Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:21-40

Jeremiah 31:21-40

Covenants were made to be broken. At least you would think that was the case if you tracked the history of all the covenants God established in the Old Testament. Each covenant’s basic structure is, “I, God, will do X and you, human, will do Y.” From Adam to Moses, when a covenant is broken, it is always broken in the same way-people fail. So what good will it do to establish a new covenant? What is the point in God recreating a new covenant when every one so far has fallen to pieces?

Well, the covenant promised in Jeremiah 31 is not only new, it is different from the others. We begin to get this sense in 31:22 where Jeremiah says:

“For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man.”

Jeremiah chose the word for “created” that first appears in Genesis 1:1. This is the sense of “create” in which something completely new happens that only God is able to enact. As for a woman encircling a man, though it is a cryptic phrase it most likely refers to God’s people clinging onto God and not letting go. If they have let go every time in the past, then this truly is a new thing.

In what is likely the theological highlight of Jeremiah, and arguably the theological high point in the OT, Jeremiah declares the new covenant:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” (31:31)

In this brief passage in verses 31-34, this new covenant is described in powerful and world-changing language. First, under the new covenant, there is deep reconciliation. God’s covenant is with Israel and Judah-two brother nations who split apart centuries before in violent and bloody conflict. This same theme is picked up in several places in the New Testament (Latin for “New Covenant”) including Galatians chapter 3:

“But now that faith has come…in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 25-28)

Second, there is deep regeneration. God will write his law on their hearts. Jeremiah has already told us what is currently written on our hearts in 17:1 where he remarks that sin and rebellion are like stone tablets within us.

Third there is a deep act of intimacy. We will all know God and no one will need to teach his neighbor about him. Instead of needing to be reminded of God on a regular and daily basis, we will enjoy such intimacy with him that we will be continually in His presence.

Fourthly, there is a deep satisfaction for sins and this is where we realize what has changed so dramatically with this new covenant. In his last conversation with his disciples, Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection and says:

“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

What is so new about this covenant is that it is not between God and humanity-it is between God and Christ. This covenant cannot be broken by my sin and rebellion; I am not on pins and needles waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am the blessed and undeserving recipient of the benefits of a covenant between two other parties. Christ fulfilled this covenant and sits at the right hand of God waiting his reward. You and I partake in this unlimited forgiveness and grace through the loving act of a merciful God who has created something new upon the earth.


Anonymous said...

Wow this converted me

Anonymous said...

God told Jeremiah that this would happen with the coming of Jesus, the messiah. It is here now. The covenant that God goes by is the covenant as given to Jeremiah. Everyone has this within them NOW.

God gave moses a covenant written in stone. Moses and others kept on adding rules. God said you shall not kill. Many of the rules had the death penality as a penalty.

Men keep on adding their rules when God has said that a man will not teach his brother or neighbour. There are NO rules for a man to teach another man about God. Gods laws are within us if we care to look. Jesus taught "Seek and you will find" Religions say to read our religious texts and we have all the rules there for you to read without seeking.

“This cup that is poured out for you is the covenant in my blood.”

God has given us the covenant.