Today: [Jeremiah 31] The Promise of the New Covenant. Have you blown it with God? Have you failed in your walk with God and find yourself thrashing about trying to find a place of renewed fellowship? In this chapter of Jeremiah the promise of God to a failed people was to renew them to a New Covenant even though they had completely failed to keep the Covenant of the Law.
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[Jer 31:1-40 KJV] 1 At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 2 Thus saith the LORD, The people [which were] left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; [even] Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. 3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, [saying], Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. 4 Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. 5 Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat [them] as common things. 6 For there shall be a day, [that] the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God. 7 For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel. 8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, [and] with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither. 9 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim [is] my firstborn. 10 Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare [it] in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd [doth] his flock. 11 For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of [him that was] stronger than he. 12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.
When we read this chapter of Jeremiah we find several verses that were quoted in the gospels and other books of the New Testament as being fulfilled in Christ. The early church leaders and the apostles saw the prophetic words here as pointing to Christ and the work of God in the church. Much of the prophecies here point on the surface to the national destiny of the nation of Israel yet they find a deeper fulfillment in the coming of Christ and his purposes in broader humanity as He raises up His church and His people as representatives of the kingdom. From this perspective we read these verses and ask ourselves what do they tell us about ourselves and what do they tell us about who Jesus is to us?
Verse 2 speaks of the people turned out into the wilderness by the sword of Babylon. The promise is that God will show grace to the northern tribes and cause them to come to rest. It is good to remember that at this time Israel and the northern tribes have been completely dispersed for many years and history tells us they never return from their captivity. What is the meaning then? It speaks to us as those who have been lost to sin and alienated from God having been brought to rest and rescued out of the wilderness of godlessness by the work of Christ on the Christ. God’s whole purpose is not to put us to work but to bring us to rest. Heb. 4:9 tells us that there “remaineth a rest to the people of God…” Many times people come to Christ as young Christians and within just a short period of time they are pressed into service to fill vacancies of volunteer positions in the church. Leaders and pastors often have the idea that they must put new converts to work and impose obligation on them or they won’t stay in the church. That is not God’s plan. God’s plan is not to put you to work or impose some standard of religious performance on you. He want to bring you and keep you at rest in Christ. Having said that – resting in Christ is not inactivity. You can get more done from a position of rest in Christ than 10 men can do laboring through a performance mentality trying to impress others with how spiritual they are.
Verse 3 tells us that God saw the backslidden nation of Israel and the nation of Judah as a chaste virgin. This was anything but the truth. From Solomon’s time right down to the captivity after the reign of Zedekiah the people were flagrantly involved in pagan worship of the most perverse sort, even erecting images of their false gods in the temple itself. The whole imagery of a backsliding people was a metaphor of a wild ass in heat seeking many lovers in the wilderness and under every green tree. Yet God was looking at the people through they eye of mercy. He saw them and He sees us for what we can be. He looks past our sins and our own backslidings even as He told Abraham as a childless old man, saying in Gen. 17:5 “behold I have made thee a father of many nations…” God deals with us according to our potential. It doesn’t mean that He ignores our shortcomings or that there won’t be consequences, but He woos us with His goodness in order to deliver us from the looming tragedy of our own willfulness.
13 Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. 14 And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD. 15 Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, [and] bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they [were] not. 16 Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. 17 And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border. 18 I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself [thus]; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed [to the yoke]: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou [art] the LORD my God. 19 Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon [my] thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. 20 [Is] Ephraim my dear son? [is he] a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD. 21 Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, [even] the way [which] thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. 22 How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man. 23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, [and] mountain of holiness.
In verse 8 of our chapter the Father promises to bring the people out of captivity in the north country. That is a sure promise to the nation of Israel but what does that mean to us? Psalm 48:2 speaks of God sitting as king in the “sides of the north”. North represents God’s judgment and retribution upon the sinfulness of the people. God’s promise is to bring us out of the north and into a house of mercy. The north speaks of consequences imposed because of our own sin and iniquity, things that have happened to us because of our own willfulness. Be honest with yourself – have you ever found yourself in a bad situation of your own making? God did not put the people of God into a place of suffering, they put themselves there yet even in the situation they got themselves into He promises that He will return them to the place of blessing and He promises you to bring you out of the north – the place of consequences and judgment into the place of recovery and blessing, even at times when you haven’t yet learned the lessons of the wilderness. In verse 11 we see that this promise is to “redeem Jacob…” Jacob is the part of us that is untransformed by the power of the Cross. Jacob is that part of us that has yet to wrestle with the Lord and have our name changed – yet God is working even so to redeem and recover us to a place of blessing.
In verse 13 the Father promises to take our virgin soul and cause our “young man” and our “old man” to rejoice together and to turn our mourning into joy. The young man is your spirit, renewed in Christ. The old man is that natural part of our lives that God does not neglect. He is not exclusively only interested in our spiritual welfare but our natural welfare as well. His promise is to bring our spirit man and our natural man into agreement into a place of blessing and rejoicing because He has (v. 14) satisfied the priests with fatness and satisfied his people with His goodness. God wants to satisfy you in all areas of your life with His goodness and thereby according to Rom. 2:4,5 to bring us to repentance by His Spirit.
24 And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, and they [that] go forth with flocks. 25 For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. 26 Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me. 27 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast. 28 And it shall come to pass, [that] like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD. 29 In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. 30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. 31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Verse 25 tells us that God’s purpose is to satisfy the weary soul and to replenish every sorrowful soul. Are you sorrowful? Are you depressed? God isn’t going to leave you in a coping strategy. He wants to replenish you and bring to the place (v. 26) that your sleep will once again be sweet to you because (v. 29) you trust and know that He is watching over you to build you up and to plant you in a fair place like a husbandman in a vineyard that He is superintending.
In verse 29 we see a promise that the children will no longer suffer because of the generational sins of their fathers. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a such thing as generational sin. The promise is that we can repent for the sins of our fathers and of our nation and be delivered from consequences brought on us generationally by the iniquity of those who have gone on before us. There is redemption in Christ from generational judgments that puts us on a level playing field with God responsible not to carry the sin debt of those before us but to stand merely accountable for our own choices and responsibility to live uprightly before Him.
35 Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, [and] the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts [is] his name: 36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, [then] the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. 37 Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD. 38 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner. 39 And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath. 40 And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, [shall be] holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.
The new covenant of verse 33 cannot be underestimated. This is the forthtelling of what we call the “New Testament” in Christ. Israel and Judah have been suffering under an Old Covenant that they had proven themselves incapable of maintaining or obeying. This shows us that while God is a God of covenant that there is something more important to Him that His covenant and that is His people. God loves His people more than He loves His plan or His covenant. God didn’t send Jesus to die for a plan. He sent Jesus to die for you. He loves you more than He loves His plan. Many people obsess with trying to find the perfect plan as though that is the only way God will bless them. If you found the perfect plan of God you would only mess it up. God isn’t in love with a plan, He is in love with you. He loved the people of Israel so much that He offered them a NEW PLAN (covenant) when they proved incapable of keeping the OLD PLAN (covenant). This is a very important lesson for the people of God.
What is the nature of this covenant – this New Covenant of God in Christ? It isn’t about trading one religious system for another. Much of modern Christianity is simply a parroting of the Old Testamental period which is now past. God doesn’t want His church to be a cheap imitation of the Old Testament paradigm. His covenant is not outwardly focused but inwardly focused in His promise to write His law not on tablets of stone but upon our hearts to make us fully and completely like Him in our persons and in our character by the power of the work of the cross.
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