Bible Tuesday for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Sunday, 2017
31 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. 32 It 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,[a] says the Lord. 33 But 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. 34 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, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
In this section of Jeremiah, God declares that Israel and Judah, that is both the northern tribes and the southern tribes that make up the whole nation of Israel, have broken God’s covenant with them by worshiping other gods along side God/Yahweh. The above passage contains God’s intent to renew God’s marriage covenant with all the tribes of Israel. It is not the covenant that is unique in this prophecy, but how it will be given. God says this time, the Covenant/Law/Torah will be written “within them” (Hebrew – “in their inmost being”). This time “I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” It is a renewal of marital vows but with no recollection of the sordid history that precedes them.
The law that written “on their hearts” is harkening back to “in the image of God He made them. Male and female He made them.” (Genesis 1) Both passages support theology that says humanity carries with us a divine spark, a sign of God, which is extended to us through God’s forgiveness of us.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present[a] help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth reels,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
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;[b] 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.[c]Selah
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.[d]Selah
This psalm is an admonition to trust in God despite everything. The raging, foaming waters refer to the primordial chaos in Genesis 1:1 (“…the earth was a formless void while the spirit of God brooded over the waters…”) Despite God’s unfathomable power which orders chaos into creation, God is a very present help, that is, very near, not off throwing lightening bolts around.
The city of Jerusalem, both then and now, is fed by the Gihon Spring which is not a river. The river in this psalm appears more apocalyptic, like the river in Revelation 21, whose water flows right out of the Temple to the Dead Sea, bringing life, lush greenery, to a salty wasteland.
The psalm goes on to describe God’s power in the lands of the world, toppling governments and imposing peace. While such divine intervention is alarming, frightening, the psalmist adjures the faithful to recall that “The master of the armies is with us (very present). The God of our ancestors (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) is our sanctuary.”
In a statement of contrast, while waters rage and foam, while mountains topple into the sea, while armies march on each other, God calls the faithful to be still in the “sheer silence” in which Elijah recognized God. God is above all nations and governments, and lands.
19 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.
The Torah of God given to Israel and applies to them, and through them to everyone else, so that no one has authority but God.
20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
No human to whom this law applies will measure up to the law, but instead will find all the ways in which he/she breaks the law, thereby sins.
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ[a] for all who believe.
The law not only shows humans that they sin, but it shows humans that God never sins and is always right. But now, the rightness of God, that the biblical prophets and the Torah talk about, is shown to humanity through faith, faith in Jesus who is the messiah, the Christ.
For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement[b] by his blood, effective through faith.
Every has sinned. Everyone is condemned under the law. (Set aside the whole concept of Original Sin and just focus on the fact that no one is purely altruistic, sharing everything without one thought of self.) But God made Jesus the sacrifice which makes up for all sin ever. So now everyone, though a sinner, is forgiven and therefore measures up to God’s standards. How is that forgiveness effected? Each sinner must have faith in God and what Jesus has done.
He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
God did this as an example of pure rightness. God completely erased and ignored all the sin previously committed; an act which in and of itself is purely right. And now, in an act of rightness, God makes all, who believe into Jesus, measure up to God’s standard.
27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
So what about all those people who say they measure up to God’s standards because of all the good things they have done? Well, that’s garbage! By what law?! Some kind of recipe for good works to make God happy?! No! God operates by faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. The good things don’t make you measure up for God. Only faith in Jesus’ perfection and sacrifice on your behalf makes you measure up.
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They 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. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
It is important to remember, when reading the gospel of John, that the term “Jews” refers to the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, which in other gospels are referred to as “the chief priests and scribes” etc. With that in mind, in the above paragraph Jesus is addressing the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem who have thus far believed that he is at least a great prophet is not the messiah. Among these would be Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.
“my word” – The first sentences of the gospel of John tell us that Jesus is God’s Word in the person, in the flesh. So when Jesus says, “If you continue in my word…” it means “If you continue into faith in me, faith in God the Father.”
“then you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” – The truth is that the Law, according to St. Paul’s theology, was not supposed to enslave people by defining “what is what and what is not work”, which, in Jesus time, it was interpreted to do. (In a society where the bottom 99% walked everywhere, how much walking could one do on the sabbath before it was working? The answer the scribes determined? 2 miles. Was watering your animals work? Well, yes, but they will die if you don’t water them so hopefully God will overlook your sin of working to water your animals on the sabbath. Etc…….) No, the Law was supposed to be the fencing of a HUGE pasture in which God’s sheep could graze serenely. However, the Law’s interpretation ended up imposing a huge burden on the Israelites which impoverished the bottom 99% and made fat and happy the priestly class 1%. The Truth about which Jesus speaks is supposed to destroy that entire way of being Israelites and free Israelites and all people to live in God’s glory, forgiveness of all through faith in Jesus.