Jeremiah, God’s “prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, CSB) lived in tumultuous times. God’s chosen nation was divided and defeated. The northern kingdom had been overrun by the mighty Assyrian army, leaving their cities plundered and pillaged, and their people murdered, imprisoned and enslaved.
The “weeping prophet” cried out, warning the sinful southern kingdom that they would face a destructive end similar to that of their cousins in the north. “Declare in Judah, proclaim in Jerusalem, and say, Blow the ram’s horn throughout the land. Cry out loudly and say, ‘Assemble yourselves, and let’s flee to the fortified cities.’ Lift up a signal flag toward Zion. Run for cover! Don’t stand still! For I am bringing disaster from the north—a crushing blow”
(Jeremiah 4:5, CSB). The prophet’s warnings went unheeded, and in 586 BC, Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon.
Long before, God had made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and with David. But as Israel was gasping for its final breaths, God whispered another promise. The New Covenant.
“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).
In the span of just four verses, God says “I will” seven times. Almighty, All-knowing and Ever-Present God promised “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” something new. Actually, that original Hebrew word “new” can also be translated “renewed.” I think God restated and renewed His lasting promises made to Abraham and David.
But there’s more. In Hebrews 8:6-12, the New Testament writer quotes Jeremiah’s “new covenant” and argues that Jesus’ saving ministry is better than the Old Testament’s law and priesthood. Indeed, Jesus’ atoning death on the cross fulfills the Old and makes all things New!
On the night that Jesus was sold-out by Judas, as the apostles shared the final Passover meal, Jesus ratified His new covenant. “In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20, CSB). Jesus signed the promise with His blood! “I will be their God, and they shall be my people... For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34, ESV).
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your ever-new and never-ending promise... the New Covenant!