Have you ever made a promise to God? Did you keep it? I remember when I was 12-years-old and a friend of mine offered me some chewing tobacco. I knew better than to try it, but I tried it anyway. As gross as this sounds, he also encouraged me and another friend of mine to swallow the saliva that was generated while we were chewing it, instead of spitting it out. I took his advice and did that. Within minutes, I went from feeling healthy and fine to feeling like I had the worst case of the flu. My stomach was upset and my head was pounding. It felt like the sick feeling would never go away.
So I made a promise to God. If He helped me to feel better, I promised to never chew tobacco again. In an hour or so, I started to feel a little better, but instead of keeping my promise, I started to use tobacco in just about every form it came in for the next two years. For me, it was very difficult to stop, and in the process I made many promises to God that I broke.
Throughout the Scriptures, we're told of various "covenants" or "agreements" God has made with His people. Interestingly, He always keeps His end of the agreement while His people have a consistent tendency of breaking theirs. But one of the covenants God initiated, the New Covenant, offers us the opportunity to have our sin permanently forgiven and our fellowship with God restored forever. This portion of Jeremiah's book speaks of the New Covenant.
I. Why is New Covenant different from the Old?
As we've been working our way through the book of Jeremiah, there have been quite a few challenging chapters we've come across. We've watched as the Lord has directly confronted the people of Judah of their sin, warned them of impending captivity, and disciplined them with the goal of stripping away their love for their idols. Now, the Lord was revealing something through Jeremiah that the people of Judah and ultimately all people could find great joy in. He was revealing that the time would come when a new covenant would be made with His people.
Biblical covenants were initiated or sealed with the shedding of blood. The covenants God made with Abraham (Gen. 15) and Moses (Heb. 9:19-21) required the shedding of blood. Likewise, the New Covenant would require the shedding of blood as well. Specifically, the blood of Christ would be shed to seal this covenant.
In revealing the promise of a New Covenant that was going to be inaugurated at a future date, the Lord revealed to Jeremiah that it was going to be different from the Old Covenant. Jeremiah was told that it wouldn't be like the covenant God had made with Moses and the people of Israel when they were rescued out of Egypt. They broke that covenant, but the New Covenant won't be broken.
Under the Old Covenant, strict adherence to the Mosaic Law was required, as were daily animal sacrifices. There is nothing wrong with the requirements of the Old Covenant, but the people quickly learned that our sinfulness prevents us from being able to keep it perfectly. Effectively, instead of taking care of our problem with sin, the Old Covenant made it abundantly clear to us just how sinful we were, and just how much we needed God to rescue or save us from our sin.
That's exactly what the Lord wanted the Old Covenant to accomplish for us. In the fullness of time, when it was abundantly established that it was impossible for us to keep the requirements of the Old Covenant, God interjected Himself into human history in a unique way. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took on flesh and walked among us. He never sinned. He kept the requirements of the Old Covenant perfectly for us. Then He went to the cross and shed His blood as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. No more animal sacrifices would be required because the ultimate sacrifice had been made. The New Covenant was sealed with the blood of Christ.
II. What is the Lord intentionally writing on our hearts?
To the left of my desk, I have several things taped to the wall. I have a copy of the church calendar, and several notes about related ministries. In addition to that, I have a personal checklist regarding major things I want to get done each week and the days I have promised myself that I am going to try to get them done. It's a list that I try not to break and I wrote it down because it's a visible reminder to me that helps me keep the obvious parts of my weekly work schedule on track. (To the right of my desk is a bowl of mini candy bars).
Likewise, when the Lord communicated His law to the people of Israel under the Old Covenant, He inscribed the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. They were a visible reminder of His moral law. In fact, lately our family has been reviewing the Ten Commandments during our evening devotional times.
The message of the New Covenant, however, isn't written on tablets of stone. When we trust in Jesus Christ and receive His gift of salvation from our sin, He wrote His law on our hearts. As people who live under the New Covenant, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. He counsels us, not just from the outside, but from the inside, pointing our hearts toward truth. He invites us to pray, gives us the right words to say to others, leads us where He wants us to go, helps us to discern truth from error, and keeps us sensitive to the heart of God.
Likewise, we have been given the assurance that through faith in Jesus Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant, our sin is completely forgiven and will not be held against us because it was already held against Him. The Lord assures us that He will remember our sin no more.
III. Can God's promises to His people be sabotaged?
To "sabotage" means to deliberately destroy something. It's a term that's often used in a military or political sense. If you took the time to look up the word "sabotage" online, you would see that one of the primary ways people have been trying to sabotage others in modern day is through the distribution of harmful software that destroys or takes hostage a computer system. In fact, just recently, I received a phone message from a robotic voice claiming to be from Microsoft. It threatened that if I did not give it access to my computer, I would lose access to any Microsoft related programs. Ironically, I don't use any Microsoft related programs, and I wasn't gullible enough to fall for this tactic.
When you look at this portion of Scripture, it tells us that God has plans that cannot be sabotaged. He plans for His people to be a nation before Him for all time. He does not plan to cast off His people forever, even though there were many examples of rebellion among His people. Rather, His plan is to offer rescue and redemption through Jesus, the Son of God.
God kept His word regarding the Old Covenant, but His people broke the agreement. The New Covenant, however, will never be broken and will never be sabotaged. Though Satan tries his best to thwart people from accepting the truth of the gospel, and tries to hinder people from seeing the light of Christ, God's plan to build a family and draw them close to Himself will not be stopped.
IV. Will the reign of Christ ever be overthrown?
At the time this Scripture was being written, the city of Jerusalem was in calamity. It suffered from ungodly leadership, internal idolatry, and destruction from the nation of Babylon. Even still, no earthly force has the power to thwart God's ultimate plans for humanity or creation.
Prophetically, we're told in this passage that the borders of Jerusalem will be expanded, the city would be rebuilt for the Lord, and a day would come when the city would not be plucked up or overthrown ever again. When we look at this Scripture in conjunction with the rest of God's word, we're told that a day is coming when Jesus Christ will return from Heaven to reign over the earth from the city of Jerusalem. We're also told that at that time, the nations of the earth will make a point to travel to Jerusalem to be taught by Him and learn to walk in His paths.
The point being made here is that the reign of Christ is coming and will not be overthrown. Likewise, we have the privilege, right now, to welcome His reign in our minds and in our hearts.
It's valuable to ask the questions, "Have I responded to Christ's invitation and is He ruling on the throne of my heart?" There is an answer to those questions for all of us. For some of us, we're the one trying to reign on that throne. Maybe some of us have heroes or gurus that we're inviting to reign on that throne. But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the Mediator of the New Covenant, our Eternal King, is the only one who should be given that place of prominence in our lives.
Has your sin been forgiven and your fellowship with God restored? If you've come to a place of genuine faith in Jesus Christ, the answer is yes. You are under the protection of the sealed promises of the New Covenant and assured a place in Christ's kingdom forever.
© John Stange, 2018