The change between Jeremiah and Corinthians cannot be overstated. The clash between law and grace is right there before us.
The CEB (the primary translation currently being used to write and to read for this devotional) and NRSV translated Jeremiah 7:7 as, “…only then will I dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave long ago to your ancestors for all time.” The NIV and CSB translate more like, “… then I will let you live in this place…”These different translations would seem to add something else to this conversation, yet, the understanding from a Jewish standpoint was God was present in the place, thus being allowed to live in this space (NIV/CSB) is very much along the lines of living with them (CEB/NRSV).“With” is very particular though. Living with a person is specific. One lives with a spouse. Children (for a time) live with their parents.
The “with” sounds awesome, but as you look at the verses surrounding it, you can see a lot of requirements. We look at these, and we say, “of course!” Truly reform your ways and actions. Treat each other justly. Don’t take advantage of the immigrant or the orphan or the wide. Don’t shed innocent blood. Don’t follow other gods.
The last few years have seen Christians, as a whole and around the world, fail each one of these. Many of these failures were very visible in the eyes of the world, and each damaged the witness of the church. In other words, Christians of all types, nations, political leanings, and so on would have failed to meet these “easy” requirements outlined in Jeremiah.
In contrast, “You’ve been filled already!” Filled with what? Filled with the Holy Spirit. Filled with God! God isn’t with. God is in! Perhaps we might better combine the ways of the Jews “with” and the way “in” to “within”, for God is both with us and in us. That is a great blessing as we Christians have not been the givers of cold water (refreshing, live-giving) as we should be, as we are called to be.
Unlike the list in Jeremiah (which is a very short version of the Law, with much removed), God within calls for a change of heart, rather than obedience to rules. This does not spare us from obedience. It changes (or should change) our perception and motivation from fear to love.
Much of what has occurred over the last few years, but really over history, is that fear often motivates us far more than love. The fear that the orphan may lie, cheat and steal. In my family history, there was an adoption that indeed went horribly wrong in exactly that way. It was used as a lesson to fear the orphan. The stories of witches (the classic, not the modern neo-pagan) often revolved around the widow, who became maligned, unknown, and eventually feared. Immigration, especially during the era of the modern state (last 300 years or so), has also grown to a place of fear.
Fear over love.
- How do you see God “with”, “in” and “within” your life, both in the past and today?
- How does fear impact who you love and how you love them? (It may not be fear of them, FWIW)
- How does love become interpreted as fear?
- How might (or should) the “with”, “in”, and “within” of God affect your fears and love?
God, may we deepen our awareness of you being with us, in us, and within us. Amen.