These two chapters begin speaking of the restoration of the house of Israel, and the house of Judah. Quick recap: God brought Jacob, the twelve tribes, up from the land of Egypt, from slavery. He accomplished their deliverance on the night of the tenth plague: the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the doorposts of their houses, and while the angel of death went through the land of Egypt, slaying the firstborn, Jacob was “passed over” when the angel saw the blood on their houses. Of course all of this is prophetic of the new birth, which is the subject of Jeremiah’s prophecy.
God brought His people out of Egypt, to fulfill His promise that He made to Abraham. There were 70 nations of the world who rebelled against God, denied Him as God, and went their own way (Gen 11:1-9). God called Abraham out of those 70 nations, brought him to a land that He would give him, to make a nation out of him (Gen 11:10-12:3): a nation that would obey God, acknowledge Him as God, serve and worship Him as Creator and LORD, and walk in His way (Gen 26:4-5).
God delivered His people from Egypt. He first saved them from slavery and bondage by the blood of the Lamb, by grace through faith — because a person had to exercise trust in the word of the LORD given to them by Moses, in order to slay the lamb and apply its blood to their houses — then, He made a covenant with them, at Mount Sinai:
“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 (Hebrew: torah) 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.” Jer 31:31-34
The new covenant will be unlike the old covenant. But HOW will it be unlike the old covenant?
1) Under the old covenant, Jacob became His people and He became their God. That is what the covenant accomplished. We see that with the new covenant, this does not change.
2) Under the old covenant, Israel became the betrothed wife of YHVH, who promised faithfulness to Him in worship. YHVH was going to Father a Son in the earth, who would be Messiah of His people Israel, and it was through His wife Israel that this Son would be born. He was going to fulfill His promise made to Eve, that a Seed was coming who would undo the sin, death, dominion to the serpent, and banishment from the LORD’s presence, that Adam’s fall brought about (Gen 3:15). We see that with the new covenant, this does not change, because the Lamb receives His bride at His marriage supper, in the end (Rev 21).
3) Under the old covenant, God commanded Israel to pay heed to His Law, His Torah, contained in commandments, to keep His commandments and do them, all the days of their lives, so that it would be well with them. Why? The 70 nations walked in the way of sin. The 70 nations followed their own way. The 70 nations denied Him as God. The 70 nations rejected Him as Creator. The 70 nations rebelled against His commandment, and against His right to give commandments. His nation would walk in the way of righteousness. His nation would follow His way. His nation would acknowledge Him as God. His nation would bear witness that He was Creator. His nation would obey His commandment, and submit to His right to give commandments.
Under the new covenant, we see that God has not discarded His way of walking in righteousness, that characterizes and identifies His nation (Mat 5:17-19). He has not discarded His Torah as the written definition of righteousness and sin (1 Joh 2:3-7, 1 Joh 3:4). Jeremiah says that the new covenant will be characterized by a people upon whose hearts and minds God’s Torah is written, and Ezekiel says that the new birth and the infilling of the Spirit will cause His people to be careful to observe the statutes of His Torah (Eze 36:26-27).
So the new covenant will be unlike the old covenant, but NOT in whether His people should or will obey His voice, His word, His commandments, or His Torah. So then, how is the new covenant unlike the old covenant?
The difference is the place wherein God’s Law is written. Under the old covenant, God’s Law was written on tablets of stone, without the man. Outside the man. The man’s heart was not changed. The heart of stone that he had before, while he was still a slave in Egypt, he still had. In fact, he had the heart of unbelief (Heb 3:19), that refused to believe that the word that the LORD was telling him, was true. The man was taken out of Egypt, and tablets of stone put before his eyes, but Egypt still dwelt in the man’s heart. This was the reality of the old covenant!
But in the new covenant, God’s Law is written on the flesh of the heart, not tablets of stone, within the man. God does a radical heart transplant. He removes the heart of stone, and replaces it with a heart of flesh. He infills the man with His Spirit, which empowers him to no longer be a slave to sin (to walk in disobedience to the LORD’s commandments), but which empowers him to be a slave to righteousness, to walk in obedience to the LORD’s commandments.
Obedience, righteousness, is still the hallmark, the identifying characteristic, of the one who belongs to God, whether of the old covenant or the new. But the transformative power of the new covenant makes obedience from the new heart of the new birth the nature of the man. It makes belief, rather than unbelief, the nature of the man. The man is no longer fighting against his nature in order to walk in God’s ways, but in accordance with his nature, which has been made like God’s nature, he walks in God’s ways. He obeys His Torah!
There is so much more that could be said about these two chapters. Please, feel free to leave a comment if you would like to continue the discussion. 🙂