The people of Israel were a covenant people. A covenant is a two-sided agreement. Both parties pledge to keep the promises they have made. God had made a covenant with the nation after they had been rescued from Egypt and brought out to Mount Sinai. There He promised to be their God and they would be His people (see Exodus 19:1-6 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21). Clearly, in the case of this covenant, God kept His side of the agreement but the people did not. But, it wasn’t even that they messed up a little bit on a rare occasion. Instead, they consistently proved themselves to be entirely untrustworthy, sinful and unfaithful.
It is this theme which the prophet Jeremiah picks up. Jeremiah 31:32 outlines the problem: God had made a covenant with Israel but Israel had broken it. This covenant mirrored the marriage covenant but Israel had not honoured her faithful husband.
But God had not given up! Instead He planned to introduce a new covenant, a better one (v31). This new covenant, instead of being external, would be internal (v33). Instead of being written on tablets of stone, would be written on their hearts (v33). Instead of them being taught about knowing God, they would actually know their God (v34). Instead of the covenant highlighting their sin, it would ensure that their sin was dealt with (v34).
So how could such a thing possibly happen? Well, the new covenant needed a mediator, someone through whom the covenant could be introduced. This mediator would be Jesus (see Hebrews 8:6, 9:15). The new covenant could only be instituted when a death occurred and so Jesus’ death would inaugurate the new covenant (Hebrews 9:15-22). This in turn would open up the way for the Holy Spirit to write the law on our hearts and enable us to know our God.
Jeremiah’s promise of a new covenant points us to consider Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant!
Further reading: Hebrews 8:1-9:22
To think about:
As Christians we are covenant people. The New Testament is full of God’s promises to us. What promises of God are you standing on?
|art work by Esther|
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