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The Wonder of a New Covenant March 22, 2015

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Jeremiah 31:31-34

Fifth Sunday in Lent

March 22, 2015

 

Focus:  God gives us the gift of a new covenant.

Function:  That the hearers look forward to the new covenant and the new creation.

Structure:  Two-Fold Prophecy.

 

The Wonder of a New Covenant

 

Last week, we journeyed together through the book of Numbers.  And we saw a cycle.  God blesses His people, and we grumble.  God blesses His people, and we sin.  Despite the awesome deliverance that they had seen and received from the hands of the Egyptians, through plagues, parting the Red Sea, drowning the Egyptian army, all they could think about was how bad the food tasted.  We broke the covenant of God.

In a way, that’s where our text picks up today.  The prophet Jeremiah is telling us of the failed covenant of old, and that instead, God is now promising us a new covenant.  Sure, we’re skipping roughly 500 years of human history, but all that time it’s basically the same cycle:  God blesses His people, and we grumble.

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.

 

At the very mention of the new covenant, I know what my 6th graders are thinking: the Lord’s Supper.  I’m confident!  We’ve talked about it so much recently that they’re probably already regurgitating the words of institution in their minds.  And that’s a beautiful thing!

We’ll be looking at this in much more detail next week during Holy Week, specifically on Maundy Thursday as that’s a very important event from that day.  So for today, for now, it’s good enough to simply make the connection.  “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”  The power of the new covenant is the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross, poured out for the forgiveness of our sins.  In His blood, your sins are gone.  He redeems us from the broken covenant of old and lifts us up as God’s people once again.

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.

 

We can see how this fits with what Christ taught His disciples that night.  God makes the new covenant with the house of Israel, that is with all His people who believe in Him.  Paul, both in Romans 9 and Galatians 6, speaks of us as being the new Israel, not by flesh, but by believing in the promise.  This covenant belongs to us.

The law was then given to the people.  The people who surrounded Jesus in those days had the Scriptures and the scribes, the teachers of the law, and of course, the Pharisees.  If there was a Pharisee in your community, you could safely bet the family farm that everyone knew the law.

It was written on their hearts from childhood, having learned it from their parents and the religious leaders.  Even Christ, as He grew up, had to learn it.

And the idea that no one would have to tell their brother or their neighbor about the Lord anymore is also evident.  Remember as Jesus traveled about the region in His ministry how massive crowds seemed to follow Him wherever He went.  He was well known in that region, by the greatest and the least of the people.

And then that our sins are forgiven and forgotten comes from His blood shed for us upon the cross.  As often as we drink it, in remembrance of Him.

But yet, at the same time, these verses don’t perfectly fit with Christ’s earthly ministry.  Yet again, we have broken the new covenant.  We have gone right back to what God said, “My covenant that they broke, though I was their husband.”  A marriage works by putting your spouse before yourself.  Their needs before your own.  In that way, you take care of them, and they take care of you.  It’s self-sacrificing.  But it also helps us better understand our relationship with God.

God doesn’t have needs to be met, but it’s similar with God.  That we would put Him before ourselves.  That we would learn to trust in Him to care for us.  That He would indeed sacrifice of Himself to care for us, as He did when He put His Son on the cross.  We have often failed to put Him before ourselves.  To trust in Him before earthly things.  We constantly are putting other things first, typically starting with “me, myself, and I.”

We forgo our relationship with Him by saying it doesn’t matter.  We may not say it out loud, but we often say it with our actions.  That being with Him on a daily basis isn’t an important thing in our lives.  That being with Him and the rest of His family in His house on a regular, weekly basis doesn’t matter.  It’s more important that I sleep in from time to time.  It’s more important that I get all these other things done.

And despite having His law written upon our hearts, we still fight against it.  The angel on your shoulder says “don’t do it,” but we listen to the little devil on the other shoulder telling us how much fun it will be to have a couple drinks too many or encouraging us to get ahead in life by working so much our children don’t even know us anymore.

Despite His law being written in its entirety on paper for us to hold, we ignore it.  We come up with every excuse in the world to not open His Word on a daily basis and actually let it inform our lives, transform our lives.

All too often, we choose not to be His people.  And that is evident by simply looking around us today.  There’s no way we can say that we all know the Lord.  There’s no way we can agree with verse 34 saying that we no longer have to tell our neighbor or our brother about God, because they do need to hear it.

That’s why we know Jeremiah’s prophecy is a two-fold prophecy.  It began to be fulfilled in Christ’s work among us during His life and ministry.  But it will reach its ultimate fulfillment in the awesome return of Jesus Christ.

That day is coming.  We don’t know the day or the hour.  But it’s coming.  When Christ will return for His people and will gather us to Himself.  The day when the tombs will be broken open and the dead will be raised to life.  All of them!  Billions upon billions of people, some to judgment, but many to life.

My old classmates had this discussion this week.  What will the new creation look like?  Will we even need to have the new covenant among us?  We most certainly will.  Because God’s covenant of old and new are simply this:  I will be their God and they will be My people.  And unlike with Adam and Eve, God Himself will uphold those covenants and give us the strength to live in them every day for the rest of forever.

That is the day when we will no longer have to teach our neighbor and our brother, because they will all know the Lord.  That is the day when the law will be fully and perfectly written upon our hearts.  That is the day when we will fully be His people.

But as for the new creation, that leaves questions.  Some of the best of our theologians today talk about restoration.  They look at the original creation and how God had called it very good.  How that is the only example of perfection that we know of.  They take that and they say that that is what we have to look forward to.  A new creation, a perfect Paradise.  A place where we all live together in peace in the presence of our God.  A place where we get to enjoy the rich beauty and the wonders of His creation, still filled with plants and animals, food and water, and even the very tree of life.

The blood of Christ shed upon the cross truly does cleanse us of all our sins. And when God says forgiven and forgotten, you can take that to the bank.  We may not know with full certainly what the new creation, what everlasting life will look like, but we can count on that.  That He will be our God and we will be His people.  Sins gone.  And we get to spend forever with Him in Paradise.

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