“May you live in interesting times.”
Jeremiah lived in an age where the Jewish people were being pressured by the king of Assyria to follow false gods. Despite their efforts to remain true to God, they became overwhelmed by the constant pressures to conform to the prevailing culture. Their young people were led away from faith in God and the people were threatened and punished for failing to worship the idols of their conquerors. Over time the faithfulness of the Jews weakened; becoming almost forgotten among them. These were interesting times for the people of God.
Jeremiah struggled against weak leaders of the Jewish community who, for political expediency and survival, compromised with the people’s relationship with God. They placed their own interests above the good of God’s chosen people; leading them away from their faithfulness to God.
Jeremiah relentlessly reminded the people that their survival depended on their relationship with God and remaining faithful to the covenant He made with them. But the people continued to be led astray; turning away from faith. In their hard-heartedness they made excuses: justifying sin to keep the comforts and pleasures of their new age among strange gods.
Jeremiah saw that a change of heart was needed among the people so they could break away from these bad shepherds to return to God. He foresaw that God would make a new covenant with the people, so they no longer needed to rely on leaders who placed their own benefits above the good of the people. God would reveal Himself directly to His people; giving them the intellect and willpower to know Him, so they may remain faithful.
God’s voice spoke directly in the hearts’ of all His people; breaking their stony hearts so they responded with desire to be with Him; remaining faithful. In His love and mercy, He forgave their transgressions and remember not their past sinful ways. He renewed their hearts; making them clean, so they became His people.
Lent is a time of reflection and repentance. It is also a time of sacrifice. In Lent, we mirror sacrifice in the things we give up, but we are called to an even greater sacrifice.
God gives us an intellect to know Him. He calls us to be truly honest in our reflection on those false idols we have allowed to grow in our own hearts. This knowledge of God calls us to repent the idols of our own making that have turned our hearts to stone; moving us away from our loving relationship with God.
In His divine mercy and love, God gives us willpower to sacrifice our selfish allegiance to the present age: with its false idols that the ungodly have persuaded us to follow. Those who, for political expedience, self-interest, power and control, extol the comforts, conveniences and pleasures of this world; hardening our hearts against God. They, by enticement of the evil-one, work to create a relentless noise, attempting to drown out the voice of God.
In His divine mercy and love, God’s voice whispers to us in the cracks of our stony hearts; calling us to repentance; forgiving the sins of all those who hear Him and respond; seeking new – clean hearts.
God’s promise of salvation is for all who make sacrifice; dying to the pleasures and comforts of this world, so we may rise with Christ to our new life; returning in faith and love to God, our Father.
“If today you hear God’s voice harden not your hearts.”