Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Burdens, or burdens?

(Warning: this is a long post - tho I'll try to keep it short)

So, I uncovered a bit of a dilemma last night - and I believe that God showed me the unquestionable solution.

The verse that gave me trouble was Jeremiah 2:20. I first read it in the NIV, as follows:

"Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, 'I will not serve you!' Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute."

My problem was that the context in which I was reading it (outside of the Bible) indicated that the Israelites, who God was speaking to in this verse, had found God's sovereignty a burden, and yet this verse did not appear to be saying this. For several years now I have made use of Matthew Henry's Commentary, as it can be trusted to provide new perspective. So I turned to it, and found this:

20 For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot.

Now, one has to be blind if one does not presume, initially, that these two appear to be saying the complete opposite!! I mean, really now. There are two differences just in the first half of the verse.

  1. On the one hand, the Israelites break their yoke and remove their bonds; on the other hand, it is God who does these for the Israelites.
  2. On the one hand, the Israelites say to God "I will not serve you!", while on the other hand, they say to God "I will not transgress."
Needless to say, I began to get bogged down, thinking that God's righteousness is a burden and a yoke - that there is no freedom in following God. That was before I understood that perhaps the Israelites did feel that God's Law was a burden, because it prevented them from being like the people around them.

I did eventually realise that either way, these two translations may appear to mean different things, but ultimately neither of them are wrong. They indicate that there was a breakdown in the relationship between the Israelites and their God.

What I ultimately saw, however, is that God's law is a yoke and a bond that binds us. It certainly does not bring freedom or righteousness. As Paul says in Romans 3,

20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

No. Rather, it is through the new covenant that God made with Man - the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross for our sins - that we are set free from the bonds of the law and sin. As it is further said in Romans 3:

22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

This is compounded in Romans 8 -

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

Essentially, all I realised was that, if I am under the new covenant - the law of the Spirit of life - then I do not need to be worried about the burdens and yokes of the Law, because that is the old covenant, and the new covenant brings freedom.