Text: Jeremiah 31:27-40
This is the most important passage in the book of Jeremiah…because it is about the New Covenant. And how God is going to bring that about. An earthly covenant is a legal document…a bargain struck between two parties…if you do this, I’ll do this. But, God’s covenant with His people has always been different. It was something that God initiated and did Himself and out of that covenant there came certain responsibilities of the children of Israel and the Old Testament is basically a story of Israel breaking the covenant with God…over and over and over again they broke the covenant with God.
The New Testament is the story of God creating a new and different kind of covenant with His people. Now, this passage easily divides itself into three sections and we’re going to take it section by section…
Each section begins with the words, “Behold days are coming…” (NAS) And you’ll find that in verse 27, verse 31 and verse 38. This means this is yet to come as far as Israel is concerned. They have repeatedly broken that old covenant, but God says better days are coming. And of course, you and I know that New Covenant was fulfilled when Jesus died on the Cross. As a matter of fact, as Jesus sat in the upper room with His disciples and He passed the cup He said, “Drink for this is My blood of the New Covenant.” He was talking about what Jeremiah was talking about in this passage.
I think it is necessary for us in order to appreciate the Cross and to understand what Christianity is all about to understand what Jeremiah had to say about this new covenant. So, we’re going to look at it in these three sections.
This is an important passage of Scripture. Verses 27-30…
The Basis of this New Covenant
The old basis of course was the Law. But, Israel had not been able to keep that Law. They never had. They never would. So, God is going to create a new covenant with His people, but it’s going to be based on something else and it’s based on two things…
1)based on God’s desire to bless us…
We need to understand the context of what is being said. God is in the midst of destroying the cities of Judah and of Israel. It is a time of destruction. We just saw that God said He had good thoughts and good plans and it would have been hard for the people to believe that at that time! Because it looked as thought all God cared about was to destroy, because that’s what He was doing at that time.
But, He said that with the same intensity I have used to pluck up and to break down and to overthrow and to destroy and to bring disaster…with that same intensity I will watch over them to build and to plant! Now, that’s good news to a people who are in the midst of destruction and devastation…to a people whose present vision of God is one of judgment and to a people who when they look on the horizon of their life the see no sun rising…they only see it setting…they see no shadow of hope or a future dawning upon them. But, God says, “I have been rough on you and it’s not over yet, but sometimes, God says, “Before I can build up I must tear down.”
(EX: houses on our street being torn down so another one can be built…)
They were tearing down and plucking up so that they might build a beautiful building.
Again and again as you go through the prophets, both major and minor in the Old Testament, it’s amazing how many times we see that God says, “I must pluck up so that I can build up.”
Don’t you think that’s sometimes so in our lives? God must break us before He can build us. Before we can see the edifice go up in our lives, we have to see God digging the foundation. Hosea uses and Jeremiah too the phrase “breaking up your fallow ground..” Why? So you can sow and plant and cultivate. You don’t just throw the seed on parched dry untilled soil. You have to dig it up and plow it over…which is a painful process, but out of that comes the building of God.
And so He says, “With the same intensity that I have used in judgment, I’m only doing that so you will be built up and I will bless you…” This new covenant that you and I have, sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ…the basis of it isn’t any goodness that God finds in us. The basis of it isn’t any worthiness that God finds in us. The basis is simply God’s desire to bless man. That’s all there is to it.
Ephesians 1… “He has chosen us before the foundation of the
world according to His good pleasure.”
The mystery of election and predestination…the mystery that no one can understand…the mystery of it is lost in the love of God. Why did God choose you? Why did God choose me? Did He see something in me that is better than in another person? No! The explanation is that it pleased Him to set His love on me. It pleased Him to bless me.
And that’s what grace is about, folks. God’s dealings with us under the new covenant is not based on our worthiness.
Remember the story of the prodigal son. He had left home and there he was in the pigpen in the far country and one day he came to himself and he said, “My goodness, this is stupid. Here I am eating pig slop while my father’s servants are getting along better than I am. I will go to my father and I will say to him, ‘I am no more worthy to be called your son.’”
Now, did you get that? He said, “I am no more worthy…I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” See, what he didn’t realize is he had never been worthy to begin with. He thought he was! That’s why he asked for his inheritance ahead of time…but he had never been worthy of being called his father’s son. See, children don’t have a right to brag about their parentage. Why? They didn’t choose them.
I remember one time my daughter and I were having one of these discussions and she said, “Well, I didn’t ask to be born.” And I said, “If you had, the answer would have been ‘no.’”
It is based on God’s desire to bless…according to His good pleasure. How unfathomable that is! How mysterious that is! Lord, what is it about me that first attracted You to me? What caught Your eye? He says, “Nothing!”
He said, “I decided just because it pleased Me to choose you.”
Not only is it based on God’s desire to bless us but it also
2)based on our individual responsibility to God for our sin…
Verses 29 and 30…
That’s a strange statement stuck right here in the middle of this. But you see that was a common proverb among the people of Israel. See Israel was always pinning the blame on somebody else. This present devastation that was coming upon them they blamed on the sins of their fathers. They were saying to God… “God this isn’t our fault. Why are you punishing us? It is our father’s who have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
But, God said that under the new covenant no one would ever be able to say that again for every person will be personally accountable to God for his own life and he will never be able to say “my failure, my sin is somebody else’s fault.” Paul said in Romans 14… “so that every one of us shall give an account to God for himself…”
What makes this so interesting is that before we lost our son…when he was going through all these terrible problems, I had a couple of people who said, “You know, you probably ought to ask your grandfather if there is some sin in his life that’s causing God to punish Ronnie.” They wanted me to go to my Dad and sit down and say, “Alright. Tell me what sin is in your life.” Many times people will have a child to die and they’ll say, “What have we done that has caused God to do this?” I want you to know something, folks.
Every man dies for his own sin. God’s not going to kill your child for something you did. I can’t blame anybody else for my sin. I must give an account for my own sin.
Now, under the old covenant Israel was always blaming their fathers. But, under this new covenant you can’t blame what your parents did. Sometimes we inherit our looks or our money or our personality or our illnesses from our folks…but we cannot blame our sin on our folks!
Let’s look next at Verses 31-37…
The Nature of the New Covenant
It is a covenant that is affected by God. It is strictly a work by God. Look at the “I will…I will…I will…” Compare this with the old covenant…the Ten Commandments… “thou shalt…thou shalt…thou shalt not…” But, in the new covenant God is saying, “I will…I will…I will…” In other words, these people never could keep the commandments. They never could keep the covenant. Now, don’t you think God knew that before He ever established it?
Why in the world would God go and establish a covenant with Israel when He knew from the beginning they would not be able to keep it? Why would He give them commandments which He knew they would not be able to keep? To make them ready for the new covenant!
I always like to say at least one profound thing every sermon…and I alert you to it so that you’ll recognize it…and this is it coming up: If man believes he can keep the Law, he will never accept grace! If a person believes that something he does or something he is can win the favor of God he will never see his need of grace! It is only as we realize, recognizing in the depths of our being that we cannot keep the Law of God, no matter how desperately we try…it is only then that we are open to grace!
I mean, you’ve got to get a man lost before you can get him saved! And that’s the trouble with most people today. They don’t believe they’re lost! If a man believes that he can, somehow on his own obtain God’s favor he’s going to be deaf and dumb to the message of grace.
Remember what Paul said in Romans 7? He was talking about the Law. And he said he did pretty good at keeping the Law. As a matter of fact in Philippians he said, “As touching the Law I was blameless.” Now he was stretching it a little bit there. There is one commandment that slays us. That’s what Paul was saying in Romans 7. One, two, three, four…he did alright until he got to the tenth commandment.. “Thou shalt not covet.” Then, Paul said that one got him.
James said to keep all the commandments and yet break only one, is to break the whole law. And so God is saying that the nature of this new covenant is that “it is something that I will do! And the reason I’ve had you under the old covenant all these years is because it has taken man that long to be ready to receive grace.
But, there’s a second thing…the nature of this new covenant is an inward apprehension of the law of God. Verse 33… The old covenant was outward, but the new covenant is inward.
Now, we still have some “shalt nots” in our lives, but they are not the basis of our salvation. The basis of our salvation is not what we have done, but what God has done! There is going to be an inward apprehension of the law of God. “I will put My law in their inward parts (KJV)…within them (NAS)…and write it on their heart…”
Now, He’s not talking about the Mosaic Law, but He’s talking about the law as we would talk about the will of God. No man would have to say to his brother or his neighbor, “You ought to do this, and this and this…for every man shall know…for I have put it in their hearts.”
By the way, there is a difference between those two expressions “I will put my Law in their inward parts and write it on their hearts…” These verbs have different tenses. When He said, “I will put my Law in their inward parts” He means it will be done once and for all. But when He said, “I will write it on their hearts…” it means “ I will continually write it on their hearts.
In other words, not only is there that immediate apprehension of the will of God, but there is that growing understanding of the law and the will of God. Growing, growing, growing. God always writing more and more on our hearts. Surely we know more about God today than we did ten years ago. Now, the moment you were saved, God put His law in your inward parts…but you didn’t know anything much about Bible doctrine. But, God just doesn’t put it there and say, “That’s it!” NO! God continues to write in our hearts so that we have a growing knowledge and appreciation of His will for our lives.
This new covenant is the ultimate in grace. The old covenant was just with Israel, but you’ll notice in the latter part of verse 34 he says, “for they shall all know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them…”
First of all this is a personal knowledge that they have of God. He says that everyone shall know Him… It reaches out and embraces everybody! And He says, “They shall not teach each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me…” And this word translated “know” means “to know from experience.”
You know, under the old covenant, they would teach line upon line, precept upon precept and they’d go to the rabbi and they’d go to the law in order to find out what you ought to do and all of that. But, there’s something about when Jesus comes into your heart and the Holy Spirit takes up residence, you know Him personally. You have a personal relationship with Him. Isn’t that amazing? I know Him! Why? Because He has put that knowledge in my heart.
“For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more.”
The word “forgive” means “to forgive and keep on forgiving.” “…and I will remember their sin no more”…everlasting forgiveness, everlasting forgetfulness!
Now, at this point, I want to reverse this whole process. What Jeremiah has done here in these verses is move from effect to cause. But, I want to reverse it and move from cause to effect…it reads backwards. I says “I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more.” As a result they will all have personal knowledge of Me and as a result they will have an inward apprehension of the law of God. Do you see what I’m getting at? The basis of it all is His great forgiveness.
The last thing about the nature of this new covenant is…listen to what he says…verse 35…by the way no one can hold a candle to graphic word pictures of the prophets…
Verses 35-37…as long as the ordinances of God…the ordinances of nature…as long as they exist they’ll be safe… “and when those ordinances disappear then I will cast you away.” See, what God is saying is this. I’m never going to cast you away because these things will never cease to exist. Every time the sun comes up each morning God is saying, “You’re saved! You’re still saved!”
It would be easier to keep the sun from rising than it would be to take my salvation from me. It would be easier to overrule the ordinances of God…to change all the rules of nature than it would be to take away one man’s salvation.
We’ve looked at the basis of the new covenant and the nature of it, let’s now look at the results of it. Verse 38-40…
The Results of the New Covenant…
All this is going to be dedicated to the Lord. This city is going to be built to the Lord! The result of the new covenant is our dedication to the Lord! And something else… Verse 40…The vilest thing in the Hebrew religion was a dead body! You remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? And we’ve always criticized the Levite, the priest as he gave that guy in the ditch a wide berth… It was because you see if a priest touched a body like that he could no longer serve in the temple until he had gone through a long, ritualist cleansing. It wasn’t so much the Levite’s lack of compassion that kept him from ministering to that guy in the ditch. It was his theology that kept him from ministering to him.
Notice what God said. He said all the dead bodies shall be holy unto the Lord. Holiness! Holiness! The results of this new covenant is my holiness unto the Lord. I am a temple that is built unto the Lord. You see, folks, the whole I’ve been preaching this my mind keeps going to the New Testament and thinking of what Paul said, “Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” There are two words for “temple”. One means the outer court and one means the inner court where the holy of holies is. And it’s the latter one that he uses.
I hope this has done for you what it has done for me in my studying. It’s given me a great appreciation of my salvation…and when Jesus died on the Cross and that blood was spilled out, He was wiping the old covenant away forever and establishing a new covenant…based on God’s desire to bless us.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005