How easy is it to forgive someone you love dearly?
God promises in Jeremiah 31:31 that he would make a new covenant, not like the one made at Sinai. So, what was wrong with that covenant? Some people argue that the problem with the old covenant was that the stipulations in the law couldn’t be kept; in other words, the Jewish law was the problem, and that law needed to be changed. Thus Jesus came and did away with the law on the cross and instituted a new covenant based on grace. But a glimpse at the passages that speak of this New Covenant suggest the problem lay elsewhere, as did the solution.
The New Covenant: Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8
Read Jeremiah 31:31-34, then examine the context by reading the rest of ch. 31. The context for this new covenant is Jeremiah’s promise to the exiles returning from the Babylonian captivity that God wouldn’t forsake them. The people of Judah went into captivity because they had left their relationship with God, and they reaped the Deuteronomy 28-29 covenant curses. As far as they knew, the broken covenant left them somewhat hopeless. But God didn’t leave His people without hope. Jeremiah assures the people that God would restore the fortunes of Israel.
In this new covenant, God writes the law in a new place—on the human heart! The law would become internalized, not external on tables of stone. Only then could God’s people maintain the covenant relationship! And a central portion of the new covenant displays God’s desire to put Israel’s failures behind them, through His willingness to forgive their sins.
How did Israel’s failures leading to the Babylonian captivity reveal the need for a new location for the writing of the law?
If God was so quick to forgive Israel’s sins, why didn’t he just do away with the law? There would be no more covenant violation, then, right?
A Covenant for All People
The Beauty of the new covenant is that it would encompass all people on earth. But this would require a new structure and legal framework, since many of the Mosaic covenant statutes were intricately linked to the theocracy and later Jewish monarchy. As the quarterly points out in Tuesday’s lesson, Isaiah 56 clearly includes the Gentiles in the future promises. This means that when Jesus came to “confirm a covenant with many for one “seven” year period of time (see Daniel 9:24-27), He was looking beyond just the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
But this brings up an important question about the new covenant. Hebrews 8:8 makes it clear that the fault of the first covenant was with the people. So with whom, then, was this new covenant to be ratified? If the first covenant was being made with people who broke the law, then the new covenant needed to be made with an Israel who would keep the law. Where was such a people to be found?
Throughout the gospels, the parallels between the life of Israel and the life of Jesus gives us our answer. In Jesus Christ, we find the faithful Israelite, in whom the law was written on the heart and mind, who would keep the covenant stipulations perfectly. Hebrews 8 says that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant, yet He is also the receiver of the blessings promised in the Old Testament. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says that “as many as are the promises of God, in Christ they are yes!” Because God has fulfilled His covenant in Christ, we through faith in His perfect priestly ministry representing people to God receive the covenant blessings poured out on Christ.
The beauty of this covenant is that faith isn’t restricted to Israel; anyone can trust in Christ’s work in their behalf. Ethnicity is irrelevant to the New Covenant promises. Any human being can now—through faith!—have the assurance of the law written on his or her heart.
How do we get the law written on our hearts? Does it just happen automatically? Must we ask for it to be done? Is it a one-time request and permanent application?
As our country (at the time of this writing) seems to be facing major upheaval politically, climatically, racially, and spiritually, how should we view this “new covenant” promise that people can actually live out God’s law of love? Is it even realistic?
New Covenant in Blood
Read through the story of the last supper in each of the gospels, and answer the following questions:
What made that meal so significant for Jesus? For His disciples? For us today?
How was His “new covenant” promise related to the Passover and the mosaic covenant? How was it different?
The New Covenant promise of the law written in our hearts seems to be the only answer to human sinfulness, the inherited cultivated selfishness natural to all people. Without a brand- new set of motivations, we cannot be like our Savior. We MUST be born again!