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Promise of a New Covenant, II
Fall Quarter: Covenants With God
Unit 3: An Everlasting Covenant
Sunday school lesson for the week of November 12, 2017
By Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell
Scripture Lesson: Jeremiah 31:27-34
Background Scripture: Jeremiah 31
Purpose: To thrive in the confidence that God can forgive our sins and transform our hearts with a new covenant
Key Verse: I will put my instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
Hearing the Word
The Adult Bible Studies
’ writer begins the lesson with the narrative accounts of Jeremiah the Prophet and Jeremiah the Book before examining the scripture lesson:
Jeremiah the Prophet
- We know more about Jeremiah than any other prophet. The Book of Jeremiah is replete with biographical information, narrative accounts of his activities, and intimate personal confessions.
- He was from Anathoth, north of Judah, the son of the priest Hilkiah, a descendant of the priest Abiathar.
- He was called to be a prophet in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah in Judah (around 627 B.C.), the same year that saw the death of Ashurbanipal and the shifting of power in the ancient Near East from Assyria to Babylon. By 605 B.C., Babylon was the dominant force in the area.
- His ministry lasted more than 40 years, through the regimes of Judah’s last five kings and the sieges, captures, and destructions of the city and Temple by the Babylonians in 598–597 B.C. and 587 B.C.
- He saw the temple looted, the king and many of the politically and socially important figures of Jerusalem exiled after the first siege. He remained in the city only to suffer its catastrophic destruction 10 years later – a horror he had predicted (and was imprisoned for: Jeremiah 34:1-7; 37–38).
- Jeremiah was a contemporary of the prophets Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Ezekiel, as well as prophets of lesser repute.
- Jeremiah did not promote false hopes about the nation and the city’s survival, or deceive the people that they still had God’s special favor, not after their persistent disobedience and corruption.
- He believed that only those prophets who walked with the Lord were willing to: confront Judah’s conscience, fight for social justice and the lives of the poor and the outcast and cast judgment on the greed and the self-interests, and misguided policies of the powerful and wealthy.
Teacher: ask class members:
To share any experience where they were the lone voice of correction for social justice and ungodly behavior. How did they feel? How was it received?
Where do they see social justice issues being addressed and corrected in the city, state and the nation?
Do some research to discover the connection of John Wesley’s roots with a call to action initiative(s) for social justices and later share with the class.
The Book of Jeremiah
Engaging in the Scripture lesson
- Longest prophetic book in the Bible, a collection of biography, laments, sermons, oracles, a letter, scrolls, speeches, confessions, sayings, historical prose, poetry, allegories, and symbolic acts.
- Its chronology is jumbled – may reflect two things: the chaotic times in which the prophet lived and the fact that Jeremiah was mostly a preacher, not a writer.
- Called the Book of Consolation (Jeremiah 30:1–31:40). He was directed by God to write the book—as a prophetic statement about the future of the Jewish people…hope (but realistic) in the fog of war, destruction, and exile.
Jeremiah 31:27-28. “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will plant seeds in Israel and Judah, and both people and animals will spring up. Just as I watched over them to dig up and pull down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and plant, declares the Lord.” The scriptures point to the self-destruction of the people, but also the redeeming grace of God. The writer refers to God’s use of King Nebuchadnezzar in this destruction. He gives power to him on earth over man and beast (Jeremiah 27:5-6).
The power that God had given to King Nebuchadnezzar would prove to be only a temporary source because God the “sower” would reassert his power to “plant seeds in Israel and Judah” to restore the people and animals. The invasions were catastrophic, as Jeremiah had prophetically proclaimed. The lands of Israel and Judah were void of normal life and activities, and the joys of their metaphorical fruits were no more. The root of their devastation was due to the lack of Godly and moral leadership, the wicked king and many of the politically and socially important figures of Jerusalem continued acts of social injustice towards the people and against the will of God.
Teacher: Ask the class to consider as a group to engage with the church and city leaders to address social injustices and other issues that are harmful to our community and nation.
The writer acknowledges the prophets’ proclamations that the attitudes and actions of the people of Israel and Judah and their ancestors had brought judgment upon them and their nations, but states that there were ones too young to have played a role in their society’s demise or who were born in exile and still subject to the suffering of their people. He asks the question, was God’s justice fair? The writer uses Ezekiel who quoted the proverb “When parents eat unripe grapes, the children’s teeth suffer” (Ezekiel 18:2) to disown it (Ezekiel 18:3-4). The writer states that the meaning is that “God had remained faithful to his covenant with Israel and each person would be judged according to his or her faithfulness to it. One could not blame his or her parents for personal failings or criticize God’s ways as not measuring up.”
The writer inserts Isaiah’s voice: “The things announced in the past – look – they’ve already happened, but I am declaring new things” (Isaiah 42:9). The scripture intertwines with the focus of Jeremiah’s prophetic voice of hope of restoration of the land as “the most important new thing – a new covenant from God – was going to be available even before any return from exile or restoration of land.” “Can a Cushite change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good when doing evil comes so naturally” (Jeremiah 13:23). The writer parallels Israel and Judah’s relationship with God as a “spiritually transformed” people brought back into a covenant relationship of God’s promises. God had intimately embraced his people like a devoted husband, calling them “my loved ones” (11:15).
“This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They will no longer need to teach each other to say, ‘Know the Lord!’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.” The scriptures proclaim God’s forgiveness and his love for his people. The writer conveys that the text expresses that there is no more need for: “intermediaries” to teach the Law and without the need for; “oral reminders every seven years;” dependency on priests or prophets who may fail in their tasks (Hosea 4:4-6).
All of God’s people are available to receive his love and knowledge. The privilege of the spiritual elite or the learned scribe is no longer in existence. We are invited as heirs to his royal priesthood. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Dear God, thank you for your generous care that grants us forgiveness and love even when we have consistently disobeyed your will. May we forever practice spiritual transformation that draws closer to you. Amen.
Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell serves as the Associate Director for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Adult Bible Studies, Series Fall 2017” book is used for the content of this lesson.