“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
Jeremiah 31:33 (NIV)
Covenant is an important theme throughout the Great Story.
- God made a covenant with Noah (Gen 9)
- God made a covenant with Abram (Gen 15:18)
- God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen 17)
- God made a covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through Moses (Ex 24:7)
The prophetic words and ministry of Jeremiah and the exile and captivity of these same descendants of Abraham in Babylon is a major turning point in the larger story. God gave them the His law, but for 1,000 years they repeatedly failed to keep it and repeatedly broke the Covenant. Paul so perfectly describes the dilemma:
Don’t you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.
Romans 7:8-12 (MSG)
The exile and captivity which Jeremiah prophesied and later witnessed was a result of the Hebrews repeated tripping up and falling into sin and idolatry.
One of the beautiful things about Jeremiah’s prophetic works is that in the midst of the doom and gloom of his repetitive messages about exile, God has him announce something stunning in its hope and optimism:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.”
This new covenant is unlike the old.
The law will be written on the hearts and in the minds of people (31:33). It is no longer a written law code and list of rules, but a personal, intimate relationship between God and humans from every level of society (31:34). This covenant will be made possible, not because humanity somehow evolves into a better species, but because God Himself will take the initiative. God will take on human form, pay the penalty for the sin problem that started with Adam, and offer every one forgiveness (31:34).
Jesus declared this new covenant that Jeremiah prophesied on the night before He was crucified:
During the meal, Jesus took and blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples:
This is my body.
Taking the cup and thanking God, he gave it to them:
Drink this, all of you.
This is my blood,
God’s new covenant poured out for many people
for the forgiveness of sins.
“I’ll not be drinking wine from this cup again until that new day when I’ll drink with you in the kingdom of my Father.”
Matthew 26:26-29 (MSG)
In the quiet this morning, I find myself once again in wonder of how the Story fits together. In each covenant God makes, it is God taking the initiative with humanity. God reaches out. God makes the covenant. God pursues the relationship with humanity…with me.
The only question that remains is my willingness to receive.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.