Bible Reading Plan – June 25-July 1

Jeremiah

Bible Project Reading Plan (June 25-July 1):
Jeremiah 30-52; Psalms 21-27


The world around Jeremiah was sinking quickly. Already the leaders of Judah had been carted away to Babylon. Eventual destruction to the great city of Jerusalem was awaiting its swift consummation, and false prophecies about the future swirled about him, sowing confusion and disobedience.  He had pleaded with the people to understand that the dark clouds that blocked out the sun were no less than the devastation and wrath of the Lord that was upon them; meanwhile, they spent their time looking up at the iron sky and proclaiming the sun would peak out, any moment now.

Their optimism in the compassion of the Lord was overstated, in a sense. They didn’t understand the penalty that was upon them, or why. They assumed his love and presumed upon his mercy. They were special, chosen; no great pains will befall them. Jeremiah continually foretold a future that betrayed this attitude – destruction was coming, it was sure, and you would do well to prepare for it.

All the more confusing, then, is the promise that their optimism is not really that out of calibration. Chapter 30 begins a change in the book, although the themes of restoration were already present. God will be kind to his people, his compassion for them will win out, their fortunes will be restored. They will be brought back, their places will be rebuilt, God’s good favor will once again be over them.

How was this all to work? What would the people have learned? That they can sin, flagrantly, unceasingly, and eventually God’s mercy would win out? Well, no, not exactly. First, the penalty was sufficient to teach a lesson to at least those who were exiled. They would die in a foreign land, away from the covenant promises which they had broken. Their sons and daughters would grow up where they had neither land nor freedom, where there was no Temple to meet with their God. So long as they learned that such punishment was from the hand of YHWH, they would have learned a valuable lesson, and perhaps cling more tightly to him in the future.

But God had more in plan than that. The great and important 31st chapter of Jeremiah makes that clear. God is not counting on his people to just learn this lesson on their own, only to have it perpetually forgotten in the next generation. God understood what his people would one day understand – the entire covenant was obsolete, and needed to be done away with. The people would never keep it, and more exile would have been the only future they would have known. Like the cycle that runs through the book of Judges, the people would have gone through massive periods of blessing/sin/idolatry/exile/restoration, forevermore.

So, God promises something amazing. He will not allow his people to go through that. Rather, he will bring a new covenant, one that will not just proclaim how God will act towards his people, but how God will act in his people. No more will the law be something external, something to achieve without the desire to achieve it. Rather, this is the startling promise that Jeremiah 31 brings out:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV)

This covenant is different from the old in several ways:

  • It cannot be broken (“not like the covenant that I made with their fathers… my covenant which they broke”)
  • It is part of them (“I will put my law within them”)
  • It will seal their relationship with God (“I will be their God, and they shall be my people”)
  • It will not have unbelievers in it (“no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me”)

Jeremiah knew well the problems that surrounded the people of God. They have hearts that are sick and deceitful (Jer 17:9), they have lusted after other gods (Jer 2:23-25), leading to injustice running rampant among them (Jer 9:4-6), and they have no hope of change (Jer 13:22-23). So, God will act. He will change them. He will show himself to them; he will give them new hearts that beat for his law; he will make them his people; they will know him, all of them.

This prophecy waited a long time for fulfillment. But, God is true and good to his word. Jesus Christ has died for our sins, was buried, and risen after three days; this all to show our penalty was paid in full. He has ascended into heaven, where he pleads for his people, and has sent his Spirit. Therefore, we are alive before God, reborn, remade, with circumcised hearts and transformed minds. We each know the Lord, and are known by him.

Thank God the Father for his wonderful covenant, sealed through the blood of Jesus Christ, given to us freely by the Spirit! Church, this is your God: compassionate, just, gracious, loving, forgiving, and righteous! Without this work, we would be lost, and that utterly. Our hearts would still be rotten, our gods still not gods, our injustice still just ramping up. Praise be to God, who shows his love for us, not in dying for those who are good, but

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Now, while I have some misgivings about how the relate the covenants together, and even in how the present the covenants, the following video is a helpful introduction to the nature and importance of covenants in the Bible: