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Nov 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 30-31 – 11/19/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good Morning, Friends.  Welcome to RefleXion!  The Lord is with you.

I was thinking about gratefulness this week, not so much the act of giving thanks, but the heart posture of being grateful.  I remembered a book that I had read years and years ago titled, “Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, an Approach to Life in Fullness,” by Brother David Steindl-Rast.  In it, there’s a wonderful chapter on Prayer and Prayerfulness, and I want to share some of the ideas found there.

We’ve all probably had moments that just stopped us, where we were caught up in the present moment, in awe, in recognition, in gratitude; would you call those moments prayer?  Well, we weren’t “saying prayers.”  Br. David speaks of both saying prayers and prayer. 

In meditation, for example, we concentrate/focus on a word or a phrase, an image.  In our prayers we also focus on our praise, our petitions….and those types of practices are intended to focus one thing and eliminate all else.  It narrows our field of attention; we might say it’s like a magnifying glass or a flashlight.  And when we are meditating or saying our prayers, we want it to be that way. 

Prayer as a state of prayerfulness, the fullness of prayer, is wholehearted attention; it is concentration without elimination because it is concentration plus wonderment, Br. David says (we might call it awe).  Well, that makes no sense to our rational mind…a paradox our head cannot hold, yet our heart can.  The eyes of our heart can see something we can’t see with a flashlight.  Paul prayed that the eyes of our heart would be enlightened, enabled by another kind of light, by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.    

We can get a little lost with all these words, which of course are only concepts, attempting to describe the indescribable.  My understanding is that my life of prayerfulness is a life of presence, a wholehearted awareness where gratefulness comes naturally.  It is God’s gift to me.   My prayers (me “saying my prayers”) are my gift to God because God gives me faith so I can pray, recognizing my dependence on Him.  We offer our prayers to God; we receive our prayerful life in God.  May we recognize His Presence in awe and gratitude, especially this week.

Our opening prayer today is a prayer of thanksgiving from The Book of Common Prayer.  Please join me.

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things.  Amen.

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say “He who scattered Israel with gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.”
For the LORD has ransomed Jacob
and had redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
and they shall languish no more.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the LORD Jeremiah 31:10-14

Intro: Two weeks ago, I pointed out a shift in Jeremiah’s prophecies

Until now, his message was a reminder to Israel of all their failures
– they had turned from their God and were rushing downhill
• so Jeremiah delivered a message of condemnation, rejection, of doom and gloom
• but now a light breaks through the dark passages
◦ there is hope for Israel after all
– but if God made it possible for his people to return,
• could they maintain a relationship with him this time?
◦ their history had indicated otherwise
◦ was it enough for God to say, “Come home. I forgive you?”
• something had to happen that would change his people
◦ something radically new in the history of Israel

The idea of an “Israel,” a people of God, began in Genesis

There we meet Abram, who later became Abraham
– he lived in a world filled with gods
• in fact, prior than his encounter with Yahweh, Abraham and his family “served other gods” (Jos. 24:2)
◦ but the God who has revealed himself in Genesis spoke to Abraham
◦ he was to leave his family and travel to a new land with God’s blessing
• at this point, Abraham doesn’t know God’s name
◦ unlike all the other deities in the nations around him
◦ later, Abram’s God is referred to as El Elyon, God Most High (but it’s a title, not a name)
◦ sometime after that,
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty . . .” El Shaddai (Gen. 17:1)
• other titles were added as Abram discovered new dimensions of God
– when God made promises to him, Abraham asked for a guarantee
O Lord God, how am I to know . . . ? (Ge. 15:8)
• God told him to fetch a calf, a goat, a ram, a dove, and a pigeon
◦ he was to cut all but the birds in half and lay them out in two rows
◦ that night God restated his promises, and caused a “torchlight” to move through the path between the severed animals
On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram (Ge. 15:18)
• the strange ritual was how covenant agreements were ratified
◦ in fact, the Hebrew words translated “made a covenant” literally mean “cut a covenant”
◦ covenants created a relational bond
– in Genesis 17, God extended the covenant to include Abraham’s descendants
I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you (Gen. 17:7)

Leaving Abraham, we come to Moses

The mission God gave Moses was based on his previous covenant
I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them . . . . I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel . . . and I have remembered my covenant (Ex. 6:4-5)
– at Mt. Sinai, God presented his covenant to the nation
Now therefore, if you will . . . keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine (Ex. 19:5-6)
• now this is important–it’s the essence of God’s covenant — the reciprocal relationship:
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God (Ex. 6:7)
◦ the core of Israel’s relationship with God was the covenant
◦ and the heart of the covenant was mutual belonging
– do you know what a sinkhole is?
• an underground vault created by water erosion
◦ the surface area sometimes becomes so thin that it collapses
• I sometimes think of my mental state as a sinkhole
◦ it may not show on the surface, but it’s liable to give way
◦ Israel’s sinkhole was an internal weakness
◦ when God laid out his covenant with the people, they responded with enthusiasm
Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it (Deut. 5:24)
◦ God’s response:
And the LORD said to me, “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them . . .” (Deut. 5:28-29)
– Israel’s sins against the Lord their God were a relational failure
• that’s why prophets referred to it as adultery and prostitution
The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers (Jer. 11:10)

In spite of Israel’s disloyalty, God hangs onto his covenant

It was not merely a matter of him being faithful to his word or his vows,
– it was his crazy love for his people – he could not let go
• listen to how God describes the situation:
I have heard Ephraim grieving,
[now Ephraim speaks] “You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined,
like an untrained calf;
bring me back that I may be restored,
for you are the LORD my God.
For after I had turned away, I relented,
and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh;
I was ashamed, and I was confounded,
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”

[God speaks] “Is Ephraim my dear child?
Is he my darling child?
For as often as I speak against him,
I do remember him still.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him,”
declares the LORD
(Jer. 31:19-20)
◦ God expresses himself in a similar way in Hosea
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath (Hos. 11:8-9)
• God’s love is not fickle or transient – 31:2-3
– but what hope is there for a covenant relationship, when God cannot trust his people?
• when their promises are empty, and their revivals are short-lived?
• since Israel is incapable of permanent devotion,
◦ God has to provide the solution

Although this is a short passage, it is among the most critical in all of scripture
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares 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. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more Jeremiah 31:31-34

God presented Israel with a new covenant
– the first covenant was written to them, engraved in stone
• the new covenant will be written within them, on their hearts
– this is a profound revelation
• people would no longer be dependent on others–priests, scribes, or prophets–,
• because everyone would know him
◦ this relational knowing would be inserted into every heart

This is a new and improved covenant
– the writer of Hebrews explains,
Christ has obtained a ministry that is much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises (Heb. 8:6)
– it’s at this point that we enter the story

Conclusion: We join Jesus and disciples in their last meal together

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you for this is my blood of the covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. . . .”
Matthew 26:26-28

When we receive the bread and the cup, we are entering this new covenant with God
Jesus provides us the means to say “Yes” to God’s invitation
From this point on, we belong to God
I want this bond with our Lord Jesus
I want this everlasting love of the Father

Here is what we need to know:

God, in his crazy love for us, offers us a covenant relationship with him

The ritual of the bread and the cup seal the relationship

We do not have to be righteous people to say yes to God
Jesus came to invite sinners into relationship with God

By receiving the bread and cup, we allow God to enter us
There he works in our hearts and minds –
To know him
And to receive his Spirit,
who brings God’s will into our hearts
God himself enables us to keep covenant with him

Through this covenant ritual, God becomes ours and we become his
So we can sing, “I am my Beloved’s and my beloved is mine”

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