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.

Aug 23 2013 - 1 Corinthians 15:1-28 – Resurrection

Paul is addressing a number of issues that need correcting in the church at Corinth. In this chapter he turns his attention to the subject of the resurrection since some at Corinth were saying that there was no resurrection from the dead. The philosophers at Athens who had mocked Paul’s message thought the idea of the resurrection of the body crude and absurd. The Christians at Corinth whom Paul is addressing shared similar views; they probably thought resurrection unnecessary and unspiritual. They had believed that Christ would save them through death; that at death their spirits would rise to be with God and that they could wish for nothing more. Why hope for an exhausted body to be raised from the dead? Why hope to return to the kind of life they had been glad to leave behind? Many contemporary Christians are of much the same mind.

Paul is shocked that Christians can adopt such a view of things. Firstly he reminds his readers that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is foundational to the message of the gospel – without it, there is no good news. Paul argues that if Christ did not rise from the dead then our preaching is just so much hot air and our faith is no more than wishful thinking. But, says Paul,

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

The gospel message is rooted in the historical event of Jesus’ death and resurrection – and Paul reminds the Corinthians that many who witnessed this event remain alive to bear testimony to it. This historical event lies at the heart of the gospel because it is good news about God’s plans for this world and his goal for all of human history. Yes, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead gives us hope in the face of death, but it’s not just hope for the disembodied spirit; it’s far, far more than that.

Death came into the world through sin. It formed no part of God’s original purpose for his creation. It is the undoing of the work of God, for God is the giver of life. But sin and death do not, and shall not, have the last word. Christ died for our sins. His death was real – he was buried in a tomb. But on the third day he rose again from the dead, breaking the power of sin and death. The man who suffered death on our behalf is now seated at the Father’s right hand in his resurrection body – a piece of earth already shining with the glory of heaven. He is in the place of power and must reign until all his enemies are crushed beneath his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Death will be destroyed at his return when all who have died will be raised again to life. Those who have believed in him will forever share in the fullness and glory of his resurrection life in a world that will also share in resurrection.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Our death is certain – unless the Lord should return in our lifetime. But it is equally certain that death shall not have the last word, for Christ is risen from the dead and, by the grace of God, we also shall share in his resurrection life. So we live, not in the shadow of death, but in the light of resurrection.

Risen Saviour, all my hope is in you for my life today and for the resurrection life to come. Help me to live as one who has died to sin and who has entered already into the resurrection life of your kingdom.

Peter Misselbrook