Today’s reading: Jeremiah 30-31.
“Your religion is nothing but a bunch of do’s and don’ts. I’m tired of all the rules.”
What if you could throw away the rule book? In a sense that’s what God tells Jeremiah he will do. He had previously canceled his covenant with Israel because of their failure to keep it. Now he says he will offer them new terms.
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the house 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 31:31-33
The new covenant would be internal, written on the heart and mind instead of paper. The old covenant required strict observance of the law to obtain righteousness, but it was all external; it needed no heart involvement. The new agreement would begin with righteousness in the inner man, and the righteous heart would desire to do right. Now we know that the indwelling Holy Spirit puts the law in our heart and Jesus’ atoning death makes us righteous.
The new covenant would be universal. The old covenant saved only those individuals who kept the law and made its sacrifices. God says his new covenant will encompass all Israel. Each Israelite will know God fully because of the new heart God gives them. This is a future event still waiting its fulfillment, probably in the final days before Jesus returns to rule on Earth.
Where then do Christians fit into this new covenant? First of all, Jesus did initiate the new covenant at his last supper with his disciples.
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20
The disciples became participants in the new covenant. By grace they were saved through faith, being covered with Jesus’ atoning blood and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. They became a first fruits of those who are being made righteous by the new covenant, and the process continues with believers today. Even so, the new covenant which is so undeniably internal is not yet universal. But that day is coming. Paul saw it, and said:
Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.” Romans 11:25-26
On that day we may all be able to put away the rule book, for we will know it by heart.
image by justmakeit on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0