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. (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NRSV)
If only it were true right now. Today.
What if the law was written on our hearts? Religious wars would be no more. Power plays would be obsolete. Brokenness a thing of the past. To quote Louis Armstrong, “What a wonderful world it would be.”
Alas, it’s not here, yet. The law isn’t written on our hearts, yet. We’re still unpredictable and stiff-necked.
As we leave that spiritual wilderness in our rear-view mirror, we wonder what awaits us. How will your life be different? How will it be the same? Will you be able to make the changes and corrections to your life that you discerned while in the desert? Will God give up on you? Will you give up on God? Can you let go?
Starting over is a fragile journey. New beginnings are scary.
Perhaps you hear those voices from your past: “You’re too weak.” “You’re not good enough.” “You’ll fail.”
The truth is that you are too weak and you can’t do it without Jesus. Don’t forget his wilderness experience. 40 days without food, alone with the wild beasts and the angels. Then Satan showed up and tried to tell him how to do ministry.
First test: “The people are starving. Give them bread.”
“They need more than that,” Jesus responds, famished from fasting.
“Show your glory and your might and your grandeur. Do it here. Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple and let everyone see who you are.”
“I won’t test God in order to prove myself.”
“Okay, then. Take over the world. Be the ruler. God knows you’d do a better job than any of these leaders have!”
“That isn’t what I came for. I’ll take over the world one heart at a time.”
We also are tempted. Tempted to take short cuts to our goal. Tempted to climb over others on our way up. Tempted to tell God how it’s going to be. But, we can’t do any of those things, because, honestly, isn’t that what got us the desert to begin with? It was in the wilderness that learned to lean on God and allow God’s provision to sustain us?
So, here we are on the threshold.
When Jeremiah wrote these words, they were meant to comfort a people desolated in Babylon. No one wants to be in Babylon. We all want to be home. Home with our family and friends and our God. Not in what appears to be some godforsaken land where the language, the culture, the religion are different and you feel as if your alien registration card isn’t enough.
So Jeremiah writes a Book of Comfort. “The light appears to have gone out for you,” he writes. “God knows that you live in the dark wilderness known as Babylon. But, it’s not over. God hasn’t deserted you. God doesn’t abandon.”
As we approach Holy Week, we, too see the light dimming. During worship, each week of Lent, we extinguish a candle as a symbol of the Light of Christ diminishing. The disciples gave up all hope, betraying and denying Jesus to death. On Good Friday, the final candle will flicker out and we’ll be left in darkness.
We couldn’t do it if we didn’t know on Friday that Sunday is coming and with it resurrection. We can’t leave any wilderness unless we can see light.
And that’s the hope we also find in Jeremiah. Some day God will write the law on our hearts. In fact, God has begun that good work. And we live in the yet and not yet, waiting for the final fulfillment. That’s what gives us hope: we know that God hasn’t given up on us. That’s why we know that God is waiting in the future. Resurrection follows death.
What is your hope for a new heart? Have you felt God at work in your life? What gives you hope? What takes hope away? Write them down. Ponder them. Pray over them. Give it to God. God, in Christ, is waiting for you.
When you’re ready, come out into the light of Christ. When you’re ready, meet God in the hope of the future. When you’re ready, let go and allow God to transform you.
All glory and honor be to God.