Bible reading for weekend July 16 -- 18
July 16 -- Jeremiah 12 and Matthew 26
July 17 -- Jeremiah 13 and Matthew 27
July 18 -- Jeremiah 14 and Matthew 28
"I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned my heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies." (Jeremiah 12:7)
THE LORD'S HERITAGE (ch 12-14). These messages from God through Jeremiah are delivered over a period of forty years, and Jeremiah here wants the Lord to execute his judgment, already! (12:1-4) Not only was Jeremiah the target of political opponents, he also suffered the loss of family support (12:5-6). He's ready to see the judgment program move forward. But God is patient and longsuffering, and several times he refers to his people as "my heritage" (or, "inheritance")(12:7-9, 14-15). The Lord loved the people of Israel and Judah -- the "beloved of his soul" -- and he brought them close to himself "that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory" (13:11). We believers receive as our inheritance the Lord himself and his new creation. What the Lord receives out of this salvation drama is a group of people, and we are a people with problems and sins. These chapters show us something of the Lord's grief over these people who are stubbornly rejecting him. "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Pet 3:9). But these chapters make clear that the people are unrepentant and consigned to judgment.
WHAT DOES GOD FEEL? Does God feel pain or suffer loss? How is God affected by the actions of his creation? This is the question of God's "impassibility" -- a theological term which some have taken to mean that God is unfeeling. Most theologians down through the centuries have affirmed that God is not dependent upon his creation for his happiness, nor does he feel the vicissitudes of passion or pain like humans. He is not surprised by anything, can't lose anything, nor can anything be added to him that wasn't already in him. God is described in the NT as "the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (Jas 1:17). He is self-existent (independent) and immutable (unchanging). But "independent and unchanging" does not mean "unfeeling and unaffected". God is -- and it's a mystery beyond us -- both transcendent (above and outside of creation) and immanent (freely interacting with and in creation). In other words, God is both the Author of, and a Character in, his own Story. His actions and interactions, his loves and hates, taking pleasure in obedience and expressing grief over sin, are his real (and free) responses in time, but they reflect the heart of an unchanging and eternal God. Theologian J. I. Packer gives his understanding of what the impassibility of God means:
“What was it supposed to mean? The historical answer is: Not impassivity, unconcern, and impersonal detachment in the face of the creation. Not inability or unwillingness to empathize with human pain and grief, either. It means simply that God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us. His are foreknown, willed, and chosen by himself, and are not involuntary surprises forced on him from outside, apart form his own decision, in the way that ours regularly are." -- J.I. Packer, “What Do You Mean When You Say God?” Christianity Today (Sept 1986).
"And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Matthew 26:27-28)
COMMUNION AND BETRAYAL (ch 26). At the house of Simon the leper, a woman anoints Jesus' head with very expensive ointment. The disciples view this as a waste, but this act of lavish love is accepted by the Lord Jesus, who says this was in preparation for his burial (just a day or so away). Remarkable, Jesus said this event would be included in the gospel account and heard around the world. And it has been! Humanly speaking, it is beyond belief that a mere Jewish rabbi in backwater Judah could say that what happened at that dinner would be told for countless generations and to all nations. Jesus is not only the Lord of redemption, but also the Lord of revelation, who guarantees that we have an accurate record of his redemption.
THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT. The night before his arrest, Jesus observes the Passover meal with his disciples and turns it into what we call "the Lord's supper." In the OT, covenants were sealed in blood, specifically, the blood of sacrificial animals. All of these sacrifices point ahead to the sacrificial death of Christ, God's son. It is his blood which allows death to "pass over" us, as well (Exodus 12). It is this blood that sanctifies us as God's covenant people (Ex 24:8). This meal, done in remembrance, is a covenant sign of our relationship with the Lord through faith. In the Bible to "remember" means to call to mind and turn your attention to something, and to think deeply about its meaning. In this remembrance we touch, hold, and taste bread, and we view and drink the fruit of the vine, which are physical things that God uses to strengthen our faith in him. Though many sad things happened that day, Jesus was triumphant. He says to the Father three times, "...not as I will, but as you will" (26:39). At his arrest, he confidently says, "...all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." (26:56) His life was not be taken from him, but he laid it down -- freely, intentionally -- in fulfillment of God's will.
THE CRUCIFIXION (ch 27). See my notes here.
THE RESURRECTION (ch 28). See my note here on women being the first witnesses of Jesus' resurrection. And because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we now serve him by proclaiming the good news to the world: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (28:19-20).
About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.