One of the things that I love about studying Gods Word is seeing how particular prophecies are brought to their intended fulfillment. Many times these prophecies are given hundreds of years in advance with such clarity and precision that it almost feels like one big story is being unfolded through a divine author 🙂 In this blog post we want to look at one such prophecy which was given by Jeremiah during the time of Israel’s Babylonian captivity (630 – 580 B.C.). This prophecy was also reinforced and/or eluded to by other Old Testament [OT] prophets such as Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel.
- Jeremiah 31:31-34 says:
“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.”
This prophecy from Jeremiah is actually a covenant promise that will be established with the people of God. You might be wondering what a ’covenant’ is? A covenant is basically a contract or agreement between two or more parties (God and us). Covenant(s) are important to recognize in the bible because they are the way in which God has chosen to interact with us. Take Noah for example. God made a covenant with Noah to never again destroy all life on Earth by flood [Gen 9:8-17] and He set the rainbow in the sky to serve as a reminder and as a covenant sign. So next time you notice a rainbow, you might want to gather your children and use it as an object lesson of God’s faithfulness.
Okay, so now that we have a basic understanding of what a covenant is, you’ll notice that Jeremiah calls this a “New Covenant” and that it’s “not like the covenant that I made with their fathers…”. Now if you’re like me, you might be thinking at this point; why is there a need for a New Covenant [NC], what is wrong with the Old Covenant [OC], and how are the two covenants different, etc. which is all part of the awe-inspiring intrigue of studying Gods Word right? Unfortunately, we don’t have the time to do a deep dive on this (although it would be a ton of fun to do so) but there are a few quick observations we can draw from the text and afterword conclude with some practical application – sound good?
- Observation 1: What is the New Covenant
There are 3 things that we are promised within this new covenant.
1. Law within us. God says that when this NC era comes, the people of God will have an inward desire to obey God’s law. This NC law is given by Christ as we see unfolding throughout the New Testament [NT] writings – all of which are summed up with one word – love. Love for God and love for others (John 13:34, Matt 22:37-39). All the other commands against idolatry or not harboring anger in your heart or not having lust in your eyes, etc just gives us some granular detail or practical application of the overarching ‘love’ command.
2. The presence and knowledge of God. He says that “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” and that “they shall all know me”. This is relationship and fellowship language – it is family language. Each person individually in this NC community will know God and enjoy his fellowship now and forever. God the creator of all things will dwell with us in fellowship! This should cause our soul to rejoice.
3. Full and complete forgiveness of sins. Ezekiel says that this NC community will be “cleansed from all impurities” [36:25,29]. Did you hear that? All impurities. All sins. Full, final, and completely forgiven! Jesus says during the Lords supper “this is my blood of the covenant [i.e. New Covenant], which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” [Matt 26:28] which leads us to our second observation.
- Observation 2: Jesus is the central focus and fulfillment of the New Covenant.
It should come as no surprise that the intended target of the NC promises find their fulfillment in Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 we read “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him [Jesus].” Jesus through his perfect obedience to the law and atoning sacrifice on the cross, confirmed the NC in his blood, securing all the promises and blessings of the NC for those who put their faith and trust in him.
- Observation 3: What happens to the Old Covenant when the New Covenant arrives?
The OC is referring to the Mosaic Covenant (or Sinai Covenant). This covenant is found in Exodus 19-24 given by Moses at Mt. Sinai, hence the name Mosaic/Sinai Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant was a legal covenant that was conditional on the obedience of the Israelites. Blessings for obedience and curses or disobedience. The details of the covenant are found in the 613 rules that are summed up in the ten commandments. The people agreed to the terms of the covenant when they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 19:8). We see of course, that mans ability to keep Gods law proves futile. The law shows us our sin and our need for a savior. The law is a tutor that leads us to Christ as Paul says in Galatians 3:24. I like the way John Resigner puts it, the OC was intended “to be the needle that pierced the conscience so that the thread of the gospel could follow and heal.” The OC was temporary by design. Galatians 3 teaches us that the law was given 430 years after Abraham (i.e. Moses) until the promised seed arrives (i.e. Jesus). It had a defined beginning and a defined end. Now that the Jesus has come and the NC era is here the OC era has served its purpose and is no longer needed. Hebrews 8:13 says “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” As the NC dawns, the OC sunsets. Why? Because the NC is superior to the OC and is built on better promises. This is the plot line and fleshed out in detail in the book of Hebrews.
- Application: Living in the New Covenant era
If you belong to Jesus you’ve been bought with a price. You’ve been purchased by the blood of the lamb. God called his shot in the OT through his prophets long before Jesus ever came on the scene. God made good on his promise(s) through His Son. In light of this we should rejoice and be glad. We enjoy fellowship with the one true King. “Our spirit testifies that we are children of God.” [Rom 8:16] We no longer have any charges that can be held against us. We’ve been set free. We have full and complete forgiveness of sin. We have been made perfect in the sight of God by the imputed righteousness of Jesus. Hallelujah! Out of this great truth should swell up within us a desire to delight in God’s law, to love God and love others.
So you may be thinking at this point, all of this information is all fine and dandy, fascinating stuff and all, but isn’t this supposed to be about Hebrews 8:10 and I’m only seeing a few lines remaining in this article? You are correct. But Hebrews 8:10 is a direct quotation from Jeremiah 31:33 so check this out, by memorizing Hebrews 8:10 you’ve also just memorized Jeremiah 31:33 – booya! A two for one deal – whaaa!
I want to leave you with a challenge. In light of the background information we’ve just looked at with covenants – specifically the New Covenant – go back an read Hebrews chapters 8-10 and see if it takes on a little bit deeper meaning. God bless!
Hebrews 8:10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people.