JEREMIAH 6:16-8:7 | COLOSSIANS 2:8-23 | PSALM 78:1-31 | PROVERBS 24:26
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Jeremiah is the prophet commissioned to preach it like it is, and today, he serves as the Lord’s mouthpiece in offering up these words to the children of Israel:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
The Lord is pretty clear in the expectations that he lays out, and one can’t help but smile at the choice of phrase employed here: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”
Don’t indulge in vain repetitions, just get down to business and let your actions speak louder than words is what the Lord seems to be saying!
And in case you need to further refresh your memory, the Lord provides a small summary to date of their history.
This is what the Lord says through Jeremiah: 21 “Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’
Is that sufficiently clear, O Israel?
Turning now to our reading of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we find Paul taking pains to clarify the meaning of this new-found faith in Jesus Christ.
Don’t be swayed by everything you hear, or feel pressured to conform to the orthodox ways of the Jewish traditions, especially concerning the matter of circumcision, Paul seems to say. Instead, pay attention to the main source of your faith, i.e., Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God incarnate.
Paul’s exact words are: 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Paul wants to take his time to explain the finer points of this newly-found faith in Christ. He continues: 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Is that clear enough, O dear Colossians?
Paul cannot stress enough the importance of not falling into the meaninglessness of rituals, and cautions his readers with these words: 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
And if all this was not sufficiently clear already, Paul says it again, this time even more graphically. He says: 20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find a lengthy historical account of the great works of the Almighty, and the psalmist prefaces it with these words that I daresay are echoed to this day by the descendants of Jacob, i.e., the children of Israel:
1 My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
3 things we have heard and known,
things our ancestors have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
Finally, one sweet verse from the book of Proverbs that captures the essence of beauty and truth:
26 An honest answer
is like a kiss on the lips.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.