Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 31’ Tag

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Responsibility

MARCH 21 and 22, 2022


The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 17:1-10 (Tuesday)

Psalm 39 (Both Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Tuesday)


You chastise mortals in punishment for sin,

consuming like a moth what is dear to them;

surely everyone is a mere breath.

–Psalm 39:11, The Book of Worship of North India (1995)


The judgment of God is righteous, the readings for these days tell us.

Ezekiel 17:1-10 requires explanation, for it uses metaphorical language.  The references involving the cedar, the vine, and the eagles refer to international relations from 598 to 588 B.C.E.  In verses 3-6 the meaning is that King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had taken many prominent people of Judah, including King Jehoiachin (reigned in 597 B.C.E.), into exile, after which King Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.), who was initially loyal to Nebuchadnezzar II, came to the throne of Judah.  The eagle in verses 7-8 is the Pharaoh of Egypt, to whom Zedekiah transferred his loyalty.  The pericope concludes that the survival of Zedekiah and Judah is impossible.

Part of the background of the assigned passage from Ezekiel is the position that pursuing those alliances with dangerous foreign leaders was not only foolish but faithless.  Obey and trust in God instead, prophets said.  Theological interpretation in the context of the Babylonian Exile reinforced that position.  The people and bad kings of Judah reaped what they sowed, the final versions of certain books of the Hebrew Bible argued.  (There were, of course, good kings of Judah.)

God is angry with Judah in Jeremiah 11:1-17.  The people, having generally (with some notable exceptions) refused to obey the covenant with God, will suffer the punishments for noncompliance which the covenant contains.  Among the accusations is rampant idolatry.

The first word of Romans 2 is “therefore,” which leads me back into chapter 1.  The essence of Romans 1 is that Gentiles have no excuse for persistent unrighteousness, including idolatry.  Divine punishment for them for these offenses is therefore justified.  Then, in Romans 2, St. Paul the Apostle tells his Jewish audience not to be spiritually complacent.

The very fact that the Jew agrees so entirely with Paul’s charge against the Gentile shows that he himself is without excuse and subject to the wrath of God.

–Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1944); Translated by Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1949), page 113

Furthermore, some Gentiles have the law of God inscribed on their hearts, when even some Jews do not.  Doing is better than merely hearing, according to the Apostle.

Three thoughts come to my mind at this point.  The first is that St. Paul was correct.  He echoed Jeremiah 31:31f (the inner law), but expanded the text to include Gentiles.  St. Paul also sounded much like Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Gospel of Matthew did not exist during St. Paul’s lifetime, but the Apostle did have some familiarity with oral traditions and perhaps some written sayings of Jesus, from which the author of the Gospel of Matthew drew.

My second thought is that St. Paul’s challenge to question one’s assumptions and prejudices is timeless.  Who are those we define as spiritual outsiders?  Some of them might be closer to God than we are, and we might not be as close to God as we think we are.

My final thought in this collection is that St. Paul sounds very much like the perhaps later Letter of James.

Exhibit A:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

–Romans 2:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The emphasis here is on active faith.  The Pauline definition of faith was confidence, in the absence of evidence for or against, which leads to actions.  Thus, later in the epistle, St. Paul argued:

Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….

–Romans 5:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Romans 2:13 and 5:1 stand as portions of a unified, steadily building case in a theological treatise.

Exhibit B:

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can faith save him?…So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14, 17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Exhibit C:

Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?…You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

–James 2:20, 24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Faith, in the Letter of James, is intellectual, hence the necessity of pairing it with deeds.  On the surface the theologies of justification in the Letter of James and the Letter to the Romans might seem mutually contradictory, but they are not.  No, they arrive at the same point from different destinations.

The judgment of God exists alongside divine mercy.  The balance of the two factor resides solely in the purview of God.  Our actions influence divine judgment and mercy in our cases, however.  One can find that teaching in several places in the Bible, including Ezekiel 18, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:6f, and James 2:8f.  Yes, the legacies of ancestors influence us, but our spiritual responsibility for ourselves remains intact.  May we exercise it properly.

Related to one’s spiritual responsibility for oneself is one’s spiritual responsibility for others, as in Romans 2:17-24.  That, however, is a topic for another post.








Devotion for the Forty-Ninth Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Moses with the Tablets of the Law, Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Wrestling With Biblical Texts

MAY 27, 2023


The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12


Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.









Devotion for the First Day of Easter: Easter Sunday (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Jim Crow Jubilee, Sheet Music  Cover, Circa 1847

Image Source = Library of Congress

Exodus and Hebrews, Part VIII: Covenants

APRIL 9, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 14:10-31

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Hebrews 7:23-8:13


Some Related Posts:


Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


I’m just telling you what you already know….You know what’s right; trust yourselves.  Learn to love.  Learn to forgive.

–Jesus at the end of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)


I chose not to resist the desire to quote Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, that crazy movie, which, by the way, one needs a firm grasp of the Gospels to comprehend fully.  And the quote relates to the readings for this day.

The Exodus from Egypt occurs in Exodus 14:10-31.  And Psalm 136 and Hebrews 8:6-12 refer to the Exodus.  Hebrews, when mentioning the Exodus, quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34, the glue which holds this set of readings together.  God liberated the Israelites from Egypt and established a covenant with them.  But Jeremiah 31:31-34 reminds us, they violated it.  Therefore consequences befell the people.  Yet God will establish a new covenant, one internalized by the people.  This is the covenant, of which Jesus is the mediator, according to Hebrews 8:6-13.

As a  song says,

You have to be taught to hate.

I labor under no delusions that unsocialized infants are pristine creatures then that society corrupts them.  In fact, I suspect that the roots of bullying reside in human nature itself.  Nevertheless, we do learn prejudices from others.  We learn a great deal from others as they socialize us.  Sometimes this is for the worse, as in racism and any other form of group-based hatred and related discrimination.  We are not born hating; no, we learn to do that.

So, if we look within ourselves and post negative socialization, we will find some great virtues, such as altruism.  We will obey the covenant God has placed within us.  We have a living role model, one whom humans killed yet which God raised to life again.








First Day of Easter: Easter Sunday, Year C–Principal Service   21 comments

Above:  St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rome, Georgia, April 8, 2012 (Easter Sunday)

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Our Spiritual Resurrections

APRIL 17, 2022


The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43

John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

The Collect:

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

On This Day, the First of Days:

Thine is the Glory:

Now the Green Blade Rises:

Come Away to the Skies, My Beloved:

The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done:

Good Christians All, Rejoice and Sing:

That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright:

Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts and Voices Heavenward Raise:

Alleluia! Alleluia! Give Thanks to the Risen Lord:

Hail Thee, Festival Day! (Easter):

At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing:

Alleluia, Song of Gladness:

Hymn of Promise:

Prayers of Thanksgiving:

Prayers of Confession:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


Welcome, Thou Victor in the Strife:


Rise, heart; thy Lord is risen.  Sing his praise

Without delays,

Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise

With him may’st rise;

That, as his death calcined thee to dust,

His life may make thee gold, and much more, Just.

–George Herbert


St. Paul the Apostle understood the Resurrection of Jesus as a literal event.  (He was correct.)  He also used it as material for a metaphor:  Just as Jesus died and rose again, we must die to our sins and rise again spiritually.

So the Resurrection of Jesus affects us today.  It calls us to live for a purpose higher than satisfying appetites, not that all appetites are negative.  But we are more than biological creatures; we are also spiritual ones.   This higher calling has more than one aspect to it.  Evangelism is one element.  Another is treating each other properly, as fellow bearers of the image of God.  The Baptismal Covenant (found on pages 304 and 305 of The Book of Common Prayer, 1979, of The Episcopal Church) summarizes this ethic well.

That is our challenge as Christians, then.  We must, as we read in Colossians 3:5-17, put away the negative and replace it with the positive, which includes

compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience

(3:12, New Revised Standard Version)

plus forgiveness and love (3:13-14).  May we do this in the name of our Resurrected Lord and Savior, who lives inside us. Being can make more converts and better disciples than preaching can, for the former is what one is.  The latter, however, is what one says, and deeds can belie words.








Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B   30 comments

Above:  Wheat

Image Source = Photographer2008

Good Friday is Near

MARCH 21, 2021



Jeremiah 31:31-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

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. 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,

says the LORD.

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.


Psalm 51:1-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak

and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.


Psalm 119:9-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

10  With my whole heart I seek you;

let me not stray from your commandments.

11  I treasure your promise in my heart,

that I may not sin against you.

12  Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

13  With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

14  I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

15  I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

16  My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.


Hebrews 5:5-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

You are my Son,

today I have begotten you;

as he says also in another place,

You are a priest forever,

according to the order of Melchizedek.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.


John 12:20-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him,

Sir, we wish to see Jesus.

Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them,

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say– “Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

Then a voice came from heaven,

I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.

The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said,

An angel has spoken to him.

Jesus answered,

This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A:

Jeremiah 31:

Hebrews 5:


There are, in my tradition, six Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  So chronology, if not the tone of the last two readings, should make plain the fact that Good Friday is relatively close to the Fifth Sunday in Lent.  Palm Sunday is one week away from this Sunday, and the overall tone from the lessons for this Sunday conveys that reality well.

Lent is, of course, preparation for Easter.  It is also, in my tradition, the time when flowers and the word “Alleluia” are forbidden, and simple meals involving soup tend to precede adult midweek religious programs in parishes.  We tone things down during Lent.  Then we become starker on Maundy/Holy Thursday before breaking out flowers and Alleluias at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday morning.

This is a time for great sobriety of spirit.  Christ our Passover is about to be sacrificed for us.  After that is accomplished we may keep the feast.



First Day of Easter: Easter Sunday, Year A–Principal Service   31 comments

Above:  Resurrection of Jesus (Eastern Orthodox Icon)

Without This, Christianity is a Lie.

APRIL 9, 2023


The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43

John 20:1-18

The Collect:

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Sometimes Easter devotions, sermons, and homilies degenerate into the same category as high school and college graduation addresses; they begin to sound alike.  So I choose to keep this one succinct.  In the late 1990s I belonged to St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church, Baxley, Georgia.  One Easter Sunday our celebrant was The Reverend Canon Robert “Bob” Carter, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Georgia.  Canon Carter delivered the shortest and most concise Easter sermon I have heard.  And now I share it with you verbatim:

Christ is alive!  It’s true!  It’s true!



Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 20, 2010