But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel:After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law within them, and on their hearts will I write it; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.Jer 31:33
God has cut many covenants with humanity – let’s look at a few of them.
First, the covenant with Adam: multiply and subdue the earth, and I will give you all the plants for food. God promised provision and dominion to man, with one condition: do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Changes were made to the relationship between man and God when they fell, but God’s plan is to keep this covenant and lead us back into it. He never takes back his gifts and promises.
The covenant with Noah: never again will I destroy earth with a flood. God will never again destroy all living creatures, not even all men. This does not leave much room for an apocalyptic destruction of the world, does it? Or do you think that God is so cynical that he would destroy his creation just using other means than water?
The covenant with Abraham. His descendants would always possess the land. Obviously, this covenant is conditional. And it cannot be talking about the natural land called Israel, as the children of Israel at times were expelled from the land – they have lived in the land about half the time since Abraham got the promise. Just as the other covenant with Abraham talks about his spiritual descendants, the ones in faith, this one talks about the spiritual promised land, the Kingdom of God, where Jesus is in dominion as king.
A second covenant with Abraham. He would have a multitude of descendants, and the nations will be blessed through him. After the flood, God looked for an individual he could trust his message to. And he found him in Abraham. Jesus himself told us that everybody that lives through faith is a son of Abraham, the father of faith. Covenant surpasses natural and genetical lineage in favour of heavenly ancestry. Yes, blood is thicker than water. So is the blood of Jesus, and Spirit is the thickest.
The covenant of Moses. Law was given as a teacher, a guide, a paidagogon, a servant that brought the kids to school, reminding them of all they had learned, and fetched them again, helping them with their homework. Actually, law as we understand it does not do that. It just tells us what we have to do and how, and leaves us alone with it. Because we take the letter of the law, and it kills. But the spirit of the law, according to Paul, is the Holy Spirit, because there is only one Spirit.
Yet, both Peter and James in Acts 15 recognised that they should not burden the heathen – by the way, that is us – with the law that not even the Israelites were capable of keeping. We will come back to what this means.
The Davidic covenant says that there will always be a descendant of David on the throne. And there is: Jesus, the Son of David, as much as the Son of God. Now, since Jesus was born, no natural descendant of David has been on the throne any more. This tells us that Jesus is sitting on the throne of David right now, or else God broke his covenant with David. That does not leave any room for Jesus coming back to, once in the future, take his rightful position on the throne of David – he already did. Proof: he said that all power and authority has been given to him on earth and in heaven.
From all this I derive one principle, easily seen from some of the covenants like the ones with Noah and Abraham and David, but by deduction well true for the others as well: God keeps his covenants. He will never brake them or recall them.
- We will forever have dominion over creation.
- God will not destroy his creation – thus making the first covenant possible in the first place.
- There will always be a home for us: the Kingdom of God.
- Faith will always be the means to blessings and necessary to belong.
- The law will never perish or go away – just as Jesus told us.
- Jesus will reign forever.
And after all that, God cut yet another covenant with mankind, which we call the new covenant. And even the bible does, just a few lines above our verse for the day:
“Here, the days are coming,” says ADONAI, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Isra’el and with the house of Y’judah. Der 31:31
The house of Israel – the blessed descendants of Israel, that is Jacob, that is the line of inheritance of God’s promises directly from Abraham. The house of Judah – the house of praise, the ones that praise God and live by and in faith. Obviously, this new covenant started with a descendant of the natural house of Israel, the natural tribe of Judah, and in accordance with the covenants, a natural descendant of David. But it did not stop there. There is one new man, neither Jew nor Greek, united by their faith in Jesus Christ, that build the house of Israel. They did by no means replace the Jews – so cool down – but include the heathen into the promises and covenants of God.
But still, what was true so far has to still hold true under the new covenant. The former covenants have not been replaced. God still keeps them.
The hardest to see this is the covenant with Moses – the law. I told you about Peter and James seemingly letting us go free from the law apart from four exceptions: not to eat meat that was offered to idols (something Paul later even weakened) or strangled, not to eat blood, and to abstain from sexual impurity.
But is it then that we can neglect all other parts of the law? By no means. Obviously we are still to worship but one God, not kill and steal.
True, some laws just do not hold true any longer. All laws concerning the Levitical priesthood are obsolete, as the Levitical priesthood is obsolete. We live in a new priestly order, the order of Melchizedek. Laws concerning the physical state of Israel therefore are obsolete as well – outside of, well, the state of Israel, I guess.
But all the rest? Our verse today tells us that God will write the law on our heart. He gave us the Spirit so we would grow into a lifestyle pleasing to God. God did not change, nor did his standards. He gave us a covenant, and it still holds. Yet it holds by two premises:
- Jesus fulfilled the law by the letter and the Spirit. He did it.
- We are to be led by the Spirit into a lifestyle according to the spirit of the law.
Grace preceded the law – just look at the Garden and the fall. God right after the fall promised a way out, a redeemer, instead of doing what the law would have called for: kill them, stone them outside the camp, that is the Garden.
Faith preceded the law. Or how could Abraham be called the father of faith otherwise?
Even the Spirit preceded the law – he hovered over the chaos even before creation.
The bible tells us that nobody can please God without faith, and that only those are called the children of God that are led by the Spirit. Those in faith and led by the Spirit will experience the grace of God. The law just was a guideline for the immature, just as we teach children before they grow into their age as sons of responsibility – bar mitzvah.
Not that we are – at least at the start – any less immature than the Israelites of old. And when I look at people like David, I can truly say that even then people had a chance to live a mature life from the grace of God in faith.
Yet now, through the cross, we have the Holy Spirit in us. He wants to and will lead us into all truth, including a lifestyle after the standards of God, a thinking pattern after God’s mind, a demeanour worthy of true sons of God.
This means that we will
- have dominion not only over this earth, but over all creation, certainly including this universe, but also the angels and the heavens, (Adam)
- as all of this will not be destroyed but exist forever (Noah),
- and all this will be our home, the Kingdom of God (Abraham),
- as long as we live by faith (Abraham),
- obeying the spirit of the law, as we are led by the Spirit (Moses),
- under the kingship of Jesus Christ (David),
- by his grace, as it is finished (Jesus).
This sounds like a glorious future to me. Are you up for this? All you need to do is acknowledge that so far you were in sin, running from God, not doing his will, but that you change this and will from now on allow the Spirit to lead you and Jesus to be king over your life.
Maybe you already do that. Then we just allow the Spirit to mature us so we are up for the task ahead of us. A hint at the end: this is only possible and true in relationship. Relationship with God, Jesus and other sons of God. Look for a great company.
What do you think? And, more importantly, what will you do?