The Day Has Come: The Lord Has Made a New Covenant with Us!
O Lord God, the God of mercy and truth, as I enter into Your presence for worship on this first Sunday in a new Advent Season, open my heart to the instruction of Your Word. Fill me with a knowledge of Your truths and help me apply them properly in my life, so that my words and actions might always honor You and bring blessing to those whose lives I touch. Amen.
As “His people and the sheep of His pasture” we are urged to “make a joyful shout to the LORD!” As we begin a new church year may the Spirit fill our hearts with joy and gladness as we contemplate God’s eternal goodness and mercy!
In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer He reminds us that eternal life is a gift given to those who know the heavenly Father and Jesus, whom He sent to be our Savior.
Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them," says the Lord. "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
In Christ Jesus, whose saving work has renewed our relationship with God, dear fellow redeemed:
Two weeks ago we were looking forward with great anticipation to the coming of Thanksgiving with its special meals and time to spend with family and friends. Now, three days after Thanksgiving we look back with appreciation for the blessings we have received. In four weeks we will celebrate Christmas. Once again we look forward with great anticipation to special meals, time to spend with family and friends, and for most of us the added pleasure of the giving and receiving of gifts. In five weeks, however, we will once again be looking back, I pray, with appreciation for the blessings we will have received.
Today we begin the season of Advent. Advent means “coming” and refers to the coming of Jesus. Jesus’ coming, however, is a dual event—He once came as the Christ Child, but He will come again as our King. We, therefore, look forward to Jesus’ second coming with anticipation, while at the same time we look back at His first coming with appreciation.
During our Sunday Advent worship services we will consider four Old Testament prophecies each of which anticipated Jesus’ first coming and the blessings He would bring—blessings we now enjoy and appreciate. Our general theme for the four services will be “The Day Has Come!” Jesus came bringing great blessings! Among those blessings is a glorious new covenant between God the Father and His believing children. Let us consider, then, this thought: THE DAY HAS COME—THE LORD HAS MADE A NEW COVENANT WITH US!
A Covenant, first of all, in which He has put His “law” (His revealed truth) in our minds and hearts! Jeremiah begins this text by announcing: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them," says the Lord.
The Bible speaks of both a new covenant and an old covenant. A covenant, first of all, is generally an agreement between two parties, in which each party is bound to fulfill certain conditions and to enjoy certain promised advantages. That was certainly true of the old covenant made by God at Mount Sinai with Old Testament Israel. God gave Israel His law through Moses and promised that if they kept that law they would be blessed in many ways. He told them: “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared…. If you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Ex. 23:20, 22) Israel responded with confidence and promised: “All the words which the LORD has said we will do.” (Ex. 24:3) Sadly, as history revealed and Jeremiah observes, Israel broke God’s covenant repeatedly in spite of God’s faithful love for them and His continual blessings upon them. He was, as Jeremiah observed, “a husband to them,” but they unfortunately proved to be an unfaithful wife!
God’s law—the basis of the old covenant, however, proved to be an effective instrument in preparation for a new covenant. The law condemns our unfaithfulness and thereby forces us to recognize our need for help and, therefore, for a Savior. The new covenant is different than the old covenant. Instead of being based upon the law and our ability to keep God’s law perfectly, it is based upon the work that the promised Christ performed and completed on our behalf. This new covenant and the blessings that would flow from it are not conditioned upon our works, but rather are bestowed upon us as a gift of God’s grace and mercy. Jeremiah describes it in our text in this way: “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Now, lest we be confused, we must understand that the Hebrew word translated “law” here has both a narrow and broad meaning. Its narrow meaning is restricted to the law—the Ten Commandments. Its broader meaning, however, is the entire Word of God—God’s revealed truths, which encompass both law and gospel. Jeremiah, therefore, is speaking about a time when God would put His “law,” that is, His revealed truth in our minds and hearts. That happens when the Holy Spirit brings us to faith in Jesus as our promised Savior. By faith God claims us as His own dear children and declares us to be heirs of heaven. Listen as Paul describes this glorious situation: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:26-29)
There is an additional statement in this text, however, that needs further explanation. Jeremiah records this comment by the LORD regarding His new covenant: “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," says the Lord. This statement does not intend to suggest that there will be no need for instruction in God’s Word in New Testament times. Jesus and His apostles repeatedly urged us to abide in that Word (cf. Jn. 8:31-32), to study that Word (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15); to teach that Word (cf. Col. 3:16); and to proclaim that Word (cf. Mark 16:15). But, as believing children of God, our eyes have been opened to see the true nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We rejoice in the Father’s love, find strength in the presence of His Son, and take great comfort in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The law of the old covenant drove people to obedience out of fear. Old Testament prophets proclaimed to Israel God’s judgments upon them. The gospel of the new covenant draws us to obedience out of love for what God has done for us in Christ. “We love Him because He first loved us,” John writes (1 Jn. 4:19). The joy of a gift given, rather than the fear of a judgment imposed, characterizes life under the new covenant. Our heavenly Father beckons us not with a stick, but rather with a gentle embrace! Let us, therefore, rejoice for THE DAY HAS COME—THE LORD HAS MADE A NEW COVENANT WITH US, in which He has put His “law” (His revealed truth) in our minds and hearts!
Yes, THE DAY HAS COME—THE LORD HAS MADE A NEW COVENANT WITH US! A Covenant, secondly, in which He has forgiven and forgotten our sins for Jesus’ sake! Jeremiah records the heart and the core of the new covenant when he reveals God’s closing words: “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
I listened to an interview this last week of Sally Lloyd-Jones, the author of a delightful children’s book entitled, “The Jesus Storybook Bible.” She spoke of growing up as a Christian, but always thinking as a child that she had to earn God’s love by obeying His laws. Because she could never be good enough, she always felt insecure about her relationship with God. Sally was living essentially under the old covenant, in spite of being a New Testament Christian. It was only after she had come to understand the love that God had for her in Christ Jesus—that unconditional love revealed by the fact that Jesus both lived and died for her to remove her sins, that she came to rejoice in her faith and in her Savior. It was at that point that she finally understood the new covenant made for her by God!
My dear friends, it is so easy for us to fall into that same trap—to live under the old covenant rather than the new, for by nature we think in terms of work-righteousness, rather than thinking in terms of grace. Yet, one of the truths underlying God's new covenant is that you cannot be good enough to work your way to heaven. It simply cannot be done. If you try, you will always end up disappointed, as did Sally and as have countless others! Paul states so clearly: “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight!” (cf. Rom. 3:20) But, as Paul also states so very clearly, “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.'” (Rom. 4:5-7)
My dear friends, our sins have been forgiven! They have been covered! The apostle John writes in his 1st Epistle, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We must, therefore, always hold before our eyes the simplicity of the gospel. It can be summarized in just three words: He for us! On our own, we must confess that we are hopelessly lost! God’s law says, “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). That simply cannot be done. But Jesus lived for us. He is perfect, and He bestows His perfection upon us when we are led by the Spirit to place our trust in Him. He then died for us, bearing the penalty of our sins upon the cross. Our debt was paid in full and God declares us righteous and holy in His sight.
But notice, as well, that the LORD says He will “forget” our sins! How is it possible for God, who knows all things to forget anything? With us, it often seems to be just the opposite. We can and do forget many things, while the burden of our sins often remains to plague us. Yet, God assures us that as incomprehensible as that may sound, God will forget our sins. He wants us to know that Jesus’ work on our behalf was decisive and everlasting. He expresses that within the Scriptures in a variety of ways. He says that our sins, for instance, will be removed from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12), and He says that He will cast our sins “into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19). His deepest desire is to draw us close to Himself, so that we might live before Him with confidence as we express in every aspect of our lives His love.
It is when we understand and believe these precious truths, that we can shed all our fears and uncertainties and embrace a Savior God who loves us! It is at that point that we will be motivated by love and not by fear, seeking to do for God and others anything we might possibly do in order to express our appreciation for our deliverance from past sins and in view of our expectation of future blessings.
Therefore, let us rejoice that THE DAY Jeremiah foretold HAS NOW COME! THE LORD HAS MADE A NEW COVENANT WITH US! It is a Covenant in which He has put His “law” (His revealed truth) in our minds and hearts, and it is a covenant in which He has forgiven and forgotten our sins for Jesus’ sake! Amen.