A New Covenant



Jeremiah 31:31-34[i]

God is a covenant God.  By “Covenant God,” I mean that He makes promises to His people.  He deals with humanity according to His covenants or promises.  His promises never fail. 

Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”  (Matthew 5:18, ESV)

This echoes the concept taught by Isaiah when he says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”  (Isaiah 40:8, ESV)

The everlasting nature of God’s word flows naturally from God’s character.  He is omnipotent.  Therefore, nothing can move or shake Him.  He is all-knowing.  Therefore, nothing can surprise, rattle or catch Him off guard.  There has never been a time when God said, “I never thought of that.”  He is sovereign.  Therefore, nothing happens out of His control.  God is Holy.  He is separate from His creation, and pure.  Therefore, He never lies.  Because of these things, His word, like Him, is everlasting.

There is nothing more sure in this world than the word of God.

The ground shakes underneath our feet, but God’s word is sure and unmoving.

For this reason, I choose to stand on the promises of God.  I put my trust in His covenants.

At the time of the flood, when Noah stepped off the Ark, God made a promise, a covenant.  He said, “Yes, I am confirming my covenant with you.  Never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth.”  (Genesis 9:11)

A day is coming when the earth will be destroyed by fire.  (2 Peter 3:7, “And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire.  They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.”)  However, there has not been and there never will be another worldwide flood.

This covenant is called the Noahic Covenant.

After Noah, God made a covenant with Abraham.  God said:
I will make you into a great nation.  I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt.  All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”  (Genesis 12:2-3)

That promise was made over 4,000 years ago to an old man without children.  Today, we have a nation called Israel that is part of the fulfillment of that promise.

This covenant is called the Abrahamic Covenant.

After Abraham, God used a man named Moses to deliver the descendants of Abraham from slavery in Egypt.  Moses led the people out of Egypt to Mount Sinai, where they met with God.  There at the Mountain, God made a covenant with the children of Israel.  We know the core of the covenant as the “Ten Commandments.”

This covenant is known as the Mosaic Covenant.  It is also known as the “Law.”

The Noahic Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant are unilateral covenants.  God unilaterally made the promises of these covenants.  However, the Mosaic Covenant was not unilateral.  The people of Israel agreed to the conditions God laid out.  They said, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.”  (Exodus 24:3)

God clearly laid out blessings for keeping the covenant and consequences for breaking the covenant.  Deuteronomy 28 gives a detailed list of the consequences of breaking the Mosaic Covenant.  However, a good summary of the blessings and consequences are found in Deuteronomy 30:15-18.
15“Now listen!  Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.  16For I command you this day to love the LORD your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways.  If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

17“But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed.  You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.

Jeremiah prophesied at the time in Israel’s history when this “You will certainly be destroyed,” had become a reality.  Jeremiah saw the last of the nation led away in chains as captives of the Babylonian Empire.

Jeremiah warned the Israelites that this was coming.  Through Jeremiah, God says, “I will hand over my holy mountain—along with all your wealth and treasures and your pagan shrines—as plunder to your enemies, for sin runs rampant in your land.”  (Jeremiah 17:3)

The coming judgment was bad.  A time of suffering and evil was coming, but God offered hope.  He promised a restoration.

He said:
31“The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.  32This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt.  They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD.

33“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD.  “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.   34And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’  For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD.  “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

This promise is known as the “New Covenant.”

This is an unbreakable, sure promise of God.

It is not like the Mosaic Covenant, which the people of Israel broke.  There are no provisions laid out for consequences.  This is a unilateral covenant like the Noahic Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant.

This covenant promises that everyone in the nation will know God.  However, there is a problem.  This has never happened.  Therefore, what are we to think?

The Apostle Paul addresses this question in Romans 9-10.  In Romans 11:1 he says, “I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel?  Of course not!  I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” Later on, in the same chapter, the Apostle Paul goes on to say, “Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.  And so all Israel will be saved.  (Romans 11:25-26)

God’s covenant with Israel still stands, and there will come a day when all Israel will be saved.  However, there is another part of this covenant that is especially important to us in the Church.

The Apostle Paul says, “Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery?  Of course not!  They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles.  (Romans 11:11)  And then he says, “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off.  And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in.  So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”  (Romans 11:17) 

My point is that we Gentiles have been made partakers in the New Covenant. 

God had promised Abraham that all nations and families on earth would be blessed through him.  This came about through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

When Jesus ate the Last Supper with the Apostles, He passed on to us the tradition of Communion.  When He served the Cup, He said, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood.”  (Luke 22:20, Matthew 26:28, 1 Corinthians 11:25)

It is because of this New Covenant that we have life.

The Apostle Peter expresses it like this, “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God's people.  Once you received no mercy; now you have received God's mercy.”  (1 Peter 2:10)

This is both the mystery and glory of the New Covenant.  Both Gentiles and Jews share in this covenant.  Ephesians 3:6 says:
And this is God's plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God's children.  Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.

According to Romans 11, the Church age will last until the full number of Gentiles have come to faith in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we have no way of knowing when Jesus will return.  That number of Gentiles who must come to faith in Christ is a number set by God that no man knows. 

However, that is not our concern.  Our concern should be to occupy ourselves with doing His will until He returns. 

In Jeremiah’s day, the people of Israel hardened their hearts against God.  They refused to listen to God’s messenger, Jeremiah.  They refused to listen to God’s word, the Law of Moses.  And, they refused to acknowledge the signs of the times.  Even while the Babylonians were gathering outside the city, they would not believe Jeremiah’s message.

These things happened as a warning to us.  Do not harden your heart.  God is offering you the benefit of His covenant.  He is offering you all His promises and the benefits of being His child.
                               
However, you must call upon Him to be saved.  The Apostle John says it this way:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.  (John 3:36, ESV)[ii]



[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.  Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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