Jul 21, 2019: Old Covenant, Messiah, and New Covenant*

Jeremiah exhibits many great themes that stress God’s judgment on covenant infidelity and worldwide sin, as well as God’s determination to restore an international people for himself through the establishing of a new covenant. His chief unique contribution was his articulation of the new covenant between God and his people.

Like the other true prophets in the Bible, Jeremiah believed that God had made a covenant with Israel. Though no brief definition can do justice to the concept, the covenant between God and Israel in biblical context was a binding relational agreement between God and Israel, based on deeds done by God and promises made by God, which Israel accepted by faith in God, for the purpose of living for God as his unique people in the world.

This covenant was rooted in God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12–50). It was based on God’s redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt (Ex. 1:1–20:2). It included standards of living (Exodus 20–24) that the people who were called to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6) should uphold as they trusted God and lived for him. It included faith-based sacrifices (Leviticus 1–16) and prayers (Psalm 32; 51; etc.) to deal with the people’s sins. It included clear accountability for this kingdom of priests in the form of benefits (blessings) and consequences (curses) (Deuteronomy 27–28).

As time passed, God’s covenant with Israel incorporated God’s promise to David of an eternal kingdom (2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17). From this promise came the concept of a Messiah, which literally means “anointed one.” Jeremiah conceives of a time when God will “gather the remnant” of Israel and raise up “for David a righteous Branch” who will reign over the faithful ones (Jer. 23:3–5). When he comes, this King will be “our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6). In this way God’s eternal covenant with David will be kept fully at a time in the future that Jeremiah leaves unspecified (Jer. 32:14–25).

God established this covenant with all Israel, irrespective of faith in God on the part of many individuals. However, the only persons that God was pleased with and redeemed spiritually were persons like Jeremiah who placed their faith in God, which was demonstrated by obedience to his word (Hebrews 11). Such persons are part of the remnant that the Messiah will gather (Jer. 23:3–5). Sadly, as chapters 2–6 indicate, the nation of Israel had a long history of covenant breaking. Collectively they were not a faithful covenant partner, though Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others proved that covenant faithfulness was possible through God’s grace.

God used Jeremiah to deliver the good news that in future days God would “make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31). This covenant would be different in one chief respect: the new covenant partners will not break the covenant, as most of the old partners did even though God was unwaveringly faithful (Jer. 31:32). Instead, the new covenant partners will have the word of God so ingrained in their hearts through God’s power that they will know and follow God all their lives (Jer. 31:33–34).

Thus, all the new covenant partners will be believers who are forgiven and empowered by God; he will “remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34). Hebrews 8:8–12 quotes Jeremiah 31:31–34 as evidence that the new covenant has come through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The coming of Jesus the Messiah fulfills God’s promises to Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets of a new faithful people of God in continuity with the old people of God.

* Taken from ESV Study Bible.

This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:

Monday: Jeremiah 8 Thursday: Jeremiah 11
Tuesday: Jeremiah 9 Friday: Jeremiah 12
Wednesday: Jeremiah 10 Saturday: Jeremiah 13