Sunday, December 17: Jeremiah: Longing for a New Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31-34

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to them,”
declares the LORD.
 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

God had made many precious promises to his people over the centuries. He had promised Adam and Eve a descendant who would crush the devil. He had promised Abraham that he would bless him, and that blessing would come to all the earth through his descendant. As God had covenanted with a man (Adam), then a family (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), he next covenanted with a nation (Israel) through Moses. And then God promised David that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne.

But at the time of Jeremiah, the northern tribes of Israel had already been taken away into captivity, and the southern tribes of Judah were being threatened by Babylon. Through Jeremiah God reminded the people that he had not forgotten or forsaken them. Furthermore, he would make a new, even better covenant with them. He would still be their God, as he always had been. But now he would write his law not on tablets of stone but on their hearts, and he would deal with sin definitively (see Hebrews 10:1-14). And how would this come about? Hebrews 8 tells us that Christ is the mediator of the new covenant.

“What is new about the new covenant is that the entire covenant story must now be seen in Christ. The union with God foreseen in Jeremiah 31:31-34 is union with Christ. The people of God are the community of which Christ is the head. The law written upon the heart is the law of Christ. The knowledge of God is communion with Christ. The forgiveness of sins is the costly forgiveness won by Christ. Once Jesus takes the cup and says to his disciples, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’ (Luke 22:20), it is impossible to imagine God’s covenant relationship with his people without Jesus Christ at its center.” (Michael D. Williams)

How could God forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more? Only through the blood of his precious Son, the mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 10:10, 14). Are you trusting in Jesus? Israel could not keep the law, and neither can you. Trust in Jesus, the one who kept the law perfectly and who died for sinners. Worship him!

Yea, her sins our God will pardon,
blotting out each dark misdeed;
all that well deserved his anger
he no more will see or heed.
She hath suffered many a day;
now her griefs have passed away;
God will change her pining sadness
into ever-springing gladness.

(Johannes Olearius)

© 2023 Stephen A. Hoogerhyde.