Jeremiah 31, 7-14, 27-37, Revelation 14, and John 12:20-33 September 3rd, 2023

Jeremiah 31, 7-14, 27-37, Revelation 14, and John 12:20-33 September 3rd, 2023

Like any good series, ‘previously in Jeremiah.’ 

Jeremiah – one of the longest books;

it gives us a vivid picture of the prophet – all his struggles, weaknesses, strengths, and the burden of the call to live and speak for God;

Jeremiah tells us of the last generations of the kingdom of Judah;

It covers from 626 BC when he is called aged 18 or 19 – to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

His book, as we just heard, contains the prophecy of the new covenant, which points to the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

To help you, in the first part of this message: I want to share 7 themes – very briefly – that are found in this book.  Ones to be aware of, as you read it yourself…

7 Themes.

1.The Person of God.

God is revealed as just, one who punishes sin, but he is also compassionate and merciful, who wants his people to turn back to him. And he is revealed as a God of grace, who promises a new covenant. Grace – we get what we do not deserve.

Judah will go into exile, this is true grace – grace does not remove the judgement of sin, but grace extends forgiveness and restoration.

2. Call to service.

We see calling embodied. He calls Jeremiah – at a young age – age was not an issue when he called Abraham in his late 70s, and age is not an issue when he calls a guy who is 18. The call to service, means a call to be faithful, when it is not going well; it means knowing he is with us and he means what he says; and he equips us for what he calls us.

3. False religion.

Part of Jeremiah ministry to tear down false religion and syncretism. He challenges people with the truth of God. God’s word is not advice, it is to be obeyed. God he declared is not about religion, God is about true relationship, and worship and how we live must be connected.

4. Human heart.

The heart for a Hebrew and the OT is the centre of a person – it is not the locaton of emotions but the location of thinking and where attitudes are formed. So the heart stands closer to what we call the mind.  Jeremiah 17 declared the heart is deceitful above all things, how sin is engraved on the heart – it is just fixed there.  What is the heart of the human problem – it is the human heart.  Something Jesus points to in Mark 7 very clearly – what goes in does not make you unclean, it is what comes out …

5. New Covenant.

They have broken the covenant with him. But he will make – I will make he says – a new covenant. So truth will be internalized; the knowledge of God will be universal; and there will be forgiveness for sin.

V 31 contains the only OT reference to the New Covenant.

Five themes – The Person of God, Call to Service, False Religion, The Human Heart, the New Covenant.

To the New Covenant we turn.

So Jeremiah 31. Focusing in on 3 verses, v31-34. A reminder.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]” declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people 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.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,or say to one another, ‘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.”

The point we are at – Jerusalem is about to fall to Babylon; many more of its people will be transported to Babylon; many will die; Davidic rule – the monarchy – will end; the temple in Jerusalme will e destroyted. Land, monarchy, kingdom. All this is a sign that the covenant relationshoip between Yahweh and Israel had broken down.

Covenant. We hear it a lot. Not a common word perhaps.

Marriages. Do you enjoy weddings? I think it is one of my favourite parts of this calling. I meet the couples, get to know them, do some wedding service prep and a few weeks of marriage prep.

And there is the rehearsal and then the day – bride looks amazing, groom looks pretty good.

And I have the privilege to preside to lead the ceremony – so easy to say I marry these couples but then I’d been a polygamous I guess!

Yet we see them exchange promises and make solemn vows and in token of this they each give and receive a ring… a covenant is made. This is a covenant service – and this old word, a modern day example is marriage. One side enters into a commitment with another…

In fact if you have had a Church of England wedding, look at your wedding ring. Most likely these words were prayed – asking God to bless your bands. ‘Heavenly Father, by your blessing let these rings be to N and N, a symbol of unending love and faithfulness to remind them of the vow and covenant which they have made this day, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’’

In a marriage ceremony, a covenant is made between two people.

Back to Jeremiah – into this terrible situation – God speaks about the future.

A situation which seems hopeless, there is a new hope. God is doing a new thing.

God’s promise is more than renewing the Mosaic covenant. It had been renewed before – after the rebellion at Sinar and after the wandering the desert – Deut 29.

God says : ‘it will not be like’.  So the situation is more like when the Sinai covenant succeeds the covenant with Israel’s ancestors – with the Sinai covenant comes new acts of God, new forms of human actions asked in response. Of course, the Sinai covenant was in continuity with the preceding covenant and there was also substantial newness. It is new.

But this promise – I will make a new covenant – that there is a new covenant needed. The Covenant is broken down. The essence of the covenant relationship is in the phrase v33 ‘I will be their God and they will be my people.’’ A Covenant as we said is a relationship.

Israel, as we have heard and listened to Jeremiah these past Sundays, found it impossible, in general, to be faithful to Yahweh – as husband – as  God says ‘ They broken my covenant though I was a husband to them.’’ Failure to be faithful to Yahweh, and they fail to be faithful to each other. To use Jesus summary of the Torah which we use at the start of our services in Sept and Oct – ‘they fail in their love of God and they fail in their love for one another.’

In some ways, the journey to Jeremiah 30-33 is hard work. Judah is in a hard place with no way out. And then we hear God say ‘I will make’ and the promises inside that new covenant, it is amazing…

I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.

We can assume what this is just about Torah in the people, so they will live lives characteristiced by obedience to the Torah.  No it is so much more. What God seeks is always so much more than your holiness.

No, what Yahweh is seeking is that one to one exclusive relationship with Him. As I said, I do not marry you in the ceremony – I am in an exclusive covenant with Jolanda – and Yahweh’s covenant he seeks that with you, an exclusive relationship – with no other.

The promise to write the law on the core of who you are – remember heart is not emotion but your centre, your mind – the promise is to help people know Yahweh.

To know. It is not just about facts; or even a personal inner relationship. It is about recognition of the One, acknowledgment of the One, commitment to the One.  Yahweh intends to do something to the people’s inner beings that will make them give Yahweh the response that the Torah looks for. To be in relationship with him. That  Yahweh will be their God and they will be his people.

They will not need to be urged by people such as prophets to be loyal to Yahweh, they will do it.

The Abrahamic covenant was based on a promise which is something beautiful.

The Mosaic covenant is based on an act of deliverance, which is more.

The new covenant is based upon an extraordinary act of forgiveness.

That is the most powerful, healing, loving act that any person can do for another.  Of course Israel’s life had been based on forgiveness before – since Sinai. But the act of forgiveness that Yahweh will now do, in restoring his people, after the collapse of the covenant, will break into their spirits in a totally new way. They will know themselves as an extraordinarily loved and forgiven people. That will change them inside and make them respond to Yahweh in a way they never have before.

These verses 31-34 is the longest set of verses quoted in the NT – in Hebrews 8 and 10 – and Hebrews says, Jesus is the One, who by his  blood makes this new covenant possible. At the Last Supper, when Jesus passes the cup, he describes it as ‘the new covenant in my blood.’  In 2 Cor 3, Paul describes himself as a minister of ht new covenant.

Through Jesus this is all possible. He will write his law in the minds and hearts.  Everyone who believes in Christ, receives God’s Spirit dwelling in them. Spirit internalises God’s law in our hearts and minds – reminding, teaching, directing us and giving us inner motivation to know and do God’s law and commands. As we live and walk by the Spirit, the righteous requirements of the law will be met. However, we realise, as NT teaches, we are still responsible for how we are living and the choices we are making.

Yet the purpose of all of this is to know God. And to make that knowledge possible, the barriers need to be removed – those of sin – and so forgiveness is offered, from the least to the greatest.

Conclusion. To land.

Jeremiah. God’s commitment to his people. I will make.

A picture of God’s commitment to this world. He invites all of us to enter into that new covenant – not just about changed lives, but a new relationship, and within the security and made possible through forgiveness.

A new covenant. God invites you, and everyone here into relationship with him.

And this is all possible through Jesus.

Who do you know needs to discover that new covenant.

Who needs help to understand how it is not what we do, but who we know – Jesus?

We are running Alpha in October. On one hand, Alpha can be described as a course to get to know who Jesus is, and what it means to live as a Christian. Alpha also reflects Jer 31 – Alpha describes how you can enter into that personal relationship, how and why sins are forgiven in Jesus, and teaches us about the Holy Spirit, the one who internalises and works within us so that God’s law takes root in our hearts…

Do you enjoy the new covenant? Whom can you introduce to it? Alpha may be the course.

So I want to invite you to pray over coming weeks and pray a simple prayer – Lord, is there someone you would like me to invite to Alpha. If a name comes to mind, reach out to them and let them know – if God lays a name on your heart, your role is to reach out – the response is left with him.

To finish.

This week.

A Bible verse to meditate upon – Jeremiah 31:31-34 this week.

An Action to take: to pray and ask the Lord who to invite to Alpha.

A promise to stand on:  in the new covenant you are forgiven.

A thought to think on: do you see yourself as being in a covenant relationship with God, like you are with a spouse?

Shall we pray.