Reading for Fifth Sunday of Lent
Peace be with you!
During their time wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites made a strict covenant with God. The prophet Jeremiah has the unfortunate task of revealing the way the Israelites have failed to live up to their covenant with the Lord. Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry is to a nation who became involved with idol worship for decades under the rule of Manasseh and Josiah’s father. Since the sins of the Israelites run deep, Judah and Jerusalem are facing destruction.
In the wilderness, God gives Moses a covenant for the Israelites to live by and to be in a relationship with him. The covenant outlines how the Israelites can remain holy in the Lord. However, the Israelites live in the world where they face temptations by Satan every day. Since they are not perfect like God is, the Israelites fall short of his expectations and become unholy. This separates the Israelites from God and breaks their relationship with him.
God understands that the covenant that he made with the Israelites in the wilderness no longer reflects the kind of relationship he wants to have with them. He realizes that the covenant that he currently has with the Israelites is too unforgiving and too destructive to his relationship with them, especially since his children live in the world where Satan reigns. The Israelites struggle every day to uphold the Ten Commandments and to beat Satan at his deceptive ways. Darkness surrounds the Israelites as they try to live in the world according to God’s ways.
God makes plans to create a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:32) to reclaim his relationship with the Israelites. The new covenant will reclaim the Israelites as his people (Jeremiah 31:33) and bring them back into a relationship with the Lord. The Lord promises to be their God, and to make the Israelites his people again (Jeremiah 31:33). The Lord desperately wants to be their God by being in a relationship with them. However, God knows the current covenant will never allow this to happen. A change needs to occur to allow this to happen.
Instead of having the laws written on tablets, God wants to write them on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). In the Old Testament, “heart” does not reflect an emotional attachment, but rather it reflects a cognitive reaction. The Israelites will know and understand the laws and be able to follow them to their best ability.
And there is more: God promises to forget the Israelites’ shortcomings by forgiving them. God will no longer remember the Israelites’ sins or hold their sins against them (Jeremiah 31:34). Both we and the Israelites will be freed from our sinful pasts through God’s forgiveness.
These changes allow us to be in a more stable relationship with God the Father. Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to really know God and to be able to carry out his plan.
Allow God to create a clean heart in you and to make a new and right spirit within you (Psalm 51:10). We need spiritual cleansing in order to know the Triune God.
With a clean heart, we must allow our old selves to die to give way to a new life with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (John 12:24). When we do this, we receive the promise of eternal life in God’s kingdom. However, we must despise the world and the actions of Satan, because they stand in opposition to God (John 12:25). When we follow and serve Jesus, God the Father honors us (John 12:26). This is why we share the good news with everyone who will listen to us. We want to be in a community with our friends, family, and the Triune God.
We know the beginning of the ending: Jesus came to walk on earth beside us, to feel our pain and joy. Then he does something incredible: he becomes God’s living sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus suffers at the crucifixion, dies on the cross, goes to hell for three days, rises again, and ascends to heaven all for our sins. Jesus does all of this out of divine love and to express the truth in order to draw us closer to God the Father.
And still God’s promise is not fully fulfilled. Jesus is coming back for us—those who believe in the Triune God—to take us to heaven to be with God the Father. Can I get a social media AMEN? So as we look toward Holy Week and eventually toward Easter, remember this is not the end: it is just the beginning.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the new covenant to extend forgiveness to us in order to be in a relationship with you. Help us to understand that this is just the beginning of the end. You have greater plans for us than we can imagine. You have claimed, continue to claim, and will claim us as your children by redeeming us from our sins. Thank you for creating a clean heart in us. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- Where do you see God’s divine love?
- What does the cross mean to you?