First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Create a People Anew

31 Behold, the days come, says YHWH, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them, says YHWH. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says YHWH: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: 34 and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know YHWH; for they shall all know me, from their least to their greatest, says YHWH: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.

World English Bible

[Background] As a prophet, Jeremiah was a peaceful man from a priestly family. He grew up under the religious reforms of King Josiah, but saw the corruption and downfall of the nation.

At first, Jeremiah preached for the religious reforms of King Josiah. When succeeding kings turned away from the reforms, however, Jeremiah railed against the royal and religious abuses. With the coming Babylonian exile, Jeremiah preached the destruction of the nation. But, Jeremiah offered a ray of hope with a new covenant that God would offer to a chastened people.

[31-32] With the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of people to Babylon, the institutions of the old covenants were gone. The ark of the covenant in the Temple (which represented God's covenant at Sinai) was gone. The Temple which represented worship to God was gone. The institution of the king (which represented God's covenant to David) was gone. Their absence led the way for a new covenant.

[33] The new covenant God offers was an intimate one. The people would no longer rely on institutions or culture for a relationship with God. God himself would reach out to his people. The new covenant would be with people's hearts. People would intuitively know ethical conduct and true worship based upon the love God has for them and the love they returned.

[34] How would people know God's love? People would know God through his forgiveness. Forgiveness is a way to "re-create" people anew. When God stated he would no longer remember the people's sin, he meant that the memory and the consequences of immoral acts would be erased from the natural order. It would be as if God had created the universe so that the immorality never existed! The people would return to God with grateful hearts.

How does forgiveness help "re-create" memories of the past? How does it erase the consequences of hurt in the present?