Summary: God will establigh a new covenant; Jesus Christ is that new covenant
PROPOSITION: God will establish a new covenant.
OBJECTIVE: To recognize Christ as the new covenant.
As important as John 3:14-20 (16) is to the Bible as a whole, scholars would generally acclaim this passage from Jeremiah as one of the most important of the entire Old Testament. Among other things, this is the only place where there is mention of a “new covenant” in the Old Testament. It is as though Jeremiah has taken the thoughts and ideas of his peers, mentors, teachers, and other great thinkers and under the influence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, pens this unique concept of a new covenant that God will establish.
Those who would say that this is one of the most important passages in the OT would also maintain that the concept of the new covenant is Jeremiah’s greatest contribution to biblical truth. In this passage, there is
1. The time of the covenant (31), “the time is coming.”
2. The maker of the covenant (31), the Lord.
3. The name of the covenant (31), “NEW.”
4. The parties of the covenant (31), “house of Israel” and “house of Judah.”
5. The contrasted covenant (32), not like old covenant: based on merit and works, susceptible of infractions, non-fulfilling, not give life.
6. The nature of the covenant (33-34), law written on the heart which gives intimate knowledge of and fellowship with God, forgiveness of sins, peace of heart.
This would be a good start to a very complicated and excruciatingly long 6 point sermon. But alas, we shall save that for another day!
It is not as if Jeremiah sat down one day and decided he would write a prophesy. The man was in commune with God. Israel had been fighting with Babylon for some time. Jerusalem was about to fall. Many of the people had been slaughtered, carried into slavery, or were about to be transported into Babylon. The Davidic rule was about to be terminated. The Temple, the place of God in Jerusalem was about to be destroyed. All of this was a sign that the covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel had finally and terminally broken down. The times were rough, and had all the warnings of getting rougher.
Depending on how one identifies the time, some of these issues either were about to happen, or just happened. I am of the understanding that Jeremiah is writing before the fall of Jerusalem. This then is a positive prophesy containing hope and assurances from God to some very desperate people.
There was not going to be simply a mere renewing of the Mosaic covenant. The prophet tells the reader that Yahweh is in the process of making a new covenant. This would lead to ask, why a new covenant?
The essence of the covenant relationship lies in the expression, “I am your God and you are my people” (33). This is an unequal relationship, but also a real one. This covenant relationship was supposed to involve a real, marital commitment.
The problem always arose in that Israel had found it impossible to be faithful to Yahweh. The simplest of marriage commitment is that the husband and the wife must be faithful in all things to one another. Israel, and even now those who do not recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of the new covenant, could not be faithful to Yahweh.
Archeological digs indicate that Israel had images of God. It is known that Israel did not worship only God, but the gods of their neighbors, and even gods they made up for themselves. The truth is that Israel ignored the very basic requirements of the Torah as expressed in the first two of the “Ten Words” i.e. acknowledging other gods and worshipping Yahweh by means of images.
There was no faithfulness or compassion or mutual commitment in the land. People failed to believe rightly in their relationship with one another. And it was just such a failure that led to the collapse of the old covenant.
As you journey through Lent, this scripture reading forces you to account for your relationship with God. And specifically, how do you come to grips with your faithfulness – or perhaps lack of faith - to God?
Now I don’t begin to think that there are those here who intentionally kill, steal, lie, cheat, connive your neighbor, curse your parents. Simply with your presence here this morning, you sorta honor the Lord’s day. But it is the first two of the “top ten” that got Israel into trouble and could just as well be your stumbling.
The question of the week, do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul? And do you love your neighbor as yourself? That is the way Jesus paraphrased the first two commandments and that is how we must stand today.