6.74 Jeremiah -- the New Covenant

The idea of Covenant is terribly important to Jeremiah -- one of his chief indictments of his people is that they have broken the Lord’s covenant:

         "Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their forefathers" (Jer 11:10),

          thereby bringing down on themselves the covenant curses (Jer 11:8).   And yet the Lord remains faithful.  Jeremiah prays,

         "Remember your covenant with us and do not break it" (Jer 14:21). 

 

          The Lord assures him that He will no more forsake His covenants with the Levites and with David than He will His covenant with day and night (Jer 33:19-22).

 

 More than this, though, He will make a new and "everlasting covenant" (Jer 32:40) with His people:

          "The time is coming," declares the Lord,
                  "when I will make a new covenant
                  with the house of Israel
                  and with the house of Judah....

          "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.

          "No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
                  or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
                  because they will all know me,
                  from the least of them to the greatest,"
                 declares the Lord.
          "For I will forgive their wickedness
                 and will remember their sins no more" (Jer 31:31-34).

         

This is the best-known passage in Jeremiah, and it is one of the key Old Testament passages underlying the New Testament concept of a "new covenant" inaugurated by Jesus.  The central provision of this new covenant is the new heart.  Jeremiah has seen that

          The human heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jer 17:9),

          beyond any hope of reform.  But now the Lord says,

          "I will give them a heart to know me" (Jer 24:7).

          "I will give them singleness of heart and action" (Jer 32:39). 

One sweeping implication will be a new era of individual responsibility.  In the Law of Moses, obedience and sin each have generational consequences:

          "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Ex 20:5-6).

           But this will change, says Jeremiah.  A day is coming when

          "people will no longer say, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.'   Instead, everyone will die for his own sin;  whoever eats sour grapes -- his own teeth will be set on edge" (Jer 31:29-30).

       

From the standpoing of this study on race, a major difference between Isaiah's and Jeremiah's declaration of the new covenant is that Jeremiah limits it to the houses of Israel and Judah (Jer 31:31).  There is no mention of foreigners, "people who sat in darkness," eunuchs, etc.  This makes Jeremiah somewhat similar to Joel, who foresaw a great endtime outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29), but does not specifically mention Gentiles.

        

This leads us to consider what Jeremiah does have to say about the surrounding nations.