Fifth Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV)

31 “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, 32 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. 33 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. 34 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.”

First there was God’s covenant with Noah. Then came God’s covenant with Abraham. Now, in Jeremiah, we read of a new kind of covenant. We mentioned this new covenant earlier (March 1). It can be summarized by John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The most unique feature of this new covenant is that it is internal, not external. Previous covenants were mostly behavior based. The parties agreed to do certain things. Performance was obvious and measurable. Not so with the new covenant.

In the new covenant, God would, “…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.” (Jeremiah 31:33)

This was a radical departure from what came before. Instead of stone tablets, God’s law would be written on the human heart. Outward behavior would be governed from within. Moreover, this would be the result of God’s own act. He would place his law in our hearts.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Before Christians recognize it, the Holy Spirit begins to woo us, entice us and, finally, open our eyes. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

The new birth that Jesus described is the ability to see and interpret the world in a new way. Among other things, we recognize that God does love us, that we need a savior, and that Jesus died to save us. We, then, respond by following and obeying. This is all God’s work in us. We only react to what God has done.

Thank you, God, for the new covenant. Amen.