Summary: Perhaps Jeremiah's best-known prophecy was "...I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant I made with their fathers...I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." What law?

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Hebrews 8:6-12, Jeremiah 31:31-34


Introduction: Many people would say that from an economic and spiritual perspective the times we now live in are not very good times. Compared to the conditions in some of the world’s most dysfunctional, corrupt, and poverty-ridden countries, as well as areas where moral decadence and depravity appear to be even more rampant than in our country, that proposition seems questionable if not blatantly wrong. But compared to our own past experience in the United States, from an economic and spiritual view it is hard to disagree that in the United States, morality and political conditions have deteriorated in recent decades. But in one sense we are living in the best of times – a time that Jeremiah foresaw from 500 years away. Jeremiah foretold a new covenant in the distant future, which would usher in times far better than those of his own time. Jeremiah saw a new covenant.

*A New Covenant (auto)

I. What is a covenant?

Various transactions between God and man, or between man and man. Some covenants are a compact wherein a party binds himself to fulfill certain conditions, and for doing so is promised certain advantages.


Some covenants are promises in pairs, each making unconditional promises to the other (e.g. marriage covenant)

The Hebrew word used by Jeremiah was beri^yth, pronounced ber-eeth' which means “cutting.”

*God’s covenant with Abraham

The use of the word “cutting” comes from a covenant God made with Abraham to bring his family into the land of promise. Abraham was told to bring a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon. He was to cut the animals in half, except the birds, and arrange them with the halves facing each other, the blood running down to meet in a kind of trench between the halves. The covenanters would walk through the trench in the blood as a symbol that they would unfailingly fulfill their promise, as if they were saying, “May it be done to me as these animals if I do not keep this covenant.”

*Click for “Blood walk”

The story in Genesis 15 describes this kind of covenant, but it does not say Abraham walked through the blood, only that he prepared the animals. The scriptures say:

“…when the sun had set, it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.”

God himself was the covenanter, and it was God who passed through the blood, as if to say, “May it be to me [God] as these animals if I do not give you the land I have promised, and bring your descendants into it.” This was a tradition for sealing covenants from ancient times, not just with Hebrews, but in other cultures as well.

This practice shows that to the ancient peoples, covenants were serious business. Breaking a covenant was a heinous sin. If someone covenanted to murder a person, it was less of a sin to murder than to break the covenant. Covenant-breaking was the height of sin.

II. How is a covenant related to law?

In Hebrews 8:9, quoting from Jeremiah, the writer says the fathers “did not continue in my covenant.” He follows immediately by saying God would make a new covenant, and:

“I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts.”

The fathers did not keep the first covenant (meaning they broke the commandments in the law).

*God’s covenant with Israel

A. The Old Covenant:

Exo 24:3 Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!"

Exo 24:7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!"

Anyone who violated the commandments in the law were under a curse.

Deu 27:26 “Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”

In the Israel covenant, their relationship with God depended on Israel keeping the law—the only alternative being the curse.

Thus, the central feature of the old covenant was the law.

*What happened? (auto)

B. What happened?

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