Promise of a New Covenant - Jeremiah 31:27-34
Introduction/Seeing the Need
Introduction/Seeing the Need
Israel had to suffer exile for her sins, but God reversed the exile, restored the Israelites to their land, and granted the promise of a new covenant. There would be a new people of God in a day to come. They would know him in the fullest sense, would have his law written on their hearts, and would experience complete and total forgiveness for sin.
Jeremiah’s ministry may have begun about 627 BC; many scholars believe he influenced the law reforms enacted by King Josiah (640-609 BC). Jeremiah lived to see the death of Josiah and the collapse of his reforms. Ultimately Jeremiah encouraged the people of Judah to capitulate to the new superpower, the Babylonians, because Babylon was the instrument of God’s judgment against their sins, Jeremiah’s ministry ended sometime after the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah (Gedaliah) was assassinated in about 585 BC. The prophet was forced to flee to Egypt, where tradition says he died.
The book of Jeremiah is complicated, and its episodes are often difficult to date. Most of Jeremiah’s oracles are judgments against the Judeans, the people of the southern kingdom of divided Israel. The oracles lament the apostasy of the people. The only hope Jeremiah gives is found in a section known as the Book of Consolation, which is .
Here in our text God promises to make the exiles his people once again, to “make a new covenant” with them, to return them to their land (32:41), and to establish once and for all time the Davidic dy nasty as originally promised. The covenant them of “You will be my people, and I will be your God” is repeated often.
Reversal of Judgment -
Reversal of Judgment -
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.
The phrase the days are coming introduces a prediction of blessing and restoration. The depopulation of the Judean homeland that results from exile () will be reversed, since God promises to plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals when the exile is over.
We should note that the promise includes the northern kingdom of Israel as well as the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom was destroyed in 722 BC by the Assyrians. For all that we can perceive today, the norther tribes never recovered and never returned.
What are some ways our lives should demonstrate trust in God to fulfill his promises? As the church, in family life and as individuals
Jeremiah’s prophesy serves a two-fold purpose of ministry to Judah: (1) pronouncement of judgment upon the nation because of their sins and (2) the subsequent restoration after the people have “gotten the message” regarding who is behind both - none other than God himself. This theme occurs repeatedly throughout the book.
In verse 29 we see that the exiles wallow in the misery of their situation, and they naturally try to come to grips with the reason for it. In so doing, many latch on to the proverb, “Why me?” The effect is to blame God for being unjust in punishing the wrong people.
But lest we be too quick to dismiss this proverb as mere blame-shifting, we should recognize precedent for it in . That passage affirms that God “punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” () Today we readily observe the intergenerational consequences of parents sent to jail for committing crimes. Children often do suffer for the sins of their fathers.
The fact that the sins of one generation have consequences for another is not the same as saying that God punishes an innocent group for the sins of a guilty group. Even so, Israelite history does indeed record instances of children dying as a consequence of the sins of their parents. The problem in today’s text is that when exile comes, the people will apply the proverb to disavow any culpability for their situation.
How would you counsel a fellow believer who blames distressing circumstances on the actions of others? When the claim is true; when the claim is false.
In verse 30 we hear that the old proverb will not do. People will be punished for their own sins, not the sins of others. All of us have enough sin in our lives to justify any punishment from God. To blame someone else will not do. Not only is the old proverb thrown out, a new one replaces it: whoever eats sour grapes - their own teeth will be set on edge.
Restoration of Relationship -
Restoration of Relationship -
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Hope is built on time coming rather than time past. Jeremiah places the emphasis squarely on the future when he announces a new covenant. Using the familiar “I will” statement, he depicts God as assuring the people that things are changing, that things will be different (;). That difference will be in the form of a new covenant that will differ from the original covenant.
The new covenant will offer a radical departure to the way God made covenants with the people. The love would still be there, but the form would be changed radically. The new covenant would become a personal experience for each member of the group. The old covenant was received on Mount Sinai by the generation that God rescued out of Egypt in the exodus. The relationship between God and his people is therefore analagous to that of a faithful husband who has an unfaithful wife.
How does covenant faithfulness toward God compare and contrast with other types of covenant keeping? Regarding marriage covenants; regarding community covenants; and financial contracts.
The new covenant is written on their minds and on their hearts, and God is the one who puts it there. It is through the Holy Spirit, who indwells each and every Christian, that God does so, as suggested by .
Distance now is eclipsed by this new covenant. People could neither hide from God nor could they blame others for the results of their actions. Each man and each woman would find themselves as naked and as vulnerable as Adam and Eve in the presence of God in the early garden.
How do you define your personal covenant with God? How can you make your heart more receptive to having God’s Word written on it? Regarding things to do more of; things to do less of; and things to abandon altogether.
Verse 34 predicts a perfect state of affairs: no one is needed to teach about the Lord because everyone already has the knowledge. The time of the new covenant will be an era when the people of God include more than the peoples of ancient Israel and Judah. Knowledge of God will spread to peoples of all nations and languages.
The restoration promised in today’s text began with the return of exiles and the rebuilding of the temple. But the promised restoration was not full inaugurated until the coming of Jesus in the first century AD. This was not a covenant based on law, and physical ancestry, but on faith in the one whose death paid the price for our sins: Jesus Christ. This expands the covenant people to include potentially every person regardless of ancestry, nationality, etc.
Lord, deepen our understanding of your law and your grace. Help us live out the harmony of a world shaped by your promises of hope; in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.