I do music for a living. And as many of you also know, the kind of music I do is a little bit different than the songs you might hear at a CHBC service. There are many things about hip hop that make it different than other genres of music. One thing that’s not unique to hip hop, but is more common is the remix.
What usually happens with a remix is you take a song you’ve already made and you remix it. You keep some elements from the original, but you also change some things to put a new spin on it. So you might add new lyrics, or a whole new beat, or a just a different approach to the same thing. But one of the goals is to give the listener something new and even improve on the song.
Well the New Covenant, which our text talks about tonight, is almost like a remix. I say that because God promises to make a new covenant with His people, but everything about it isn’t new. His character hasn’t changed, His promises didn’t change, His overall intent didn’t change. But there are some things about this covenant that are totally different. And because of our sin, the old covenant didn’t work. Therefore, God improved on it with a new one. It wasn’t His plan B, but He planned all along to make a new covenant that His Son would bring about. And we read about this New Covenant in Jeremiah 31.
Let me give you some background before we read the text.
In Exodus, after God’s people have been oppressed and enslaved by the Egyptians, they cry out to Him for deliverance. And He delivers them in dramatic fashion with ten plagues and turning Pharaoh’s heart, and splitting the Red Sea. After God has delivered the people of Israel, He makes a covenant with them. He says, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples…” (Exodus 19:5). He reminds them of what He’s done on their behalf. He gives them 10 commandments that they are to follow. God promises to bless them if they obey Him, and curse them if they disobey Him. And the people agree to this covenant and make an oath to obey God.
Sounds great right? Just do what He says and everything will be fine. They’ll be God’s treasured possession, He’ll bless them, and they’ll live happily ever after. The problem is they didn’t obey Him. They didn’t keep up their side of the deal. And so we find ourselves in the time of Jeremiah.
The book of Jeremiah is primarily a book about judgment. Most of the book is God rebuking the people through His prophet Jeremiah for their disobedience, and prophesying about their destruction. But there’s a small section (30-33), where our text is found today, in which God reassures them of His commitment to them, despite their rebellion, and prophesies the blessings He will pour out on them. One day after all of this destruction, He is going to restore them. He tells them of this New Covenant He’s going make with them. And that’s what we’re going to think about today. There are many, many things that we could say about the New Covenant, but we’re going to focus one verse this morning.
Listen to what He says.
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)
I just want to point to four things we should be grateful for and praise God for as we reflect on this text.
I. God Is Working Internationally
The text says, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel…” Sounds like a national thing right? So how is it that the New Covenant is God working internationally?
Well in Exodus God did make a covenant with His people Israel. And In the context of the book of Jeremiah, this new covenant is also being made the nation of Israel. There are some obvious clues that God planned to do a work outside of Israel, but at the time God is making a promise directly to the nation of Israel about restoring them.
And when Jesus comes to Earth, His focus is clearly on the Jews. In Matthew 15:24, Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But of course the people of Israel reject Him and by the end of the Gospel of Matthew, His plan is clear. He says to “make disciples,” not just of Israel, but of all nations.
And we see that so clearly in Acts and all of the New Testament, that God’s work of saving sinners has expanded. He even sends the most unlikely Apostle, Paul, to specifically to the Gentiles. His focus is no longer on a national people, but on an international people.
And we should praise God for this! Nobody deserves to be saved and restored to God, so He was gracious to redeem people from Israel. And He continues to be gracious by offering salvation to all of us. It’s almost like people are dying of thirst, and only one person has water. And at first it looked like water was only available to the children. But then we find out water is available to all of us. It was great that the children could be saved, but now we find out all of us can. The main way this illustration falls short is that we deserve to die of thirst. But God graciously offers all of us the salvation that we need.
I think it’s pretty clear I’m not of Jewish descent. Some of us are here tonight. I think it’s safe to say that most of us in here are not Jewish. So for some of us this should be especially praiseworthy. That God would set His eye on us as well and that He sent Christ for us. As Ephesians 2 says, “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh… remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13 ESV)
Praise God that He didn’t leave us far off, utterly hopeless, and without Him. He didn’t have to do this, but as we know it was His plan all along. And we know where the story ends. The story ends with people from all nations and tongues worshipping the lamb together in the New Heaven and New Earth. Because “by [His] blood [He] ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).
So this should impact the way we live together as the body of Christ even now. As God’s people, we should be trying to do life together in a way that shows off God’s plan to save a diverse people. Sometimes my church does baptism on Sunday mornings. And I love to look up there and see diverse people giving testimonies. They all have different backgrounds, but God’s saving grace was present in all of them. That could be said of us here today. I pray that when people come among our church, they would marvel at God’s work in the lives of so many different kinds of people. You’re not saved by your age or race. There is no qualification other than being needy. And all of us are needy.
A lot of folks I meet don’t know this. They think God only saves two kinds of people: either old white dudes or old black grandmothers. But it’s not true, right? Scripture is clear that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Not just rich people, or poor people, or old people or young people, or Jewish people or white people or black people. No, God has extended His offer to all.
We, as a church, should be afraid of doing anything that makes it seem like God only saves a certain kind of person. That’s the beautiful mystery of the New Covenant. That’s one of the glories of the Gospel that God would save any sinner who puts their faith in Christ. It’s not focused on or limited to any one group.
As a church, we may not all come from the same place and we may not have the same ethnic background, but we have something greater in common. We are in covenant with the living God through Christ. And that’s huge.
This is also the reason we should send missionaries and pray for them! This is why some of us need to pack up our bags and go! Because God has made a new covenant, and He’s included the nations. Someone told us and someone needs to go tell them.
So though the text talks about God’s covenant with the house of Israel, we know that his plan was expanded. Let’s praise God for working internationally. What exactly does that work look like? In what other ways will this covenant be new?
II. God Is Working Internally
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”
I don’t think the text is trying to draw some huge difference here between heart and mind. I think it’s just using two different words that communicate that God is going do something inside of us. Other translations say “I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts.”
Now of course the first time God gave them the Law, He wrote it on tablets of stone. But God is saying, “No, this time around I’m going to write in on their hearts.” The first time God gave them the law, He put it in front of them. But God is saying, “No, this time around, I’m going to put my law inside of them.”
We’re accustomed to thinking of the heart as a warm, fuzzy place inside. We associate the heart with relationships and Valentine’s Day and romantic love. But, biblically the heart is a lot more than just a mushy emotional place. In the Scriptures, the heart is our entire inner man. It includes our emotions, but it also includes our minds, our will, and our desires – everything that happens inside. The Hebrew word actually means bowels, because that’s the image they used. We use the word heart.
The heart is at the core of everything we do. It’s like the GPS system that directs our actions. The problem is it’s broken. Our sinful hearts think wrong, and feel wrong, and desire wrong. And we disobey God, because at the core of who we are, we’re wrong.
No matter what I did I could not lift that bar. And no matter what any sinner does, they’re not able to just muster up the strength to keep God’s law perfectly.
And this is why God’s law, as perfect as it was, could never save us. This is why just telling us the right thing to do could never be enough.
It seems like today, a lot of the arguments in favor of living immoral lives has to do with what’s natural. We were born with certain desires so they must be right. How could
God ever have a problem with something that feels so right, whether that be premarital sex, or homosexuality, or any moral issues.
The truth is our hearts are so broken and confused, that wrong feels right and right feels wrong. When our spouses irritate us it feels right in the moment to disrespect them. When I was growing up watching foul music videos, it felt right to lust after those women on the screen. When our income isn’t quite right it feels right to cheat just a little bit on our taxes. Our hearts trick us. In fact in another place in the book of Jeremiah, it says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)
It wasn’t enough to have the law, because our sinful hearts only respond in rebellion. God had to open us up, and give us a spiritual heart transplant.
This internal work is at the core of this new covenant and we should praise God for it. If God did not commit to working inside of us we would still be hopeless. Philippians 2 tells us, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” Why? “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
It’s because of his work inside of us that we will work out our salvation. We can only work externally because God is working internally in our hearts to desire and to do what He’s called us to. God is the initiator and the enabler here. We should praise God for that amazing work.
So in light of this truth, that’s exactly what we should be doing. We should be working out our salvation. We should be confident in our fight against sin, knowing that God is at work within us. God isn’t just sitting in the Heavens barking out commands at His people and condemning them when they fail. He’s actually working in our hearts to help us trust and obey. We have no excuse for a lazy pursuit of God.
Maybe today you’re struggling with some sin that you feel like you can’t defeat.
Be encouraged. God is at work within you. And He’s stronger than any sin.
In my own life, I can see this so clearly. Not that I don’t struggle anymore, but it’s so different. I can remember being in love with my sin. And then I remember a change where it bothered me. Even before I started changing my behavior, I noticed that the way I felt, and how I thought, and what I desired was changing. That can only be the internal work of God. And there’s nothing sweeter than watching God do that in others. Because I can rejoice and say, “Hey, He did that in me too!”
This is a unique kind of unity that only Christians care share. God is at work inside of us.
We should praise God for His internal work.
III. God Is Working Interpersonally
Listen to the last part of this verse. God says,
“I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
The covenant that God is making is not a mere contract. It’s not just some agreement for Him to do good things for them. This covenant is rooted in a personal relationship with His people. God has not just promised to bless us with things, He’s promised to bless us with Himself. He is our God. It’s not like signing a lease for a new apartment. When you do that, you’re just promising to pay your landlord rent each month. It’s not like that. There’s a personal, committed love and affection there in all of His actions toward His people.
And there’s a certain kind of ownership there. He’s purchased us with the blood of His Son and we belong to Him. It reminds me of the In Christ Alone line, “For I am His and He is mine. Bought with the precious blood of Christ.” God has always sought to have a personal relationship with His people, and this was to continue with this new covenant.
Christian, do you think of God as your God, or as merely the God? When you think of God is He merely the Creator up there? Or is He your Father? Is He the Lover of your soul?
Because the way you view Him changes the way you respond to Him. The people of Israel were not living as if He was their God. They were worshipping idols. They weren’t trusting His Word. Nothing about their lifestyles said that this was their God. And nothing about their life said they were His people.
Those of us who have trusted in Christ are His people. God has stamped His name on us. Everything belongs to Him, but in a special way He has looked at us and said, “They are mine.” And our lives should bear witness to this truth.
When Jesus went to the cross as our high priest, He gave us access to the God of the Universe. I wonder how it would change our prayer lives if we grasped the truth that He is our God and we are His people. I think about Exodus where His people were enslaved and the text says, “He heard their cries and remembered His covenant with their fathers.” Christian, God has committed Himself to us in a way that He hasn’t committed Himself to all people. God hears your prayers and He will always respond in a loving way. He is your God. You are one of His people.
I wonder how much more comfort we would feel in the midst of trial if we grasped the truth that He is our God and we are His people. Romans 8 reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. I think about Joseph being sold into slavery, and saying that what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. No matter what kind of trials we’re in the midst of, God will only use them for our good and His glory. He is your God. You are one of His people.
I think in my own life, the times when I don’t grasp this, I do exactly what Brad called us not to do this morning. Instead of clinging to the truth that I am His, and He is mine, I start to turn my Christian life into a talent show; where I perform for God and I make into His good graces if I perform well enough. But when I grasp the truth that He is my God and I am His child, I want to obey Him out of love and out of gratitude for His grace. I don’t have to perform and present myself to Him. God is on my side. Who am I kidding? He cares about my holiness more than I do. He is my God. I am one of His people.
I could go on and on. But it is crucial, that we grab a hold of this. He is our God and we are His people. And we should praise Him for this interpersonal work of salvation.
IV. God Is At Work
I think the most important phrase in this passage is two little words you may have skipped over, “I will.” God says, “I will make a new covenant.” God says, “I will put my law within them.” God says, “I will write it on their hearts.” He says, “I will be their God and they shall be my people.”
Brothers and sisters, this New Covenant does not ultimately depend on you. It begins and ends with God. God is the one who had the plan. God is the one who was merciful and didn’t take us out the first time we sinned. God was the one who sent His Son. God was the one who poured His wrath out on Christ. God is the one who raised Him from the dead. God is the one who made you a new Creature. God is the one who gave you His Spirit. God is the one who gave you a new heart. God is the one who’s sanctifying you. God is the one who will keep you. And God is the one who will glorify you. This covenant begins and ends with God.
God is determined to make for Himself a people. And He has committed Himself to that people.
As believers this should bring us great comfort. Because we know that even our disobedience can’t break this covenant. Even our foolishness can’t make this covenant fail. Because God is at work, He’s committed Himself to us, and He doesn’t fail.
These are beautiful blessings that are part of this New Covenant. But the truth is these are blessing available only to those who are in covenant with God. And we enter into covenant with God when we trust in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. If you donʼt know Christ, turn from your sin and believe on Him today. Instead of pouring out His wrath, God will pour out unsearchable riches on your head for an eternity.
You may notice, that the picture painted sounds awfully perfect. And the truth is none of these aspects of the New Covenant we talked about will be realized perfectly until we are with Him. When we are with Him we will see a perfect, pure international bride of Christ. When we are with Him we will be a people with perfect, pure hearts that love Christ and all of His ways. When we are with Him, we will have a perfect relationship with our God and we will glorify Him as His people. Until then we press on and strive to trust Him more and more each day. Let’s pray.