(Today's post by Wayne Bunting)
Jeremiah 31:27-40 is a theologically rich section of the Bible. It contains a lot to be understood by those who try and piece it all together. This post will certainly not do it justice. Most of the time material like this in the Old Testament seems to raise more questions by those who read it than answers. However, one should not shy away from this, especially those who are called to be teachers of God’s word and His truth.
Verses 29 and 30 seem to make no sense at all. At first glance it appears to be a funny proverb about a dad who eats rotten grapes, and his kid that gets cavities in his teeth. Also, everyone else who eats these grapes will get cavities too. Great, thanks dad. These verses don’t seem like a big deal, but if we always take the Bible at first glance then we will never learn and grow from the wisdom and truth that is in it. Many times learning from the Bible takes work, time, and patience. Entire websites are devoted to apparent contradictions in the Bible that people claim mar the validity of God’s word. But so many of these accusations are the result of simple misunderstandings of the Bible and its truth. We should not be so shallow. Asking questions is a very good thing, as long as your heart is in the right place. Doubting for the sake of doubting, however, does not lead to wisdom, but to a hard heart. There is no way to find the truth in that. That being said, the church should delve into the hard questions of the Bible, wrestling with its meaning and significance. We should always be ready to give an answer to the world that is always watching our lives, questioning, and pondering why we are the way we are. If we have the answers, and if we have wrestled with the things of God and His truth with sincere hearts, then we will see doors opened in our hearts. The result of this is that we will be readily able to show the world the light of Christ. They will have their questions answered, and their doubts challenged with the truth, leading them to the crossroads of life and death, Christ and the world.
Well back to verses 29-30 and cavities. These verses are actually an extra-Biblical proverb that must have been familiar to the people of the time. The metaphor of sour grapes was a description of the people’s bitterness. It is about their anger that the teeth of their children would rot as a result of what their fathers ate. In other words the people of Israel were feeling as though God was punishing them for the sins of past generations, and that because of this God was unjust. This proverb is also seen in Ezekiel 18:2, showing that this feeling was fairly prevalent in this time. It was an issue of personal responsibility: The people of Israel were completely obstinate concerning the recognition of their own sins. Jeremiah here quotes this proverb in order to denounce it. He is saying that in the days coming, mentioned in verse 27, the people of Israel will no longer complain about the supposed injustices that they felt were perpetrated against them by what they claimed to be an unjust God.
Interestingly enough, this is a common thing is happening in the world today. People in the western world are surrounded by sin in a way that has not been seen since Christianity first came to it. One of the results of this is that people do not realize that they are even in the darkness of sin. Because of this they seem to complain about God, saying that He is unjust. God’s character comes into question whenever people become blinded by sin. Sin perverts people’s view of God. It gets in the way of our ability to commune with Him. The result of this is opportunity by Satan to do what he does best. He establishes lies in the hearts of those who allow him to persist. He is the father of lies, and the tempter of God’s people. I’m not saying that people will always be perfect, but I am saying that it is paramount that the church learns to recognize who God is and who he isn’t. One of Satan’s biggest tricks is to pervert people’s view of who God is. We are the salt of the world; we bear this truth of who God is to the world. Through Him the world will be saved.
However, in the church Satan goes to great lengths to pervert the image of God in the hearts of believers. This leads to a hardening of hearts, a dumbing down of people’s passions for God, and frustrated intentions by those who seek to do good, but find themselves going down wrong paths. If Satan cannot kill the church and its message (like he does in more hostile parts of the world), then he will attempt to pervert it. He will pervert the mission and the message of the church. The end result will be those within the church who see more of this perversion than they do of Christ, and therefore lose their fire for God. Also, those outside of the church will be turned away because the church is no longer showing them God, and no longer providing the longings of their heart with who God is. All they will see is religion, and not Christ. The two could not be more opposite.
The answer to this problem is that the church should seek God. If it gives up itself, gives up its comforts, and exalts Christ in its heart instead of the world, then Satan would not be able to do what it does in the church to the degree that he does. The church would resist his lies because they know who God is and who He isn’t. This is not to say that problems will go away, but it would certainly give Satan a boot to the face. Then the world would certainly see more of the kingdom of God brought to its doorstep.