A New Covenant, commentaries on Jeremiah
Year 2, Week 16, Wednesday Glenroy 1976
Power of the Word
“Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,“Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:9-10
Jeremiah had the terrible and tragic task of prophesying the fall of Judah and the end of the House of David. By the power of the word he was to destroy the nation and overthrow the king.
He has this power because God has touched his mouth. He does nothing of himself. The words are not his. He doesn’t want the words or the vocation. It is God’s work, and for this reason it is powerful. His prophetic word is more powerful than any other force. By it Jeremiah is set over his own people and over foreign nations. By it he has authority of life and death. Weak Jeremiah has the strongest weapon. The defenseless prophet overcomes the mightiest nations.
The Church has no weapon but the word. When the Church humbles itself, then God touches it. When the Church says the word of God, it is irresistible. The Church, by its word, is set over nations and kingdoms, to bless and curse, to build up and condemn. Words produced the French Revolution; words produced the Russian Revolution; words produce the Christian Revolution.
At the end of time, Christ will come to judge mankind with words. His judgment is a sword issuing from his mouth to condemn or to bless; his word will be eternal and total in its effect.
May the Lord touch me and put his words in my mouth!
Year 2, Week 16, Thursday Oakleigh 1978
“Be appalled, O heavens, at this,be shocked, be utterly desolate,says the Lord,for my people have committed two evils:they have forsaken me,the fountain of living water,and dug out cisterns for themselves,cracked cisternsthat can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:12-13
The Lord made water flow from the rock in the desert. From Jesus flowed the fountain of living water as he hung dead upon the cross. Peter is the rock from whose confession of faith flow the graces of ministry in the Church.
No cistern can last. No need to dig a well and fill it with water, for it will become stagnant. Only the fountain is mysteriously perennial.
Within each person is a fountain, perhaps as yet untapped, which can flow. Why build cisterns? The waters break through by the gift of God, through faith and in total surrender.
Year 2, Week 16, Friday Glenroy 1976
“At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.” Jeremiah 3:17
The people of Judah are in distress. The Ark of the Covenant has been destroyed; the Temple is in ruins. The places where God dwelt among earth have been destroyed by a godless nation.
Jeremiah comforts them. He looks forward to a future time, a greater time. Ark and Temple will be replaced. Jerusalem will itself where God dwells on earth. That sorry town will become the Throne of God. The nations that destroyed these sacred sites will come to worship at the City where they had come as conquerors. The victors are defeated.
Time passes. Jerusalem in its turn is replaced by Christ who is the Dwelling of God, Emmanuel. As he walks in the Portico of Solomon, he is in fact the Temple walking within the Temple. He too is eventually killed and disappears.
Ark gives way to Temple, Temple to Jerusalem, Jerusalem is replaced by Christ, Christ is found in the Christian.
As the Temple gave way to the many mansions of Jerusalem, so the one Christ is completed by the many Christians. As the Temple had to be destroyed if Jerusalem was to become the divine abode, so Christ had to die if the Church was to receive the Spirit. As the Temple foreshadows Jerusalem, so Christ in the flesh foreshadows the Church. In all those where the Christ dwells, the fullness of heaven and earth resides. As the needle is known in its tip, so God is known in the human being. As each point on a sphere is the outermost point, so each Christian has the fullness of God.
East Doncaster, 1992
Body as Ark
“I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.” Jeremiah 3:15-17
The God of Israel dwelt in the Ark of the Covenant carried by the Tribes of Israel in the desert. Over this most sacred place the Cherubim spread out their wings. It was eventually placed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem.
The Ark was presumably destroyed by the Babylonians when they destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. Some wondered if it had been hidden, but Jeremiah advises the people that Jerusalem itself will be the throne of God.
In time Jerusalem itself will be destroyed. Jesus becomes the place where the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. In fact, in his tomb, at the foot and the head of the slab where he had lain, angels sit when the women come to visit the tomb.
Indeed, Christians are the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple, the new Jerusalem, the place where God dwells on this earth and the Mercy Seat, because they are the Christ.
Year 2, Week 17, Tuesday Glenroy 1976
The sin of our age
“At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will. In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your ancestors for a heritage.” Jeremiah 14:17-18
Jeremiah loved the Chosen People. Even though his prophesies brought about their exile, he still loves Jerusalem ‘the daughter of his People’. Therefore, when he sees the ravages of war, the slain outside the city and the besieged within, he laments and grieves; ‘tears flood his eyes, night and day, unceasingly’.
The words of Jeremiah apply to the Church, for Christians too have suffered a cruel blow. They too have eyes filled with tears, for the Church has been robbed of its vitality. All is pleasantness and affection, but lukewarmth, neither hot nor cold, fit to be vomited. The Church has succumbed to its enemies, to wealth, success and comfort. Where is the strong and healthy person who wants God, demands God, who is ready to endure the cross for the sake of the glory that lies ahead, who wants the completion of creation in the kingdom of God?
And so, the Church lies moribund from a subtle, hidden blow.
Year 2, Week 17, Wednesday Burwood 1986
“Your words are my delight.”
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16
Jeremiah has the terrible task of prophesying and bringing about the destruction of his people. He falters in his task. Yet he reflects on the joy of his own experience. “When your words came, I devoured them”. When, in the state of inspiration, the message of God came to him, he would receive it as a hungry man. He hungered for God and the very fact that God had addressed him. He wanted God himself to enter into the pit of his stomach, into his very heart, into his bones. He has received the word of God and indeed God himself, becoming the receptacle and the bearer of God, the place where God abides, and therefore he can bear the name of God. “I was called by your name, Lord God of hosts.” The one who received the word of God received the name of God. His human reality is taken up into the reality of the One who addresses him. He is not God but becomes one with God, sharing his eternity.
We have come here this morning and come again and again because the word is our delight and the joy of our hearts. We come to devour these words given to ·us and to fill our minds and our very bodies with the presence of God. We can be called God. We are ‘God’ for having heard God. We are Christ to the world because the Word has been spoken to us.
Year 2, Week 17, Thursday Glenroy 1976
“Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”Jeremiah 18:5-6
The people of Judah were troubled. They remembered God’s promise to Abraham that a fair land would be given to his descendants. They remembered the promise to David that a son of his would always remain on the throne. Yet now the People is taken captive and the king is deposed. Had God changed his mind? Was he inconsistent? Was he untrustworthy?
To this Jeremiah replies with a parable. God is the potter shaping a vessel. If he can’t make it one way, he will make it another. To the pot this seems inconsistent, but to the potter it is fidelity. God has failed to form his people into a faithful kingdom. Now, through exile he will turn them into a faithful remnant. In all cases he wishes to create an assembly of whom he can say: “I will be your God and you will be my People”.
Christians are clay in God’s hands. They do not understand his actions. They see the immediate plan, but not the long-range purpose. His actions seem illogical and unjust. Why sickness, why death, why sorrow and old age? If Christians understood the mind of God and saw the ultimate purpose, if they were more than the clay from which they are fashioned, then they would see the reason. For through all the apparent chaos of life, God pursues his course relentlessly, consistently – to make of us the Man.
Year 2, Week18, Wednesday Glenroy 1976
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit.” Jeremiah 31:3-5
Repeatedly and vehemently Jeremiah, on behalf of God, has condemned and cursed Israel for its sins. Yet now a new message is heard: “You shall be rebuilt, virgin of Israel”. The adulterous one is virgin again; the ruined nation revives.
How can God reject and then choose again? What is this inconstancy?
The inconstancy is not in God: “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. The same fire of love warms those who seek it and burns those who refuse it. The same love cuts down the proud and raises the lowly, encourages the humble and reduces the arrogant. The fire of God is the same, the human heart varies. As the sun shines continually, burning or browning according to the skin, so God loves continually, felling or raising according to the heart of the individual. Love has an anger of its own, which has nothing to do with the anger of hatred.
God’s love is constant in that he constantly seeks human good. Only when his work is complete can he fully approve. Only at the end of time can God utter his lasting judgment.
Year 2, Week 18, Thursday Glenroy 1976
“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. 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, says the Lord. 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. 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.” Jeremiah 31:31-34
Jeremiah speaks of the final and finest consolation of his People.
The Law had been given on Sinai. Moses had read it to the People, but it remained external. It was given to them, but it was not their own. For this reason, they could not observe it, and must go into exile.
Jeremiah foretells another time. A new covenant will be established. No one will need to hear it from outside, for it comes from within. All will observe it, for it is their self.
Jesus, whom some called Jeremiah, fulfills this promise. He undergoes the utter exile, rejected from life, abandoned by friends, betrayed by his People. He is supported fully and only by the Spirit of God. In him the covenant is final and full, written on his heart, for he who was refined by the completest tragedy is raised to the finest glory.
To all who understand from within the mystery of his death and glory, the same character is given, the same Spirit, so that they too have the new Law written in their hearts, the Spirit of the glorified Christ.