A reflection on Jeremiah 31.31–34, Psalm 51.10 and a cracked pot for Holy Week.
Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering;
there’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen
Did you ever start a job and find half way through that it wasn’t working right? You know, you’ve got this you-beaut flat pack from Ikea and you suddenly realise you’ve put half of the pieces on back to front? All you can do is take it apart and start again.
It happens to God too. Not the Ikea thing, God always assembles Ikea stuff really well. But God does have to start all over again in the Bible more than once. One time God does a restart is the Flood story. Genesis 6 says,
The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Now, this is a very troubling picture of God. It’s not one that I take at all literally; the God who wipes out almost every living thing is a plot device to move the story of Noah forward. The rainbow is a much better picture of God; it is a sign of the covenant God made with every living thing to spare the earth in future.
(I’m glad about that, because I think we must be sorely testing God with the way we’re treating the earth at the moment.)
It seems that God was starting all over yet again in the days of Jeremiah. The people were living under the covenant God made with Moses, the covenant which is symbolised by God’s gift of the Ten Commandments.
But the people weren’t keeping their side of the covenant very well. They were breaking God’s laws all over the place. True to the ancient promise, God doesn’t decide to do away with everyone; instead, a new word of the Lord comes to the prophet Jeremiah (ch.31):
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.
This time, God decides to remake people from within. Instead of laws written on tablets of stone, they will be written on the walls of people’s hearts. Continue reading