Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Jeremiah is a prophet who lives and ministers during the fall of the southern kingdom of Israel to the Babylonians during the 6th century BC as God’s punishment upon them for their sins. The northern kingdom of Israel has already fallen to the Assyrians about two-hundred years earlier because of their disobedience to God. Thus, things are looking pretty bleak for the nation of Israel. It appears that God has forsaken them entirely. But this is where Jeremiah 31 comes in as a glimmer of hope. God has not entirely forsaken his people. He tells them through Jeremiah the prophet that there will come a day when he “will make a new covenant” with his people and that this new covenant will be unlike any covenant he has made with them before in at least three ways.
First, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” The laws of God will be internalized, rather than written on tablets of stone. When the new covenant is established, God’s people will have this internal natural desire to live in obedience to God’s word. The Law will no longer be seen as a burden by God’s people, but as a joy and a delight.
Second, “they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” When this new covenant is established, all those within the covenant community of God will have a personal saving relationship with Him. This is different from the Old Testament where all those inside the covenant community did not have a saving relationship with God. This is why the prophets were constantly telling their fellow Jews to stop worshipping Baal and false gods and “know the Lord.”
Third, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” When this new covenant is established, those within the covenant, those who have been brought into a saving relationship with God, will have their sins forever forgiven. No longer will there be a need for daily, monthly, yearly sacrifices.
In the instituting of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk. 22:20). Christ was born into the world and died on the cross in order to establish the new covenant with God’s people, prophesied about nearly six-hundred years earlier, so that those brought into this new covenant will have God’s laws impressed upon their hearts, will have a desire to live in obedience to God’s word, will have a personal saving relationship with Christ, and will have their sins completely and forever forgiven. Christ came into the world to establish a new covenant with a new people, comprised of Jews and Gentiles. All glory be to God! This is what we celebrate during Advent!
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