OT: Jeremiah 31.27-34
NT: Luke 18.1-8
I’ve been questioning the nature of reality lately, and it’s not just because I’ve been running for political office. And it’s not just because we’re about to welcome a child into the world. And it’s not just because the world seems to be a crazy place these days. But I bet all in all those things all contribute to me asking the question: What really matters in this life?
Do you ever find yourself asking that question? Maybe you’re getting on in years, looking back over your life, and wondering what it’s all been for. Maybe you’re busier than you’ve ever been, and you’re trying to make sense of who you should spend your limited time on this earth. Do you ever find yourself wondering: What really matters in this life?
If you start thinking about that, soon enough you’ll say that things like family, having a meaningful job, giving back to those around you, making the world a better place. All those are good answers. But the more I’ve studied this week’s passage, the more I think that we answer to a higher reality. Higher than anything we deal with on a daily basis, deeper than any love we feel, wider than any understanding we have about the ways of the world.
What really matters most in life? Verse 33. “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.” The ultimate nature of reality is that we belong to God, and nothing matters compared to that. Do you understand what I mean when I say “ultimate” reality? I don’t mean better than the rest. I mean final. The final reality is that we belong to God.
To appreciate the gravity of that statement God makes not just to the people of Israel in the time Jeremiah was written but also to us today, we need to understand the context. The people were decimated. After the destruction of Jerusalem we read about in Lamentations a few weeks ago, the Israelites were literally a broken people. Many died. Many more were enslaved and exiled. Their reality has been turned upside down. They wanted their lives back. They wanted their homes back, their livestock back, their family back, their church back, their religious relics back, their scrolls of law back which told them what to do and what not to do. Surely, they wanted their clothes back, their pantries back, their personal items back, their normal lives back. But God showed them a new, bigger reality.
Verse 31 says God will make a covenant with the people. We’ve talked about what a covenant is before. It’s like an agreement or a contract, but it’s more permanent than that. You can break an agreement. If one party backs out, then it’s over. A covenant can’t be broken. In Hebrew, the word for making a covenant is literally, “cutting a covenant,” as in “cutting in stone.” Once you cut it in stone, it’s there for eternity. And since God is the one who makes a promise in a covenant, it will stand forever. What will this new reality be like? Will the people live in a land flowing with milk and honey, where the mountains are made of gold and the trees grow money? No, of course not. God says nothing about what their new lives will be like. Instead, God simply says, “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” Because that’s all that really matters.
Modern life is filled with many distractions, much more so than in the Israelite’s day. We work hard all day. We struggle to sleep at night. We have a hard time getting up in the morning. Life is filled with so much stuff. I beg of you to remember that the covenant God makes is for you, and it is the ultimate reality of life: “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” That promise is written in the human heart. Your heart. And the more often you can remember that that promise, cut in stone, defines your reality as a human being and a child of God, the more meaningful your life will be.
Say it with me: I will be your God, and you shall be my people. What really matters in this life? I will be your God, and you will be my people. When we look at the madness of the world and wonder what is going on, let us remember God’s covenant: I will be your God, and you will be my people.
That is the ultimate reality of life. We belong to God. Therefore, come madness or mayhem, come turmoil or tumult, come hell or high water—it’s ultimately OK. We belong to God.
The more I’ve prayed about that this week—God’s covenant with us—the more at peace I’ve felt. Accepting God’s covenant written on your heart allows you to see this life for what it really is and focus on what really matters.
One of my teachers had a sign on his board that read, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” Remember that, my friends. There’s only one thing that ultimately matters. God’s promise, “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” All the rest is small stuff. Amen.