13-Jeremiah 31 Hope and a New Covenant

Series: Jeremiah
Finding Our Prophetic Voice
Pastor John Johnson
Jeremiah 31:31-34
December 15-16, 2012
“The Deep Work God Does”
Driving by MacDonald’s early this morning—I noticed the flag flying at half mast, half staff
-to symbolize that people are in mourning
-that all is not well—that something of death is present—as it has been—both here in
Portland and in Connecticut –and in Syria…and in a lot of places in this world
-tradition says that flying flags in this way began in the 17th century
-the flag was lowered to allow room at the top for the invisible flag of death to fly
-signifying both death’s presence and death’s power
-reading Jeremiah—it is evident Israel’s flags were at half mast
-for there had been death as well—only on a much larger scale than malls and schools
-indifference to God had led to the death of a nation—and it left Jeremiah in mourning—
-because he cared for Israel—and he knew God cared for Israel
-this is why God is portrayed as a grieving parent in Jeremiah—much like David over the
death of Absalom—31:20
APPLICATION—what makes Jeremiah timely is that indifference to God in our own culture is
killing us too!!
-already people are wondering—where is God—but God—in His own mourning over our
growing tendency to go our own way—may be asking us—where are you?
-this is what God is asking through Jeremiah
-but prophets do not merely criticize—they come to energize
-they come to penetrate the despair—give hope—make promises
-declare that there is a way out of this mess—
-He is bringing us a King—Jeremiah 23
-He is bringing us needed healing—Jeremiah 30
-He is bringing us something new—read 31:31-34
-on the surface—“new covenant” language may not grip us
-unless we understand that everything between us and God has to do with contracts,
entering into agreements, legal arrangements
Illustration—we are well aware of contracts
-we just refinanced our home-signature on 200 pages
-NFL teams enter into contracts with its players—declaring terms of compensation and
stipulating a player’s responsibilities to not accept a bribe, cooperate with the media, play
unless you are hurt (be charitable to the Chargers—let them score, don’t hurt their
-God has been drafting agreements from the beginning, declaring terms with us—placing
us under contract
(bear with me as I put some theological meat on your bones—for some of us are pretty
thin here)
-these covenants are the main frame of Scripture—the backbone, the architectural
-here are some samples—
-from the beginning of Genesis—God created man as His image bearer and placed
him under contract
-under the terms of this legal agreement—God said He will commit to care and sustain
creation—and man will commit to exercising dominion, keeping the garden, and living
within God ordained boundaries
-God will be our God and we will be His people—this is at the heart of all covenants
-unfortunately—this pact was violated by human disloyalty and rebellion—Genesis 3
-mankind decided to breach the contract—manage things independently—build his
own towers—Genesis 11
-and so—the contract was voided
-sometime later—
-God decided to redraft a contract, creating a covenant with Abraham—Genesis 15:18
-both entered into a rock solid contractual relationship that built on the first agreement
-in this pact, God promised to put things to rights, restore things—work through one
individual and his family to bless all of life, bless the nations, bring restoration and
healing to the whole world.
-but again—the agreement fell apart—was anything but solid on Abraham’s part
-when Israel crossed the Red Sea, God again put His people under contract
-something called the Mosaic Covenant
-this document—recorded in Exodus 19-24—with details in Leviticus—built upon the
previous covenants
-God established a code of law—that was written on stone, carried out through
Levitical institutions, and renewed in Deuteronomy—Exodus 19:5-8; Deuteronomy
-Israel entered into contract to serve as a kingdom of priests, demonstrate what it
looks like to be God’s image bearers, and hence reveal God to the nations
-but again—Israel broke the terms of the agreement—chose to look no different than
the nations
-when God gave Israel David as His king, He made a covenant, an amazing promise
that God would rule over His kingdom through David and his seed forever—2 Samuel
-unfortunately—like Abraham—like Israel—David and the rest of the kings followed
after their own hearts—and further talks stalled
-it would not be an overstatement to say that breaking covenants with God is pretty much
the story of our lives
-it’s one explains today’s headlines
-at times—God drafted prophets to call attention to covenant violations
-this was Jeremiah’s painful calling to declare—
-“The house of Israel and the house of Judah broke My covenant I made with their
ancestors”—Jeremiah 5:11
-Israel chose to enter into contracts with other gods
-and so you get a sense in Jeremiah that things are pretty much over
-past agreements had failed—if something wasn’t signed soon—Israel would go over the
spiritual cliff
-and no one would blame God if all talks were off
-but because grace defines God—He did a most amazing thing—He announced a new
contract—this is Jeremiah 31
-something new, different, radical—
-and though it builds upon the previous contracts
-and underscores that He is our God and we are His people
-it is unique—verse 32 “will not be like”
1. this contract is written differently—read verse 33
-what was formerly written on stone or parchment with ink—will be written on the heart
with the Spirit
-what was stored in the ark will be relocated in the soul—Jeremiah 3:16-18
-because God knows we live from the heart—it is life’s executive center
2. this contract is permanent, etched forever
-it is God’s answer to the perennial problem of covenant-breaking
-hearts that tended to leave God, break vows, sever treaties, will be inclined to go after
God, keep vows, honor treaties
-hearts that ignored the Word will have the Word etched on them
-lives that were once broken will be reconciled
-relationships defined by alienation and condemnation will be defined by reconciliation
and forgiveness
So when will this happen? “Days are coming” is rather vague
-it’s like looking at a flat screen—it is clear that there are images behind images, but the
distance is undefined
-something is being promised in the near future, something further out, and still further out
-like the other promises in Jeremiah—one must look through three lens to see the
-the new covenant looked ahead to the end of the exile—when parties would once again
come to the table
-but its fulfillment was much further out
-looking out to the coming of Christ—the massive changes Jeremiah anticipated began to
be fulfilled
a) Jesus ESTABLISHED THE NEW CONTRACT at the last supper
-“This cup is the new covenant established by My blood”—Luke 22:20
-His sacrifice on the cross sealed the contract
-Hebrews 8-9 affirm this—referring to Christ as “the mediator of a new covenant”
-what was inaugurated with the blood of animals is inaugurated with the blood of
Jesus—Hebrews 9:18
-every time we participate in communicate—we are called to remember we are
under contract
b) Jesus’ work on the cross, His resurrection, and the coming of the Spirit
-under this contract—
1) we are REMADE with new heart
-“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away; new things
have come”—2 Corinthians 5:17
-so that we can live radically different
2) we are INDWELT BY GOD
-so we no longer need to go to a temple where God is present—we are the temple of the
Spirit—I Corinthians 6:19
-we no longer experience occasional empowerments of the Spirit (as certain ones were in
the OT)
-the One who was with us is in us—John 14:17
-and because He indwell us in the innermost part, the heart region, He enables us to
follow God’s decrees and keep God’s laws
-everything is now about the heart
-so that our obedience goes beyond outward commandments (Thou shalt not commit
adultery) to inward motivations of the heart (Thou shalt not lust)
3) we have a NEW RELATIONSHIP with God
a) the access once reserved for the high priest is now available to all of us—we all
have 24/7 access into the most holy place by the blood of Jesus—Hebrews 6:5
b) we are in union with Christ—like a branch is with a vine (John 15)—meaning we live
on a plane where life is profoundly influenced by divine power
-we are permanently bonded in the greatest intimacy with potential of perfect,
unfettered fellowship
4) we have a NEW FREEDOM
-in this relationship—we have His forgiveness
-in the OT, forgiveness was granted through the sacrificial system—which needed
constant repetition
-because of the work of Christ on the cross—sin is paid once for all and remembered no
-the threat of punishment is gone—grace abounds
But like the other promises we have looked at—
-though the promised age is here now—and the last days have arrived—we still await the
final consummation
-not all the promises and blessings of the new contract were fulfilled in Christ’s first
-one day—everyone will be re-gathered to be one—both Israel and the nations
-one day His law will be written in the heart in such a way instruction will no longer be
-no more catechism, no more VU, no more preaching!
-no one will teach people saying—know the Lord
Holland—the flag declared the queen was in residence
-one day there will be only one flag—never flown at half mast
-the invisible flag of death will be no more
-death will have no existence, no reign
-just one flag—always raised—declaring—the King is in residence
-in the meantime—we are called to be ministers of the new covenant—sharing the gospel
so that others can experience the benefits of the new covenant