Spring in exile and a nagging doubt.

Signpost for Sunday 20 October 2013: Jer 31:27-34; Ps 119:97-104; 2 Tim 3:14 – 4:5; Luke 18:1-8.

Sorry this is even later than I feared it might be, but I just had to do a quite bit of stuff in the garden instead of sitting down to write this week’s Signpost. It’s spring and I can’t get away with my lazy winter attitude any longer. Then while I was out there I thought about spring for those in exile. Does it make them feel sad and homesick or hopeful? In my first few years in New Zealand I hardly noticed the changing of the seasons compared to the way I was used to them in the northern hemisphere. I wonder if the Jews in Babylon had a similar experience.

Maybe it was spring when Jeremiah awoke that day (verse 26), because his words this week are all about renewal, a new way of life even, for the Jews. Verse 31 is the only mention in the First Testament of a new covenant to come after Moses presented the one everybody tried and had failed to live by. And Isaiah 24:5 confirms it was broken. But the Jews in 550 BC thought God’s covenant with Moses was forever, so Jeremiah’s words would have really got their attention. Of course it’s not so much that the basis of the covenant changes, it’s more about how it’s transmitted. It’s YHWH’s version of digital TV – writing it on people’s hearts makes everything so much clearer.
Often in church we’re told that this is a prophecy about the new covenant that would be established by Jesus’s death on the cross. Maybe, but what I found more interesting this week was discovering this: Jesus calls His death “the new covenant in my blood,” which links to Moses’ words in Exod. 24:8. That’s a reference to the blood from a sacrifice sealing the covenant with god – this would have been known to first century Jews. The idea of God’s new covenant sealed with the blood of Christ might well have its roots here. It certainly might be why first century Jews explained Jesus death the way they do.

This week’s gospel reading has also always bothered me a bit. The widow doesn’t just wear the judge down with her persistence, she asks him to vindicate her and that means she’s asking him to judge in her favour – to carry out the precepts laid down in the Hebrew Bible and take care of people like her (e.g. Exod. 22:21-24; Deut. 10:18; 24:17). So the judge rules on her behalf but not because he cares a toot about scripture, apparently. She’s just getting on his nerves.

Unfortunately, though, this passage is often interpreted to mean that we should petition God and that if we annoy God enough, we’ll receive whatever it is we ask for. I don’t believe that for a minute.

Paul

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