Lesson 2: Grace That Goes Before

Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing.”

– St. Augustine

Devotion: Read Jeremiah 1:4-10 and 31:1-6. These two passages describe God as one who knows, calls, and loves us, both individually and collectively, prior to our awareness of God or our worthiness. The God who calls Jeremiah to confront Judah’s wickedness is the same God who proclaims love and a glorious future for the next generation. What are the implications of “grace that goes before” in those moments we ignore God and make sinful choices? How do you feel when someone you love acts in unhealthy or immoral ways? How might belief in “grace that goes before” change how you view God during times of tragedy? When all is going well?

Personal Worship Option: Read Ephesians 3:14-19. How might your life change if you fully believe God loves you beyond comprehension and desires you to be filled with that fullness? During what circumstances in the future will it be most difficult to believe that idea?  

Dig A Little Deeper:

1:5 Jeremiah’s readers see some wordplay here. The word “formed” (Hebrew, “yasar”) refers to molding pottery (Gen 2:7; Ps 95:4-5). The phrase “set you apart” (Hebrew, “yada”) means to sanctify or consecrate for service.

Compare this passage to Job 10:8-12, Psalm 71:4-6, and Psalm 139:13-16. How do these verses affect the Church’s views on birth control, abortion, birth defects, miscarriage, etc.?

Jeremiah is called to be a prophet to the nations of the world. If he prophecies about the destruction of Judah and the coming Messiah, then his words do indeed concern all the nations.

1:6 The assumption is that Jeremiah is in his early twenties. Compare his response to Moses’ initial reaction (Ex 4:1-17). What similarities are there in God’s reaction to them? God dismisses poor speaking skills and youthfulness as legitimate excuses. What are other common excuses?  

1:9 Compare this to Isaiah 6:6-8 and Daniel 10:15-16. What happens when God (or God’s messenger) touches us? How is this different from our calling as Christians (1 Pet 4:11)?

1:10 These same verbs (uproot, tear down, destroy, overthrow, build, plant) are used throughout the book of Jeremiah (12:14-17; 18:7; 24:6; etc.).  

31:1 These poetic statements reveal God’s grace which goes before Israel, initiating the efforts which bring the people back from exile in Babylonia.

31:2 Like Isaiah, Jeremiah describes the return from exile as a second Exodus (Is 43:16-21). His images recall a time of innocence, abundance, and joy. Considering all the sin of the previous generations, what do these images teach us about the power of forgiveness? How should the church view people who are forgiven? Should the church or individual Christians “remember” someone’s past sin in current relationships or treat them as if the sin never occurred? “Is it possible to forgive and forget?” How do you want people to view your past sins?

31:3 God’s saving actions are attributed to everlasting love and grace.

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