God’s Promises to Israel (February 3-24)

Teaching in General

Intimacy with Scripture and with God
In Jeremiah, in the final session of this unit, God says, “No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me’ “ (31:34). The Formations study guide notes that “having God’s covenant written on our hearts implies an intimate relationship of commitment and faithfulness between God and us” (p. 52). Our goal in teaching and learning is not to know about God but to know God, in an intimate relationship.

John D. Hendrix, in Nothing Never Happens, writes,

“Relationships to people, including those of a more intimate nature, always remain a mystery. Already knowing people, as with Scripture, is a prejudgment and assumes a ‘taking for granted’ relationship. Prejudging makes the intimate relationship with Scripture unlikely, maybe impossible. Many people experience the lack of intimacy in their lives. For them intimacy with Scripture will sound strange. Intimacy with Scripture means that Scripture knows us—not knows some part of us or knows us in certain ways, but knows us completely, every part of us. Intimacy with Scripture teaches us about ourselves. We experience ourselves while in a relationship to something other than ourselves. Even if this happens only for a few seconds, we know that we are different.

“In intimacy we take the Scripture inside ourselves and listen as we talk about what happens to us. Much of our commentary on Scripture is a commentary on ourselves. Let us acknowledge that dynamic and use it. In telling what happens to us, we are not simply giving subjective feelings. We are telling the truth, ‘empirical evidence,’ giving the facts of what actually occurs in the observer or reader. These are root interpretations, perceptions or reactions that underlie judgments and conclusions” (Macon: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2004, p. 47).

Introduction to the Unit

“Covenant,” or mutual promise, is the central focus of this unit. Here’s how The Anchor Bible Dictionary defines covenant:

“A ‘covenant’ is an agreement enacted between two parties in which one or both make promises under oath to perform or refrain from certain actions stipulated in advance. As indicated by the designation of the two sections of the Christian Bible—Old Testament (= covenant) and New Testament—‘covenant’ in the Bible is the major metaphor used to describe the relation between God and Israel (the people of God). As such, covenant is the instrument constituting the rule (or kingdom) of God, and therefore it is a valuable lens through which one can recognize and appreciate the biblical ideal of religious community” (Volume 1, A-C, New York: Doubleday, 1992, p. 1179).