NEW COVENANT PROMISES Jeremiah 30–33
“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. . . . For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jer. 31:33–34).The key to understanding God’s work in believers today is to understand the impact of the New Covenant, and to realize that this covenant was instituted in the death of Jesus Christ.
A collection of sermons focused on the restoration (30:1–11) and healing (vv. 12–24) of the Old Testament faith community. God’s everlasting love guaranteed future blessedness despite present mourning (31:1–30). But to accomplish His purposes God had to make a New Covenant with His people (vv. 31–40). Jeremiah bought a field occupied by the enemy to demonstrate his personal confidence in God’s promises of restoration (32:1–44), which he repeated despite being imprisoned (33:1–26).
Understanding the Text
“I will bring My people . . . back” Jer. 30:1–11.
The messages in these chapters are unified by the theme of restoration. While they may be drawn from different periods of Jeremiah’s ministry, they most likely are set, as the incidents in chapters 32 and 33, in Judah’s last days, with Jerusalem about to fall. These messages underline a peculiar characteristic of prophetic preaching. When God’s people are prosperous and comfortable, the prophets thunder against their sins and predict judgment. Yet when judgment comes, and God’s people tremble with fear, the same prophets comfort with promises of forgiveness and restoration. There is no conflict between the two themes. The predictions of punishment are intended to bring repentance and, if there is no repentance at the warning, the punishment itself will bring repentance later. What we do see is that God is always careful to communicate just the message His people need for their particular situation. One modern pulpiteer observed that his calling was to “afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.” If you and I are too comfortable in this world, we need the stern words of God to remind us that we are to remain committed to justice and holiness. If we suffer, we need loving words of promise, that remind us of God’s love and His commitment to do us good. “I will restore you to health and heal your wounds” Jer. 30:12–24. Here the “wound” God speaks of is spiritual. His people are “beyond healing” because their “guilt is so great, and your sins so many.” Before God can restore the material prosperity of His people, He must restore their spiritual health. This is impossible for the people of Judah: their wound is “incurable” and “beyond healing.” But God will devise a way, and then He will restore them to relationship with Him (v. 22) and to national prosperity. The order here is important. God is eager to bless us. But first we must be healed within, and in right relationship with Him. As Jesus put it, our first concern is to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Then “all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). “I have loved you with an everlasting love” Jer. 31:1–14. If we search for any reason for God’s promise of restoration in the people of Judah themselves, we’ll be disappointed. Nothing in their character or actions was attractive. Nothing merited God’s consideration. Instead the reason Jeremiah gave was simply that God had chosen to love His people “with an everlasting love.” It is the overflow of His “loving-kindness,” a term that speaks of God’s compassionate commitment to His covenant promises, which lies at the root of His actions. It is the same with us today. When God sent His Son into the world, it was to save His enemies! He saved us despite, not because of, what we are. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Let’s never fall into the error of thinking that God saved us, or will save another person, because we are “good” or “nice” or somehow deserve His favor. And what a blessing this is! The nicest of us are flawed, and if we had to depend on our own works, would be uncertain about gaining God’s gift. But since all depends on the love of God, we can be confident and sure. God’s love is boundless, and as Jeremiah says, “everlasting.” Only because we rely completely on the love of God can we say with confidence that we have been, are being, and surely will be “saved.” No wonder Jeremiah called on Judah to “sing with joy” and “make your praises heard.” Trust in the love of God will turn our “mourning into gladness,” and will give us “comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” “Mourning and great weeping” Jer. 31:15–30. The saying is quoted in Matthew’s Gospel (2:17–18), and applied to the slaughter of innocent babes at Herod’s order, in that king’s futile attempt to kill the Christ Child. Yet here the reference clearly is to Rachel, the ancestress of the northern tribes, weeping over the deportation of Israel to Assyria in 722B.C Her tragic figure also weeps at Ramah, the very site where exiles were gathered before being deported to Babylon (Jer. 40:1). God told her to stop weeping, for He would restore her banished offspring, making them again a source of joy rather than grief. The Matthew quote is not intended as direct fulfillment, but as an application. In both cases, God will overrule. Tragedy will give birth to blessing; grief will give birth to joy. “I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel” Jer. 31:31–40. A covenant was a formal, legal promise or commitment. Jeremiah predicted that a “time is coming” when God would make a New Covenant with Israel, to replace the “old” Mosaic Code under which the Jews lived. Note that God did not “make” that covenant in Jeremiah’s time, but rather promised to replace the old with a new agreement at some future date. The New Testament makes it clear that the promised “New Covenant” was formally instituted by the death of Christ. That covenant took the most binding of all Old Testament forms: it was a “covenant of blood,” formalized by the offering of a blood sacrifice. How Jeremiah would have wondered, and bowed his head in awe, if he had known that the sacrifice necessary to keep the promises imbedded in the New Covenant would be the very Son of God. Jeremiah did describe the nature of the New Covenant. It is “not like” the Mosaic Code, which recorded God’s Laws in stone and failed to offer complete forgiveness. Through the New Covenant, God would “put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” The New Covenant offers inner spiritual renewal and transformation. Through the New Covenant, God would “be their God,” united by a bond which nothing in heaven or hell can break. And through the New Covenant, God would “forgive their wickedness” and “remember their sins no more.” Today you and I enjoy the spiritual benefits of this New Covenant through our faith in Jesus Christ. One day, according to Jeremiah, a restored Israel will dwell again in Judah and Jerusalem, secure in the ancient Promised Land. Then Israel too will recognize her Messiah, and the spiritual benefits you and I now enjoy will belong to this people whom God chose to love with an “everlasting love.” “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” Jer. 33:1–26. Jeremiah was in prison, held for his “treasonable” advice that Judah surrender to the Babylonians. God spoke to him again, and revealed the “unsearchable.” Here is God’s plan for the future of His people: a future no one could imagine then apart from divine revelation. What is the outline of that future? Judah would be carried into Captivity (vv. 1–5). They would be brought back to the land, and its fortunes would be restored (vv. 6–13). The complete fulfillment of this promise awaits the appearance of a Descendant of David, who may rightly be called “the Lord Our Righteousness.” Until that time comes, there will always be a descendant of David qualified to sit on Israel’s throne (vv. 14–18). And, Jeremiah announced, this salvation intention of God is as firm as the Creation intention, which set the stars in their courses and established the rhythmic cycle of day and night (vv. 19–26). Of one thing we can be sure. God has not rejected His people Israel. And He will not reject us.
Money Where Your Mouth Is (Jer. 31–32)
“I do! I do! I know you can!” The little fellow jumped up and down when the tightrope walker asked who believed he could carry a man on his shoulders as he walked his tightrope over Niagara Falls. But when told, “OK, brother. You’re first,” you couldn’t see the little fellow for dust! It’s an old story, but it surely illustrates the point. If you really believe something, you should be willing to display your faith by your actions. This is what God asked Jeremiah to do. The prophet had boldly announced a future restoration and blessing of Jerusalem (chap. 31). Now he was told to buy a field, wrap the deed up carefully, and bury it where it could be found 70 years later when a remnant of Jews returned from Babylon. There was only one catch. The field Jeremiah was told to buy was outside of Jerusalem, occupied by the Babylonian army that was even then besieging the city walls! And Jeremiah was even told to pay full price, in silver, for what everyone then must have considered worthless land (32:6–15). Jeremiah was stunned. After obeying the Lord, he voiced his surprise in prayer (vv. 16–25). God reminded His prophet, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?” (v. 26) What a word for us. We believe, but sometimes when led to what seems a risky or costly act, we hold back. Like the little boy who fled the tightrope walker when invited to take the first ride, we tend to flee when challenged to put our faith into action. When the temptation to flee comes, how good to remember God’s command to Jeremiah to buy a seemingly worthless field. That “foolish” act echoes down to our own day as evidence of the prophet’s faith—and evidence of the wisdom of obeying even “foolish” and seemingly costly commands of God.
The answer to God’s question, “Is anything too hard for Me?” is still “No!”