus, through whom we truly have complete forgiveness of sins, and through the Holy Spirit through whom we receive knowledge of God.
To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present* help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city;* it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.*
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.*
How terrifying it must have been for the Israelites to be holed up behind their city walls, waiting for the Assyrians and later the Babylonians to conquer them and haul them into captivity. Surely they praised, admonished, feared, trusted, and decried God as the enemy armies came ever closer. In this context, the psalmist writes to God. “No, my fellow Israelites, we are not alone in this terrifying mess. The Lord of Hosts is with us and the God of our ancestor, Jacob, is our refuge. No matter what happens to us, God will ultimately make peace between us and all other nations.
Verses 8-11 invite the fearful Israelites to look to both nature and history for proof of what God can do. “Israelites, do not panic…be still in the presence of God. Trust that God will act.”
Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ* for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement* by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.*
27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
Here is St. Paul’s masterpiece on the use of the Law and the righteousness of God. To paraphrase Paul, the Law both points out what humans are doing incorrectly or are unable to do, and the perfection of God. But, the perfection of God is not completely revealed through the law because the Law only shows what God is and what we are not. But God is completely revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, the God/man, there is both Law and gospel, condemnation and redemption, the “pioneer and perfecter of the faith”. All humans, who are each, without exception, condemned under the Law, are now made righteous (without condemnation) by faith in Jesus and the grace God grants through him.
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ 33They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’
34 Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
In the previous verses to this pericope, Jesus has been speaking in the Temple to crowds including Jewish authorities: Pharisees and others. Some of those who heard Jesus teach began believing that he might be the Messiah. In the gospel of John those who are officials in the Hebrew faith who work in the Temple or for the High Priest or the Sanhedrin, or are Pharisees or Sadducees are called Jews. In the gospel of John, Jews are not to be confused with the crowds, the disciples or the apostles.
So then the first sentence in the above pericope is addressed to those Jewish authorities who were in the crowd and began believing what Jesus was teaching. Jesus encourages them to continue to listen to his teaching and grow in believing in him as the Son of God/Son of Man. Continuing in Jesus’ words would mean believing that righteousness before God comes not by one’s heritage or through good deeds, but through faith in Jesus’ impending death and resurrection.
By their response to Jesus, these Jews show they are ready to believe in Jesus. They rebuff Jesus’ statement and cling to their Jewish heritage as their key to heaven’s door. These Jews neither known their own peoples’ history (Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia), nor do they understand their own figurative enslavement to sin which the Law points out.
Jesus uses an analogy to illustrate his point. “You all are merely slaves to the Law God meant for guidance and freedom. However, I am God’s son, and as such, heir to all that God has made. By Jewish law then, if I set the slaves free, they are legally freed. Why choose enslavement to freedom in me?”