“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.” Jeremiah 31:33b (NRSV)
When my husband and I were married, we covenanted to love, honor, and respect one another for the rest of our lives. We are approaching our eighth year of marriage, and so far we have done well in spite of a few bumps and some occasional crunchiness with each other. Years ago, a friend of mine said that marriage wasn’t a 50/50 deal but 100/100. Each person needs to invest 100% of themselves in the relationship to make it work.
God’s covenant with us is 100% on God’s part. God is invested in our lives, in our relationships, in our reaching out to others. It must give God great pain to see how lightly we take that covenant. Those of us who have confessed our sins and promised to follow Christ in our lives, falter and fall regularly, and yet, God doesn’t give up on us.
God didn’t give up on the nation of Israel, either. Jeremiah lived in a time when the southern kingdom of Judah faltered and eventually fell to the Babylonian empire. Families were divided, and the “best of the best” were taken to Babylon where they were trained and incorporated into that society, expected to help build the empire into an even better one. The members of their families who were frail, ill, elderly, mentally challenged, physically challenged or seen as “useless” were left behind.
We can’t imagine being in such a situation. Some of the worst things that have happened to us cannot compare to what these people went through. For many, their homes were destroyed, their family torn apart, their means of making a livelihood gone, and they were literally left with the clothing on their backs. Yet, in the midst of this destruction, devastation, and depressing circumstance, Jeremiah brings a promise: God hasn’t forgotten about them. God will bring redemption.
The covenant of the Ten Commandments that their ancestors continually broke, ignored, or rejected would no longer be written on stone but in their hearts, and they would know God more personally. They would be eventually returned to their nation, their homeland. God loved them and would not leave them in their circumstance. This was a covenant that God kept from the beginning of God’s relationship with human beings; it’s the human beings who continued to ignore or force a rewriting of the covenant.
My husband and I don’t interact in the same way as we did when we were dating or first married. The “stars and flowers” aren’t the same, and there is a wiser, deeper connection between us because we have worked through challenges together. Our love has grown stronger as we lean on each other and trust each other to keep our covenant together. That is what God wants from us too – at least to try to do our best to keep our covenant with God, to invest ourselves as close to 100% as we can.
The passage that I call my “life passage” is “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NRSV).
God’s love for us is a promise that will always be kept – that gives us hope and assurance. Our love for God us always a work in progress, but it isn’t hopeless, either. God sends companions on the journey to help us: husbands, family, church family, friends in Christ who keep us accountable and love us despite our shortcomings. May we treasure the gift of God’s covenant in Christ Jesus our Savior.