Rev. Katherine Todd
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to make grain offerings, and to make sacrifices for all time.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Thus says the Lord: If any of you could break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night would not come at their appointed time, only then could my covenant with my servant David be broken, so that he would not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with my ministers the Levites. Just as the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will increase the offspring of my servant David, and the Levites who minister to me.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Have you not observed how these people say, “The two families that the Lord chose have been rejected by him,” and how they hold my people in such contempt that they no longer regard them as a nation? Thus says the Lord: Only if I had not established my covenant with day and night and the ordinances of heaven and earth, would I reject the offspring of Jacob and of my servant David and not choose any of his descendants as rulers over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes, and will have mercy upon them.
In this scripture from Jeremiah, we hear God’s promises to the people, and I am impressed by God’s reassurances. God makes this round-about point – just to show Jeremiah how faithful and trustworthy God is to the people and to fulfill these promises. God says that if any of them can cause God’s covenant with day and night to be broken, that only then would God’s covenant with David be broken.
And since human beings cannot cause the cessation of day and night, even more-so can human beings not cause God to break faith and promises with David.
These promises are sure.
They are steadfast.
They are as steady as the day.
They are as reliable as the night.
This reassurance of God’s faithfulness is needed. It is needed because time and again, human beings do horrific things. And down deep we fear God may turn God’s back on us.
And these fears are not unfounded. Indeed our behaviors can affect whether or not God will respond to us or answer our prayers. Our behaviors do have consequences. We indeed reap what we sow.
Just before this in Jeremiah’s book, we read that the Chaldeans will come & fight and fill the broken-down houses with dead bodies that God will strike down, precisely because of the people’s wickedness. God will hide God’s face from the city.
Indeed our actions do have consequences. We can close ourselves off to God’s presence and God’s grace. We can harden our hearts. We can become intrenched in sin, deaf and dumb to God’s Spirit. And we can set ourselves -in opposition to God- and all that is holy.
And knowing we will always revisit this question, God gives us this very visual demonstration of faithfulness. So that with each morning and each evening, we might remember that God’s faithfulness is as steadfast as the morning sun, as reliable as the evening shade.
We do not alter God’s faithfulness.
We can only alter our participation in God’s work.
By our actions we may opt in and opt out.
But our actions do not lesson God’s faithfulness.
And so knowing that we can indeed turn our backs and hide our faces from God, it is imperative that we humbly return to God, day after day. God’s faithfulness does not wain, but we can close ourselves off to God and all that is good and true.
The sun is again a good visual aid for this concept.
I remember when I first rode in a plane. I wasn’t young, and yet I was surprised when we passed through the cloud-cover of a gray and drippy day only to find the sun shining strong on the other side.
Now had you asked me, I could have worked out that this would be the case – of course the sun is still shining even when I cannot see it – but it was a profound perspective shift. This fact that the sun is still shining, even when we cannot see it, remains with me today.
And God’s faithfulness is like the sun. It is a faithful as the morning and the evening. It shines, even when we cannot feel it or see it.
We can box the sun out. We can keep the shades drawn and stay in the basement, but God’s radiance, God’s faithfulness shines on.
Now God’s faithfulness doesn’t always take the forms and timing and paths we expect.
In this scripture passage we read about how God will keep a son on David’s throne and a priest to offer sacrifices for all time. And I expect many have and many still do expect that God was speaking about the human nation of Israel. Many still read these passages and think they are all very specific to the Jewish nation and their continued existence and prowess. But I do not think in that way. The book of Hebrews makes clear that Christ has become our high priest – for all time. Christ is the sacrifice. Christ himself became our way to God, our mediator, our cleansing blood. And Christ is a descendant of David who reigns in power to this day.
In Christ, this promise is fulfilled!
And in this same passage, God says God will increase the offspring of David and the Levites who minister to God. And in Christ, this too has been fulfilled – for all time – for from every nation God has risen up offspring of Israel. God has grafted all those who believe into the family tree of God.
In Christ, God has forever set a descendant of David on the throne, God has forever set before us a high priest, and God has risen-up offspring to Israel by grafting in believers from many nations and times.
God has done something no human mind could have imagined.
We were thinking small.
God was thinking big.
We were thinking local.
God was thinking global.
And so as we leave this place of worship today, I invite you remember, with each sunrise and sunset, just how steadfast is God’s faithfulness and love.
God’s promises are sure.
Nothing we do or don’t do can break them.
And so the question is:
Will we take part?
Will we experience the radiant love of the Lord?
Will we experience the never-giving up love of God?
Will we receive the sunlight on our skin and in our hair?
We will continue in the kindness of God?
God’s faithfulness is unending. God’s love is steadfast and true. God’s promises are sure.
Now our job is to stand in the light of God’s radiance,
Day after day,
And may we experience and take part in
God’s abiding, steadfast, and
unbreakable love and faithfulness,
in this world
and in our lives.