Lenten Devotional 2024 – Week 5 (Group 3)

Designated Readings for Lenten Week 5

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 51:11-16

Hebrews 5:7-9

John 12:20-33

Collect: Almighty God, our redeemer, in our weakness we have failed to be your messengers of forgiveness and hope in the world. Renew us by your Holy Spirit, that we may follow your commands and proclaim your reign of love; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Education by Oluseyi Olusola

Lent is a season of 40 days in which we as the church prepare our hearts for Easter, the great culmination of God’s covenant with humanity. To fully appreciate this season of the church calendar, we as Christians must understand the context of covenants in the Bible. 

From the moment of the fall in Genesis, God makes a promise to his creation to restore it. However, this first covenant seems to be in jeopardy in Genesis 6 when humanity was corrupted by reproducing with spiritual beings. To destroy these abominations, God sends the flood. For their righteousness, the Lord saves Noah and his family, and they stay on the ark while it rains for 40 days. During this period, the earth was purified. In Exodus, God’s chosen nation of Israel is enslaved by Egypt and their gods, so He rescues them. Then God allows his people to wander in the desert for 40 years to learn how to trust him and obey the law, their side of the covenant to uphold. In the New Testament, Jesus fasts for 40 days then allows himself to be tempted by the devil and proves himself pure. Clearly, there is a metaphysical importance to these Biblical periods of 40.

Furthermore, this pattern of purification and waiting for God’s promise is one that is paralleled within our hearts during Lent. In the wilderness, God reveals himself. On a mountain in the desert, Moses is given not only the 10 Commandments of the Law but also a reestablished covenant between the Lord and his people. Then as they wandered in the desert, the Israelites were taught what it means to be holy like their God through the law, but fall short time and time again. Though the covenant was made, it becomes evident throughout the entire Old Testament that fallen humans cannot achieve the perfection of the law and fulfill their side of the covenant. However, the Lord’s promise and plan of redemption remains with the promise of a new covenant in Jeremiah 31 of complete transformation, made possible by the sacrifice of a perfect Savior, Jesus. This side of the cross, we can be confident that Christ upheld our side of the covenant and restoration is to come.

However just like the Israelites, you and I are enduring a time that feels more like a desert than the promised land. Though we have seen the fulfillment of the covenant in Jesus Christ, we still await complete transformation and restoration in our fallen world. Spiritual warfare rages around us and impacts our lives like it affected Noah, the Israelites, and Jesus. However, we can take comfort in the assurance that we know how the story ends. Christ holds the final victory! Just as in Exodus, God will show up here in our wilderness. He reveals himself in the seasons of waiting and teaches us to depend on Him. In this season of Lent, as we deny ourselves and wait expectantly for the joy of Easter, we should seek the Lord in the desert and dwell in the intimacy with God that the fulfilled covenant provides.

Encouraging Devotional by Ally Wallace:

This week we are looking at covenants, and in Jeremiah 31:31-34 the Lord declares that he will establish a new covenant. “I will be their God and they shall be my people,” the Lord promises to the people of Israel and Judah. He will “forgive their iniquity” and “remember their sin no more.” The covenant in Jeremiah gives the people of Israel hope; a hope of a new covenant, one that won’t fail, and a hope of knowledge or closeness to the Lord that forgives their sins. But what does this have to do with us? And how can this covenant be promised to last when the covenants made before were broken by the sins of man?

Even though Jeremiah wasn’t written to us directly, we get to live in the aftermath of the fulfillment of this promise of this new covenant. The new covenant won’t fail because it isn’t based on men, but on Christ the coming Messiah. John writes in his Gospel about the cost of following Jesus and the significance of his sacrificial death. In the book of John, Jesus tells the Greeks that were following him that “whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”  Jesus declares that he is calling all people to himself to know him personally. He will also forgive their sins through his sacrificial death. This is the new covenant prophesied in Jeremiah. Jesus is the fulfillment of all things and the end result of God’s good promise to restore his people. And how great it is that we get to share in it! Now, because of Jesus, we are ushered into a new covenant with God, one that isn’t dependent on what we would do, but on what Jesus has already done on our behalf. We gain closeness and right standing with God when his grace flows over us by the blood of his son, Jesus Christ. This is not an obligation but a gift for all people. God’s new covenant has already been established, all we have to do is search for His outstretched hand, repent of our sins, and remember the blood shed for us on the cross to enter into the continual presence of the Lord.

Encouraging Devotional by Elizabeth Snider:

A main statute of Lent is sacrifice. John 12:20-33 is an important passage that leads up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and takes place directly after the events of Palm Sunday. In the passage, Jesus prophecies the type of death he will have and the significance it will have on humanity. Jesus says, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life will keep it for eternal life.” These verses reflect the practice of giving up idols and things we deem important in order to magnify and honor God, including the idol of our own lives. Jesus reflects this statute of lent by submitting himself to God’s will in order to glorify Him. This is seen when He says, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”  Jesus gave himself up for us to create a new covenant that would reconcile us to God and adopt us into His royal family forever.

We can reflect Jesus’ sacrifice in our lives by denying ourselves in order to glorify God and honor His will. Sacrificing and giving up idols strengthens our relationship with the Lord, as we rely on him to provide for and satisfy us rather than the physical things of this world. We can act this out by fasting, almsgiving, prayer, and many other ways. All of the temporary and empty pleasures of this world fade away as we fix our eyes on what is unseen and eternal. Jesus’ sacrifice fulfills a covenant that allows us to draw closer to God and trust in Him.

Exodus by Maggie Jenz:

In church history, giving alms has been a central theme during the season of Lent. “Alms-giving” means giving to those less fortunate than us. By giving, we are counteracting our love of self just like our other lenten practices such as fasting and solitude. Love of self means thinking of yourself and your fleshly desires. Giving reverses this line of thinking because it forces us to think about others. Self-denial gives space for love to flourish. In Matthew 16, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Part of denying ourselves is giving everything to others because Christ gave everything to us. We should give due to a response of gratitude for the miraculous gift of His son. The joy and freedom of the gospel should prompt us to give to those in need.

There are three main ways we can give. We can give through our talents, time, and treasure. Giving through talents means that we are using the gifts God gives us to bless someone else. This could manifest itself in many different ways such as leading worship at church, creating art as a gift for someone, baking someone cookies, or teaching a small group. Giving with our time could be doing yard work, serving in the nursery at church, delivering meals, volunteering, or giving someone a ride. Lastly, giving with your treasure means giving financially. Donating to a church, charity, or non-profit is a great way to deny yourself and support someone in need. If you are able, gifting money to a nonprofit, the church you attend, or a friend fundraising for a mission trip are great places to start. Personally, I am going to give my friends a ride, volunteer at my church, and donate to the Mentoring Alliance because I used to work for that nonprofit.

Even though giving alms can be intimidating and out of our comfort zone, we are called as Christians to participate, especially during these 40 days. God doesn’t just want our intellectual agreement; he wants our physical response. He doesn’t just want our internal thoughts; he wants our external actions. This week, join us in the privilege of participating in giving like Christ.