Summary: The gracious activity of God, and the scope of the New Covenant.

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12; Psalm 119:9-16; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33.


(A) Jeremiah 31:31-34.

1. “Behold the Days are Coming”

This is a recurring motif in Jeremiah. There is a certainty about it, because it is a declaration of the LORD.

It occurs in Jeremiah 23:5 - ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.’

It occurs in Jeremiah 30:3 - ‘For behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.’

It occurs in Jeremiah 31:27 - ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast.’

It occurs here in Jeremiah 31:31.

And it occurs in Jeremiah 33:14-15 - 'Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.’

2. A New Covenant.

Here in Jeremiah 31:31, the LORD is declaring a new covenant. As he develops the theme, Jeremiah will tell us that this will be an everlasting covenant (Jeremiah 32:40); whereas Ezekiel will add that it will be a covenant of peace (Ezekiel 37:26).

It will be a new covenant “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). The picture is that of a reunited kingdom. Within two to three verses, we are no longer looking at a fragmented kingdom, but at one “house of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:33). The ten northern tribes are no longer ‘lost’ (cf. Jeremiah 50:4-5)!

Although it was ratified by blood (Exodus 24:6-8), the people were unable to keep the Mosaic covenant (Jeremiah 31:32; cf. Hebrews 8:7-9). So, the LORD is here introducing a “new” covenant, rendering the ‘old’ obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). The new covenant, too, will be ratified by blood. The blood of Jesus!

Thus, we see Jesus, raising the cup in the Upper Room. ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you’ (Luke 22:20). When Jesus’ side was pierced as He hung on the Cross, there flowed out blood and water (John 19:34).

3. Internalising the Covenant

This new covenant was so much superior to the old, that now the LORD would write His laws upon the hearts of the people (Jeremiah 31:33). This internalising of the otherwise impossible law points forward to the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Ezekiel 36:27). No longer is God’s law written upon tables of stone, but upon human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3)!

Furthermore, the promise is made, “and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33; cf. Ezekiel 11:19-20; Revelation 21:3).

The internalisation of the covenant is seen, too, in the redundancy of teachers (Jeremiah 31:34; cf. 1 John 2:27)!

The LORD says, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sins will I remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). ‘For this is my blood of the new covenant,’ says Jesus, ‘which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ (Matthew 26:28).

(B) Psalm 51:1-12.

In this solemn Psalm of repentance, we dive in (headfirst, as it were) with a plea for mercy. The verbs “have mercy… blot out… wash me… cleanse me” (Psalm 51:1-2) all appear to be in the imperative: but they are in fact plaintive pleas based in the fact that there is no redemption outside of God Himself. This is the task of the awakened conscience: “I acknowledge my transgressions; my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3).

Although our offences are often manifested in the pain which we bring to others, sin is first and foremost a slight to the character of God. I have wronged Bathsheba, David could say; I have wronged her husband Uriah; I have wronged my general Joab; I have wronged my people as their king: but above all, I have wronged God. Before I can even begin to go about my job of seeking reconciliation with these other people, I stand at the bar of God: “Against thee have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (Psalm 51:4).

We are not making excuses when we have recourse to observations about our tendency towards sin. David is not slandering his mother when he suggests that he was ‘conceived in sin’ (Psalm 51:5) - he is rather recognising that the tendency to sin is inherent in the human character. We are left without excuse once we realise that, not only did we inherit Adam’s fall, but we were equipped with a sense of right and wrong, even from the womb (Psalm 51:6)!

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