When the teaching ends

Sunday, March 18, 2018
Passage: Jeremiah 31:31-34

What do you remember of your school days?  A particular teacher, a particular lesson, a particular classroom?

  • Miss Foden - head teacher, mental arithmetic test every term.
  • Miss Kane – teaching negative numbers, striding either side of the blackboard frame.  Very different characters but both very memorable.
  • Mr Breeze – chemistry and the exploding lithium.
  • As a teacher, the PRU pupils you teased and tricked into learning Maths – because I said so and I’m bigger than you...

Teachers leave an impression on you – some for good: some for bad.  The promise in the reading from Jeremiah is that the time for teaching will end.  And some people will eagerly anticipate this: ‘I will be their God, and they will be my people.  34 No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me...’ and we need to find our place in this promise.


We know from history and from our own experience that following the 10 commandments and the Jewish laws of obedience and purity haven’t worked.  Look at Psalm 51 as an example of that!  David, the greatest warrior king that Israel ever had, failed big time to obey God – he coveted, committed adultery and murder and lost a child in the process.

David had received all the teaching and the support and reminders from the prophets, he knew the law and the commandments but he failed to uphold them.  They were still written on tablets of stone and not on his heart.

Let’s not treat this simply as a piece of history but rather as a practical example of just how NOT to do it!  And then how to repent, really repent and throw ourselves on God’s mercy because even if we aren’t faithful, God is.  ‘He is the source of eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:9).


We are the ones who need to change – to turn and repent.  We are created and put onto this earth, we meet Jesus and we have the promise of new life to come and so we live lives that are different, don’t we?  David laments the loss of the knowledge of that promise:  Psalm 51: 1, 2, 8, 12. Not the promise itself because we are assured of its outcome – ‘I shall be clean ... I shall be whiter than snow’ because in Jesus we have the source of eternal salvation.

But don’t be deceived into thinking that we’re suddenly translated into the heavenly realms.  No, we are assured of the outcome of our faith not of the path we take.  We are not released from the consequences of sin in this world.

David was thrown into a huge pit of despair when it finally clicked what he had done – after a good telling off from Nathan, adultery, premeditated murder.  He even tried to make things good in his own power by marrying Bathsheba but we can’t make good for our sins.  David lost the joy of being in God’s presence v12a, give me the joy back and v12b, and help me to change.

God heard his prayer and God did bless their marriage.  David and Bathsheba became parents to a king even greater than David and out of this line came Jesus himself.  You think you’ve got skeletons in your cupboard!  There’s nothing new under the sun.


But no, our assurance is firm for 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved’ Acts 4:12.  However, our lived experience may well be bumpy or stagnant or humdrum.  Now that ought to be a contradiction in terms – a humdrum faith because we’ve a story to tell and a story to live that ought to shaking the world to its very core.  Jesus endured exactly the same kind of things we experience, Hebrews 5:7, and he remained faithful.  John 12:25-26, ‘My Father will honour...’

That’s a promise worth claiming!  ‘My Father will honour the one who serves me.’


So no more talk of a stagnant life or an uneventful, humdrum Christian life.  We are still able to teach one another, to walk and talk our faith.  So encourage, prod and goad one another, share with one another what God is challenging you to do; what he wants from you and from me and from his church.  And tell his story to those who don’t yet know him.  Make the teaching and the application lively and memorable; live in the joy of salvation because Jesus gave his all for us, willingly – the greatest and most memorable teacher ever.

And the homework he’s set for you is to go and do likewise.  ‘My Father will honour the one who serves me.’

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