Who has ever heard of Wikipedia? Show of hands. Well, if you haven’t or aren’t really sure what it is: “Wikipedia is a multilingual online encyclopedia with exclusively free content, based on open collaboration through a model of content edit by web-based applications like web browsers, called wiki. It is the largest and most popular general reference work on the Web.”[i] Do you know where I go this information about Wikipedia? Wikipedia.
Now, this isn’t humanity’s first attempt to accumulate “all-knowledge.” There was the Great Library of Alexandria, for example. It was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. The Library was part of a larger research institution and quickly grew by acquiring a large number of papyrus scrolls. Now, it’s unknown precisely how many scrolls were housed there, but estimates range from 40,000 to 400,000 at its height. And because of this great gathering of information, Alexandria became known as the capital of knowledge and learning in the third and second centuries BCE.
Side note: Despite the widespread modern belief that the Library was “burned” and instantly destroyed, the Library actually declined gradually over the course of several centuries, starting with the purging of intellectuals from Alexandria in 145 BCE. Given, the Library, or part of its collection, was accidentally burned by Julius Caesar in 48 BCE, it’s actually unclear how much was destroyed and it seems to have either survived or been rebuilt shortly thereafter.[ii]
Anyway, burned or declined, the Library of Alexandria was, historically, one the great attempts to gather all knowledge. By the way, guess where I got this information on the Library of Alexandria? That’s right, Wikipedia!
But what do these attempts to gather knowledge have to do with Jeremiah and the New Covenant? Well, Jeremiah says in this passage, “They will no longer need to teach each other to say, ‘Know the Lord!’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” And, according to the Prophet, God will do this by putting God’s Instructions within us and engraving them on our hearts.
What a powerful image! I mean, think about it! God’s instructions, God’s law it says in some versions of the Bible, IS actually engraved upon our hearts! In other words, according to Jeremiah, we should know what God wants us to do; we should know right from wrong, good from bad, innately. Deep within in our very being, we should know when something is ethically questionable or morally corrupt. The very Instruction of God is within each and everyone of us.
So, what happened? Why is the world so corrupt? Why does the human experience range from ethically questionable to down-right disgusting? When did humanity lose the ability to access these engraved instructions?
Well, I would contend that we haven’t. Instead, it’s a matter of keeping things in proper perspective. Do you remember the Genesis story about the Tower of Babel? Humanity tried to build to tower to make themselves equal with God, which, of course, isn’t possible so, the tower fell. By the way, I didn’t get that one from Wikipedia.
But the point of this teaching is that however we view God, whether it’s as a being, or a consciousness, or as the energy that lies within, thru, and around every atom of the universe; God by definition must but be, at least partially if not mostly, beyond our comprehension. Jeremiah didn’t say, “all the wisdom of God would be given to us, but instead, that God’s Instructions, God’s law, the moral and ethical understanding that we need to be better people who desire to make this world a better place, would be installed within us, engraved upon our hearts.
Which brings us back around to the accumulation of knowledge. The Library of Alexandria, and Wikipedia for that matter, are not bad things in and of themselves. On a personal level, I have dedicated most of my adult life to the pursuit of gaining a better understanding moral philosophy, humanity’s relationship with the Divine, and all things Spiritual. And I feel like what little knowledge I have gained through the years has been a worthy endeavor. And on a broader scale, I firmly believe the rise of anti-intellectualism that I have witnessed in my lifetime is one of the greatest dangers we face as a nation and a global community. It’s easy to deny a problem or blame it on someone else in a tweet. It’s a far greater thing, however, to think our way through the challenges that face us, and then act to correct them.
But that being said, if we try to put our accumulation of knowledge above the deep-seated instruction of God, we get into trouble. Like the tower-builders of old, it all comes tumbling down. Why? Well, think about it! If I think I know more that God then I kind of set myself up as a god, right? And if I’m a god than my self-interest, my self-fulfillment, will naturally lead to my grabbing all the power and wealth and notoriety that I can.
The Instruction, the law, that God engraved upon our hearts, however, leads us in the opposite direction. God’s instructions, which we can come to understand through the teachings and actions of Jesus, include things like humility, the pursuit of peace and justice for everyone and all of creation, faith and hope, reconciliation and restoration, …resurrection. The Apostle Paul expounded upon these virtues in his first letter to the Church in Corinth, when he said in essence that faith, hope, and love abide within each of us, but “the greatest of these,” he said, “is love.”
And my friends, that’s where we’ve come in this great evolution of God’s covenant with humanity. God is love. And our task as individuals, as a faith community, and as people in general, is to reflect God’s love in the world today. We are called to live-into God’s engraved instructions in all of our relationships; with those in our own home, with those who live next door, and with those who live across the globe. The greatest knowledge we can pursue, my dear friends, is the Love of God and how to share that love, every day.
And if we do that, if we share God’s Love consistently, both as individuals and as a people, God says to us, “I will be YOUR God, and YOU will be my people and I will forgive YOUR wrongdoing and never again remember YOUR sins.”
May it be so for you and for me.
Amen & Amen.