By Eugene Garner
A PROPHETIC PREVIEW
OF THE NEW COVENANT
Scripture Lesson: Jeremiah 31:31-34,
The covenant idea has now been traced from the original expression of God's purpose in man, in the Garden of Eden, through the revelation that God has chosen the house of David to produce the Great King destined to rule the earth in righteousness. Though the idea of a New Covenant is introduced by Hosea, under the symbolism of a "remarriage" between Jehovah and Israel (Hos. 2:18-20), Jeremiah's development of the idea transcends all previous prediction in its representation of the glorious blessings connected with the covenant. Dr. B. H. Carroll declared Jeremiah's prophecy of the New Covenant to be "the greatest" of his prophecies; "the high-water mark" of all Old Testament prophecy.
The Israelites had so failed to recognize their individual responsibility under the Mosaic covenant that it had broken down; no hope remained for renewal. Under the New Covenant, Israel will truly experience the "sure mercies of David." God's Word is sure and stedfast; He will accomplish His purpose so that all nations, yea, all creation, shall rejoice in the redemption of His covenant people.
I. JEREMIAH SEES GOD MAKING THIS COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND THE HOUSE OF JUDAH, (vs. 31-32).
- FROM THIS VIEWPOINT IT IS TO BE A JEWISH COVENANT -- with the whole house of Jacob redeemed and restored to their own land, (Isa. 27.6).
- For centuries, almost from the time of their birth as a nation, they have been pillaged, plucked up, scattered and afflicted, (Judges 3:8, 12-14; 4:1-3; 6:1-6; 10:6-8; 13:1).
- Fulfillment of this covenant, requiring a restoration to something once forfeited, necessarily involves a literal and united Israel and Judah, (Ezek. 36:8-11; 37:21-22; comp. Isa. 11:13-14). Fulfillment will involve:
- Restoration to covenant fellowship.
- Restoration to the covenant land.
- Restoration to covenant blessings.
- Though this does not exclude participation of Gentiles, by a spiritual engrafting (Rom. 11:16-27), Jeremiah does not mention the possibility in this statement of God's purpose.
- As regards the nation, this restoration, and the establishment of the New Covenant is yet future; certain conditions must yet be fulfilled.
- The nation must recognize and confess its sin against the covenant-God. (Contrast: "Wherein?" Mal. 1:2, 6-7; 2:17; 3:7).
- The nation must change its mind and heart-attitude toward Jesus, the true Messiah -- Son of David, Son of Man and Son of God, (Matt. 23:39).
- The nation must be brought to a condition of mourning over the awfulness of her sin -- especially in view of the rejection and crucifixion of her Divine Lover and Redeemer, (Zech. 12:10-13:1; Rev. 1:7).
- Though the nation still continues in stubborn revolt against the true Messiah, God has pledged (and will yet fulfill) an obligation to bring about such repentance as will permit Him, righteously, to restore the forfeited blessings -- to the eternal praise and glory of His grace, (Zech. 10:9-12).
- THIS COVENANT WILL NOT BE ESTABLISHED ON THE SAME PATTERN AS THAT MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS.
- Under that covenant God was always faithful in His dealings with His people.
- He took them by the hand to lead them out of their bondage and servitude in Egypt, (Deut. 1:31; Isa. 63:12).
- His dealings with them were as those of a faithful husband, (Isa. 63:7-9).
- Nevertheless, the covenant nation revolted against the authority and love of her true husband, (Isa. 63:10; Jer. 3:11-18, 20-25; Isa. 2:14-20).
- She broke the covenant-bond on which the covenant-blessings were conditioned, (Jer. 11:7-8; Isa. 59:1-2).
- Without the obedient walk that she pledged, in covenant fellowship, she forfeited the privileges and blessing that she had come to look upon as her exclusive inalienable rights, (Isa. 50:1; 54:6-8).
- What the covenant at Sinai demanded, it gave no power to perform; instead of bestowing life, it condemned to death -- emphasizing the vanity and total bankruptcy of human merit, or mere effort.
- Though the law was good and holy, it demanded a righteousness that it could not produce, (Gal. 2:21).
- It demanded duties from without which could be produced only by a power from within -- and the law could not give that power, (Rom. 8:2-4).
- Though Moses commanded that their hearts be circumcised to love the Lord their God, this never became the ruling motivation of their individual or corporate lives, (Deut. 30:6); without it all else was vain, (I Cor. 13:1-3; Gal. 5:6).
II. THE PROPHET IS BRIEF IN STATING THE BASIC PROVISIONS OF THE COVENANT, (vs. 33-34).
- IT INVOLVES A FORGIVENESS THAT IS GRACIOUS, COMPASSIONATE, FULL AND FREE, (Jer. 50:20).
- Nothing about the life of Israel merits such gracious forgiveness; nor is the forgiveness of any sin ever merited.
- Only Divine compassion, rooted in Divine love, makes such forgiveness possible, (Micah 7:18-19; Ex. 34:7).
- Nothing is held back; God forgives and forgets, (Isa. 43:25; 44:22; 38:17).
- On Israel's part it is "without money and without price"; it cost God the Son of His love, (Rom. 3:21-26; Heb. 10:14-18).
- IT INVOLVES A PROMISE OF SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT AND POWER, (I Cor. 2:9-14; Rom. 2:14-16; 2 Cor. 3:3; Isa. 30:19-21).
- Centuries of participation in religious rituals had brought no satisfaction or deliverance -- only frustration and failure, (Contrast: Jer. 32:37-42).
- Never before had they been ready for such an outpouring of the Divine Spirit; their hearts were not right before God, (Jer. 24:7; 32:40; Isa. 32:10-18).
- Willingness to recognize Jesus Christ as Lord will bring them spiritual benefits that Gentiles -- walking in the steps of Abraham's faith -- have long enjoyed.
- This does not mean that there will be no further progress of knowledge; only that all will have immediate access to God, (I Thes. 4:9; I Jn. 2:27).
- IT INVOLVES A RESTORATION TO THE INTIMACY OF DIVINE FELLOWSHIP.
- Though God was longsuffering -- patiently bearing with them in their idolatry, apostasy and presumption -- He eventually cast them off and withheld the blessings reserved for those in the sphere of covenant fellowship, (Jer. 2:2-20).
- After millenniums of dreadful darkness, desolation and wandering, God will take the initiative in bringing home again the one whom He so dearly loved, wooed and comforted in her youth, (Ezek. 16:60-63).
- Once more she will be cleansed and given an opportunity to reciprocate the love that has so miraculously preserved her (though she never knew it, Hos. 2:8) through the painful years of her rebellion and infidelity, (Ezek. 36:22-31; 37:22-24).
- The word "know" suggests more than intellectual attainment; it bespeaks a personal intimacy that is possible only in a relationship of mutual love, (Isa. 11:9; 54:13; Hab. 2:14; Jn. 17:3; Phil. 3:10; Eph. 4:13; 1:18; 2 Pet. 1:3; I Jn. 4:7; 5:20).
First among the nations in privilege, honor, and nearness to God; Israel despised her birthright, twice rejected her heavenly King, and brought upon her stubborn head indescribable misery. Cut off from the covenant, until she should learn the necessity of submission to her Divine husband, she must remain rejected while the despised Gentiles, through the faith-obedience to which she was called, enter into the intimacy and blessedness of God's covenant grace.
In the case of Israel, the words of Jesus are remarkably true: "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many are called, but few are chosen," (Matt. 19:27-30; 20:1-16). By faith, such as are now in proper fellowship in a New Testament church enjoy the same privileged position from which the nation of Israel fell. May we "abide faithful."
Though God will restore Israel to covenant blessedness, we must not presume that the full blessings of the Kingdom are irrevocably ours, (Heb. 3:12-14; 10:24-31).
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
- With whom does Jeremiah say that God will make a New Covenant?
- With two nations? or one?
- What will be involved in the restoration?
- What conditions must be met before such a restoration can take place?
- Does Jeremiah foresee an engrafting of Gentiles?
- Will this covenant be established after the pattern of that made on Mt. Sinai?
- Is there any special reason why Israel constantly found herself helpless to perform what the law of Moses demanded?
- Name three specific blessings foreseen by Jeremiah for the New Covenant people?