Summary: We are heirs of the New Covenant, its promises, its hope.
Heirs of a New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-37
We live in an age of passing fancies and boredom. When men and women enter into that most sacred of institutions, for example, it is seldom with the genuine intention of union unto death. It is often a union whose ties will be severed as quickly as comfort passes, prosperity ceases, or newness wears off.
In the practical experience of our culture we know almost nothing of true covenant. In the experience of modern church culture it is not much more likely that our eyes will be really illuminated to true biblical covenant.
This culture moves rapidly. If even a small family lives within relative proximity it is a true blessing. Within the walls of our churches our focus is not necessarily upon things which create within us a deep sense of, appreciation for, or understanding of the importance of covenant. In our day, promises are often made only to be broken.
God is often portrayed and seen as the bringer of immediate happiness, pleasure, security, and while He does offer these things to those who are within the covenant, its blessing is far greater than temporary peace.
The covenants of God are unshakable promises made by the sovereign hand who hung the moon in its place to you and to me. The promises of men are fleeting, too often made on a whim. The covenant of Almighty God is as unshakable as the ocean is deep. The deepest part of the ocean, in fact, is Mariana Trench. The bottom there is more than 35,000 feet below sea level. If Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth, were placed at this location it would be covered by over one mile of water.
Verse 37 of our text today was recorded thousands of years before modern technology allowed us even to peer into those depths and to humbly photograph the heights of space, the heavens. In it the prophet Jeremiah records the wonder of God’s everlasting, unshakable, steadfast commitment to His covenant; to the people of His covenant.
This is what the LORD says: “Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, the LORD, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 31:37 NLT)
The Covenant people of God are securely in the palm of His hand. If, dear Christian, you take nothing else from this message, leave assured of the steadfast nature of His promise to you and to me, for today we speak of covenant.
That is specifically, the New Covenant of which you and I are heirs in Christ Jesus!
Jeremiah 31 is among the most celebrated and beautiful passages of the Bible, though its interpretation is not without some measure of debate. For the most part that debate centers on the question of the participants of the New Covenant being spoken of in this passage. Is this a covenant which differs from the New Covenant spoken of in New Testament, inaugurated in Christ?
Is this some later covenant promise strictly reserved for Israel in millennial reign after Christ returns and Israel receives her Messiah?
When does the covenant begin? Who are the recipients? Upon whose heart will the law be written? On the far ends of the spectrum are those who contend that the promises of this passage are for Israel alone or that that this passage is for the Church alone, saying that the Church is spiritual Israel.
Both viewpoints are understandable but both are rooted, I would argue, too much in historical theology and theological tradition and not enough in the explicit teaching of major biblical themes. This passage has major implications in various theological systems and many defend their system vehemently.
Those who say the promises contained here are only for Israel neglect proper and complete understanding of the continuity of the redemption plan of God. Those who say the promises of this passage refer only the church spiritualize Israel to an extent which is inconsistent with the overall themes of the Bible.
They ignore the plain language used in this text. Clearly these promises are for Israel; the house of Israel (Northern Kingdom) and the house of Judah (Southern Kingdom). Why does this matter for us today? Is this not a theological debate that is better suited for the seminary than the pulpit?
It matters entirely for one reason. How we interpret passages like this have everything to do with how we understand the revelation of the Bible to be. Our biblical hermeneutic, that is the way we interpret the Bible, must be plain, obvious, simple, and honest to the text for it to be valid.
In our personal study of the Bible and in our public use of it we must strive to allow the Bible to speak for itself. It says Israel. Therefore, it’s for Israel. But are these promises only for Israel? A plain reading of the text must be coupled with a broader understanding of biblical revelation.