In Jeremiah 31:31-34 we
stand on one of the greatest mountain peaks in the
Old Testament. It is the only reference to a "new
covenant" in the Old Testament, and is no doubt the
most significant of Jeremiah's sayings. The LORD God
will write His law on the heart of the individual.
It has been observed by many scholars that this is
one of the most important passages in Jeremiah and
contains "one of the deepest insights in the whole
Old Testament." This passage finds its fulfillment
only in the true believer in Jesus Christ and His
covenant with sinful man.
A RADICAL CHANGE IS
The nation of Israel
failed to live up to the terms of the old covenant.
It was impossible because of the radical depravity
of man. Of course, it was never meant to bring
salvation. The only person who ever lived up to the
requirements of the law was Jesus Christ. Israel's
problem was spiritual. "The heart is deceitful above
all things and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9).
The new covenant was required because of the sin
problem. The context of chapter 31 is the children
of Israel playing the blame game. Let's blame our
parents for the mess we are in. They sinned and we
are suffering. The LORD God declared, "Every one
will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the
sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge" (v. 30).
Sinful, depraved man
could not fulfill the divine commandment. However,
in the fullness of time God Himself made the ideal
life possible through His own provision of the
Savior under a new covenant. There was no other
solution to the depravity of man. The new covenant
does not promise sinlessness, but forgiveness. We
are saved sinners. We are saved by grace alone
through faith alone in Christ alone.
Jesus had this passage in
mind when He instituted the Lord's Supper (Matthew
26:28). The "new testament" literally means new
covenant and is fulfilled only in the person and
work of Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians
11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6ff; Hebrews 8:8-9:28;
10:16ff; Romans 11:25-26). Jesus was saying to His
disciples that the new covenant predicted by
Jeremiah was now being instituted. It describes His
work of salvation.
What is needed is a
change in the inner nature so that men are able to
obey. God changes the "want to" in the inner man. "I
will put My law within them, and on their heart I
will write it; and I will be their God, and they
shall be My people" (v. 33). He will write His "law"
within them and in their hearts. It will be on their
minds and will control their will. Moses' old
covenant was written on a slab of stone (Exodus
31:18; 34:28-29; Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:22). What was
needed was a change from the inside out in depraved
sinful man. Man's sinful rebellious nature demands a
radical change that only God can accomplish.
The background of this
passage is the Mosaic covenant between Yahweh and
Israel at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:1-24:11). The LORD is
sovereign God of the Covenant with Israel. The
condition of the covenant was Israel's obedience to
its laws. Obedience would bring blessings.
Disobedience would bring chastisement.
CONTRAST THE OLD AND
Yahweh guarantees the
success of the new covenant. He took the initiative
to establish the covenant. In contrast to "thou
shalt not," and "thou shalt" are the words, "I will
put," "I will write," "I will forgive." Israel
couldn't keep the law of the old covenant. The law
proved man was helplessly depraved and led him to
the Christ. The old covenant proved man was a
depraved sinner, guilty in the eyes of a holy God
and unable to live up to the demands of the perfect
law. The new covenant is a demonstration of God
pursuing the guilty sinner until He has found him
and ransomed him.
The new covenant is a
covenant of sovereign grace. It accomplished what
the law and the old covenant could never do. All
will know Him, from the least to the greatest. This
is not universalism because those who reject His
offer of grace will be judged and spend eternity in
The stimulus to keep the
new covenant comes from within the person. God
places His Spirit within the person through
regeneration and the indwelling of His Spirit to
enable him to want to keep the covenant. The Holy
Spirit writes it upon the heart. Under this covenant
people obey because they want to. God has changed
the heart. Man is incapable of influencing a
positive relationship with a holy God. He cannot
because he is spiritually dead. It is not the doing
of sinful man. God changed the heart of man. "For
the love of Christ controls us . . ." (2 Corinthians
The new covenant is an
intimate personal relationship with God. Every
individual must have an experience with God to be
included in this covenant (John 3:1-16).
The new covenant will
last throughout eternity. This new covenant cannot
be broken. It is based upon the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a covenant in
His blood which covers all our sins. "I will forgive
their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no
Salvation for the Jewish
person will come only through the new covenant, not
through the Mosaic Law. Jesus "came to His own, and
His own received Him not" (John 1:11). It was only
after the Jewish people rejected Him that the gospel
was taken to the Gentiles (Acts 10:15, 34-35; 13:46;
A NEW COVENANT WITH
This new covenant is with
Israel and Judah, the whole Jewish people (v. 31).
Gentiles, according to the apostle Paul, have been
grafted into the vine (Romans 11).
These passages speak of
the nation as a whole turning to the Messiah. All
Israel, not just a faithful few will see the
salvation of the LORD. Isaiah, Jeremiah and the
apostle Paul see the final and eternal restoration
of Israel (Isaiah 59:20f; Jeremiah 31:33; Romans
The new covenant will not
be complete until it embraces the people of the old
covenant. The apostle stresses that "a partial
hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness
of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel
will be saved" (Romans 11:25b-26a). It is a
temporary hardening until the full number of the
Gentiles to be saved. The promise God made to
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob cannot be revoked. They are
the eternal objects of His love. God has watched
over Israel for 5000 years. He is faithful and He
cannot break His promises.
Verse 34, tells us that
each man will "know the LORD." The word "know" means
an accurate first hand personal knowledge from
observation. It will not be second hand knowledge,
but an intimate personal experience of Yahweh. The
word denotes the knowledge of two persons who are
totally devoted to one another that affects the
mind, emotions and volition.
A COVENANT FOR ALL
From the prison cell
Jeremiah set forth his final burst of song. Assured
of the love of God he saw far beyond his prison cell
in Jerusalem to the days of God's ultimate victory.
Behold, the days are coming when there will be a new
spiritual sense of direct relationship to God.
Jeremiah 31:33-34 is an
exact description of the covenant under which the
true Christian lives. It is the communion and
walking in the Holy Spirit as a result of
regeneration of the depraved sinner. It depicts the
radical change of the sinner and his new
relationship to Jesus Christ. Such a believer is
abiding in Christ.
"By one offering He has
perfected forever them that are sanctified." That is
the position of the believer. That is where the
relationship begins. Those who believe on Christ are
cleansed by His precious blood and are brought into
immediate fellowship with Him as a child of God. We
live and walk and have our being in His presence. He
abides, settles down and makes Himself at home in
our hearts. We are living with the "new covenant"
relationship and everything depends upon His
God says He will place
His law within the individual and will write it upon
the heart. There will be the consciousness within
the life of the Divine thought and will and purpose
in that moment of reflection. These principles of
the new covenant will be upon the heart. They will
not be on tables of stone. "I will put My law within
them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will
be their God, and they shall be My people" (v. 33).
This is the whole
argument of Hebrews 8:6-7. He then quotes these
verses from Jeremiah 31 to argue his point. Jesus
Christ "has obtained a more excellent ministry, by
as much as He is also the mediator of a better
covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there
would have been no occasion sought for a second."
The fault was with the depraved sinners who were
incapable of keeping the covenant with God.
How tragic that we still
go seeking legalistic laws and regulations by which
to live the Christian life. We have a higher
standard. The law made nothing perfect. It still
doesn't. It can't. Not even in the Christian's life.
Only the Holy Spirit can do that by applying the
living presence of Christ within us.
The difficulty of our
knowing what God would have us to do next at any
time in our lives is the measure of our distance in
fellowship from God. That is the measure in which we
regard iniquity in our heart. The pure in heart see
God. That is the condition of knowing Him and
walking with Him. When we maintain fellowship with
Him we have immediate illumination. The allegory of
the vine in John 15:1-11 depicts this living
relationship with Christ. This is our responsibility
as believers (1 John 1:6-9). The knowledge of God is
dependent upon a cleansed heart.
The new covenant will be
a clear apprehension of the will of God by
individual souls, without human meditation. The
apprehension of the will of God will be possible
through direct and personal knowledge of God on the
part of all men. This knowledge will result from
putting away of moral defilement. The result will be
a clear vision of God.
Jesus said, "Blessed are
the pure in heart for they shall see God" (Matthew
Have you entered into
that sweet privilege that is ours as His children?
It is in communion of the Holy Spirit, wherein the
law of God is written in the heart, interpreted to
the individual directly and immediately in the hour
of need. God speaks when we are in communion with
Him. This great truth can be misapplied and abused.
It does not mean to neglect or set aside God's
written Word. This only proves those individuals do
not know His walk or His final revelation in His
written Word, the Bible. The Holy Spirit from the
moment spiritual birth takes place puts a hunger for
God's Word within the individual, writes it upon the
heart, so they will be His people and He our God. It
is an inner communion with God.
Have you as a believer
asked Christ to reveal Himself within to you? Do you
know His real abiding presence in your life? Are
there times when His sweet indwelling presence
breaks in upon you and He is so real to you that you
could reach out and touch Him if it were humanly
possible? When He has purged the heart of all known
sin and you come into His presence He will reveal
Himself to you as you have never known Him before.
This is a description of
the covenant under which the Christian lives. It is
a description of the communion with the Holy Spirit.
The indwelling Spirit interprets His word in the
hour of need. I am to expect the Divine voice to
break in upon my conscience as I read the Scriptures
and pray. It is intimate fellowship, not through
intellectual attainment, but direct, immediate, a
consciousness which is independent of instruction by
man, by meditation, quietness, silence. He waits
until we are quiet enough to receive His words that
He may make Himself known to us more perfectly. It
is based upon His saving grace. Maintained
fellowship is the condition for this immediate
illumination of Him. The measure in which we regard
iniquity in our heart determines our distance from
Him in our illumination.
It is to know God
personally in a mature, intimate knowledge of Him.
It is not to know theology, or an orthodox creed,
but to know Him and to abide in His presence and He
in you. It is to know Him personally in a first-hand
dealing with Him. I am not speaking of a highly
ecstatic emotional experience. I am speaking of an
intimate relationship with another. "They shall know
Me." It is the inheritance of every believer, not a
select few. It is a direct, immediate, conscious
sense of His living presence. It is to come in the
presence of another living person who knows us
better than we know ourselves.
Do you know Him
personally? We fail to know Him because we do not
acquaint ourselves with Him. We do not avail
ourselves to Him. We are not willing to sit quietly
in His presence with the written Word of God. You
can not know Him without spending time in His Word.
This is the covenant in
which we are to live. Why are we afraid to sit in
the quietness and silence and meditate on His great
attributes? Why are we so prone to do all the
talking instead of silently, actively listening?
Then when we are in His presence we long to stay in
it and not leave. So why are those occasions so
rare? Why aren't we willing to flee there more often
since we relish them? When we have an attitude of
waiting and listening in His presence He comes. Oh
how sweet and peaceful are those precious moments.
God waits until we are
quiet enough to receive His word that He may make
Himself known to us more perfectly. When we wait
upon Him in stillness we find His law written upon
the heart and we obey Him.
This is indeed that great
New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of the
31:31-34 The New Covenant
Christ in the Old Testament