Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 23 2019 - Jeremiah 31:27-40 – A new covenant

We have met the phrase, "The days are coming" several times already in Jeremiah. In 7:32, 9:25 and 19:6 it is used in connection with the gathering clouds of judgment which will burst upon Judah and Jerusalem. But in 16:14, 23:5, 30:3 and here in 31:27, 31, 38 (and later in 33:14) it refers to the day when the Lord will visit his people again with salvation.

God's people would soon feel his arm raised against them in judgment; but the day will come when they will see him act to rescue them from captivity and restore them to their land. Both judgment and salvation will be deliberate and careful acts of God (v.28).

But what is the point of restoring this rebellious people to their land if they just go and rebel all over again? Remember the book of Judges with its continual cycles of: idolatry, God's judgment through foreign oppression, his people's cries to the Lord for help, God raising up a saviour-judge to rescue them before their return to idolatry. A lasting salvation requires a more radical Saviour.

When the Lord rescued his people from Egypt he brought them to meet with him at Mount Sinai. There he gave them his law through Moses. That law formed the basis of his covenant with them. Shortly before his death and as the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, Moses warned them that they faced a continual decision between life and death:

I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them… You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess…

I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:16-19).

And this has been the continual history of Israel and now Judah: moments of obedience followed by years of rebellion. How will it ever change?

Here in Jeremiah 31:31-34 the Lord promises to make a new and very different covenant with his redeemed people. Instead of God's law being written in stone and on paper, the Lord will write his law on the minds and hearts of his people. They will all know the Lord's presence with them, teaching them and guiding them in the life that is pleasing to him.

And this is what has happened in the Lord Jesus Christ. God has forgiven us all our sins through Jesus death (v.34 and see Matthew 26:28), and by virtue of his resurrection from the dead has poured out his Spirit upon his people to transform them from the inside out (see the contrast drawn by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:1-4). The Spirit at work within us assures us that God is our God (see Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6), that we belong to him and that he will never let us go (see Romans 8:35-39).

By his death and resurrection, Jesus has fulfilled the requirements of the old covenant – he was perfectly obedient to Father God – and has inaugurated the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah. God is now at work by his Spirit gathering people from every nation and background to become his new covenant people, filling their hearts with love for him and a desire to live for him. This people are an anticipation of the day when all creation will be transformed by God's power and filled with his glory when Jesus comes again.

Father God we thank you that you have not left us to try to live for you in our own strength. You have forgiven us our sins in the Lord Jesus and are at work in us by your Spirit. Continue that work within us until it is completed on the day when Jesus appears.

Peter Misselbrook