Tag Archives: covenant

Gloom, Doom and Light

My nephew, Andy Young, an avid photographer, snapped this gripping photo of Seattle on a gloomy afternoon. I immediately thought of both the prophet Jeremiah and the season of Advent.

First, Jeremiah spoke to the people of Jerusalem of the impending disaster that was coming. The people had forsaken their covenant with God and so God gave them a real wake-up call.

But my people have forgotten me, they burn offerings to a delusion; they have stumbled in their ways, in the ancient roads, and have gone into bypaths, not the highway, making their land a horror, a thing to be hissed at forever. Like the wind from the east, I will scatter them before the enemy. I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity. (Jeremiah 18:15-17)

In 587 BC Jeremiah’s “Word of the Lord” became reality. The Babylonian army march into Judah and conquered Jerusalem. The temple of God was destroyed. The leadership and skilled laborers were taken as prisoners into Exile in Babylon. It was a day of calamity.

But Jeremiah continued to speak God’s Word and so streaks of light and hope came to the people. Jeremiah promised a new covenant, a new relationship between God and God’s people.

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 31:33-34)

This promise is one reason Jeremiah fits so well in the season of Advent. Though we may wait in the dark gloom of winter, praying for spiritual light, we lean towards the coming light of Christmas. A new covenant that will be born in Bethlehem. Alleluia!

Lord Jesus, let your light shine bright through me.

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You Are In the Story

A big question for many Bible readers is “Where do I fit in?” The Bible feels like ancient history about long-dead people. In Deuteronomy chapter five, Moses spoke to this concern. The people of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. The generation that had experienced the exodus of Egypt had died; a new generation had been born during the wilderness journey. The new generation had heard the stories of the Exodus, Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb), the Ten Commandments, and Moses, but they did not directly experience these events. Or did they?

Moses spoke to the new generation regarding this:

The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the fire. (At that time I was standing between the Lord and you to declare to you the words of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. (Deut 5:2-7)

Please note that second sentence, Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. Moses made the audacious claim that the covenant at Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai) was for us alive today. God’s covenant includes YOU and ME. This is not some ancient story, but an ongoing relationship with God.

This is critical reason for walking through the whole story of scripture. It is our story, our identity, our connection to God, the creator and savior. We are the ones who are in danger of making false gods. We are the ones who forget the gift of Sabbath or dishonor our parents. The Ten Commandments address us today. Do we have ears to hear?

Which stories in the Bible have become YOUR story? Which stories challenge or pull you in?

Lord Jesus, speak your Word that it may become my word of life.

Salt of the Earth?

A Mountain of Salt

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt loses it taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot” (Matthew 5:13).  Such a metaphor raises all kinds of questions for me.  Salt seems so ordinary and mundane, something we take for granted.   Yes, it is necessary for making a fine meal, but it is the exotic spices and herbs that get the attention.  Salt brings out other  flavors, but who wants a dish with too much salt?

Years ago, on April 1st, my older sister pulled a practical joke on my siblings by mixing a large quantity of salt into the sugar bowl.  At breakfast, as they spooned sugar on to their cereal, she watched us carefully, saying nothing.  When they took their first bite and then spit it all out, she burst out laughing.   But my mother was not too pleased with the wasted cereal. My sister had to clean up the mess from too much salt. 

When Jesus spoke, salt was used in Jerusalem for temple sacrifices, “You shall not omit from your grain offering the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt” (Leviticus 2:13).  Could Jesus be inferring that our lives are to be an offering to God, a gift for God to use?  Could we be part of God’s covenant to renew and restore the earth?  Do I enhance God’s flavor in the world?

And just how does salt lose its saltiness?   Perhaps it means that the salt is polluted with impurities and stray matter.   In Exodus 30:35 God instructs the Israelites to make a prayer incense that includes salt, “seasoned with salt, pure and holy.”  I know that my own life at times becomes polluted in ways not pleasing to God.  How will I know when I have lost my saltiness?  Does the community have a role in helping me stay salty?

Jesus’ last phrase about salt being trample under foot makes me smile. In Minnesota there is plenty of salt being spread on roads, bridges, and sidewalks for us to trample upon.   Jesus did not concern his audience with the ice-melting properties of salt, but it is a critical part of our culture. Road salt covers my car after yesterday’s snowstorm, yet I am thankful for its ability to clear road ice. 

What thoughts comes to your mind when Jesus declares, “You are the salt of the earth“?