Why do you think the people “really” let their slaves go free in the first place? Was it that they were finally being obedient to God’s covenant command? Perhaps it was because it was hard being responsible for additional people in your household when a foreign army is attacking. What do you think?
God saw their actions. He saw them repent and do what was right. They freed those fellow Hebrews and even made a solemn covenant with God in the temple. How pleased God must have been to see this take place!
How brilliant! God uses Jeremiah remind the people to remember the covenant. It is clear from their behavior that they have not given much thought to this covenant in some time. Maybe ever! The people have no excuse, the answers to life found in the covenant aren’t hidden from them.
“Cursed is anyone who does not obey the terms of my covenant!” Do they even fear or tremble at the curse? Does being obedient to God “show up on their radar” as something they aspire to be better at doing? If so, then they still have a chance to be saved from doom.
How many times have you had something go wrong with your computer, wonder what’s happening, only be told the solution is to “restart?” It always amazes me how that restart does the trick. In our Bible account, we see that a cleansing was needed, a “restart” of sorts. We get a front row seat to watch the covenant between God and his people being restored.
In our recent readings, we saw how God was with Joshua as he led the people across the Jordan River. We saw a magnificent display of power dismantle the fortified city of Jericho. Then one bad apple angered God by being disobedient. It didn’t end well for him, did it? Then we saw the great victory over Ai. Before much more time was to pass, Joshua followed Moses’ instructions to restore the covenant with God.
Our reading starts with a bit of a glimpse of what is happening in the area to those hearing about God’s mighty act involving the Jordan River crossing. That fear will have a bit of time to percolate and resonate in their hearts. We might think of the old saying, “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” The anticipation of attack must have been quite something. Would they let fear move them forward or keep them stuck. We can find ourselves dealing with fear in much the same way.
But the main focus of our reading today focuses on re-establishing the covenant between God and his people. We learn that nobody has been circumcised since leaving Egypt. We know from Genesis 17:12, “From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased.” For some reason, this was God’s desire for his people.
A covenant is a promise or pledge, known today to be part of a contract agreement. “By entering into the covenant today, he will establish you as his people and confirm that he is your God, just as he promised you and as he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” God will expect certain things from the people, particularly to keep his commandments and stay away from other religions and their idols. What a big day!
Many Jews still today are very strict in their adherence to the law. They want to be true to their God and his request of them. As a Christ follower, my allegiance to God is strong, but different. Jesus ushered in the “new covenant” by which I live my life. It is helpful to see and understand the original covenant as it makes the new one all the more valuable and precious.