A New Covenant

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Jeremiah 31:31-37

Jeremiah has set out a picture of trouble ahead. He has cited curse after curse from the Old Covenant that God will invoke against Israel and Judah because of their unbelief that resulted in broken commands. In chapters 30-33 Jeremiah tells of a new age that would follow; hope for the future after the disaster of the present. We pick up the story in 30:31 where he tells of the new covenant that God has planned for His people.

God had been a husband to Israel, and Israel had been unfaithful to God; shattering their covenant obligations. God’s people would be newly united under a new and different covenant; one in which His laws would be written not on tablets of stone, but upon their very hearts. They would be moved not by outward regulations, but instead by inward motivations to do right by God. They would come into relationship with God not by accident of birth, but by a desire to be His people. These would come to know Him because He had forgiven their sins, as opposed to those in the past who had only known of Him. They would not be taught about God, for they would know God in relationship.

Beginning with verse 35, we see that the very God who has established the laws of nature would be as reliable in keeping His promises as are those natural laws of His creation. God would remain faithful to the “descendants of Israel” just as surely as the sun will shine. The only question that remains is: Who are those descendants?

New Testament parallels

Jesus, in Matthew 21:43-44 told the Jews that the kingdom would be taken away from them for their unbelief. Paul, in Galatians 6:16 refers to the church as “the Israel of God” and Peter in 1 Peter 2:9 “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession”.

Hebrews 8-10 deals with the Apostolic Doctrine of Two Covenants. Chapter 8 in particular is interesting for our study today. Consider 8:6 ff. Here we see our Jeremiah passage quoted (Heb. 8:8-12). The author’s comments are instructive: The New Covenant is superior to the old and founded on better promises. (8:6) Something was “wrong” with the Old Covenant (8:7) God found fault with the people and foretold of a new covenant (8:7) Of course the thing wrong with the Old Covenant was that the people did not keep it. The Old Covenant is “obsolete” (8:13 and will soon disappear. In truth, it disappeared in less than a decade (70 AD) after Hebrews was written, and God’s promise for redemption was fulfilled.

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