Updated: Jul 9, 2021
On Sunday, we were encouraged by God's Word in Jeremiah 31:31-34. It's the passage where we find the New Covenant promised by God at a time when God's people were losing their earthly homeland and facing exile as a result of not honoring their side of the Old Covenant, which we know as the Law.
The Law was a covenant God made with Israel after he delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. As the Lord brought them out of Egypt, he gave them laws to live by (Exodus 20 and onward). The terms of the covenant relationship were simple. Israel was to remain faithful to God. If they did, God would bless them, but if they didn't, God would discipline them (Deuteronomy 27-28). Over the course of time, even though God patiently sent his prophets to continually warn Israel to turn back in faithfulness to him, the Israelites still proved themselves unfaithful to the Lord, and God eventually handed the them over to their enemies, thus leading to the time of exile.
But even though God's judgment would come to the Israelites as a result of their unfaithfulness, God graciously promised that something good was coming:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV)
Through the New Covenant, God was promising a time in the future when he would:
Write his Law in the hearts of his people rather than on tablets, spiritually enabling his people to live by his Word.
Be his people's God and live in intimate relationship with his people, indicating that every future recipient of the New Covenant will know God.
Forgive his people's sins once for all.
These are all promises God has fulfilled for us in Christ! (Luke 22:20)
Under the Old Covenant, temporary forgiveness was available through the continual practice of sin offerings. Innocent animals would be sacrificed, and innocent blood would temporarily cover over the guilt of God's people. But through Christ, our ultimate sacrificial Lamb, God has made atonement for all our sins once for all. And through faith in Christ, that atonement applies the forgiveness we all need, as well as the adoption that graciously brings us into intimate relationship with God. It's through faith in Christ that we can intimately know God! And because God gives grace upon grace, he even writes his Law in our hearts so we could live and walk according to his Word.
Can you see how God has done everything we needed to live in faithful covenant relationship with him? He provides the ultimate Lamb. He provides the forgiveness we desperately need. He provides intimate knowledge of him, so we could enjoy him in deep relationship. He provides the spiritual enablement we need to walk and live for his glory. He even provides us with the faith that applies all the promises of the New Covenant to us (Ephesians 2:8-9). This, my friends, is amazing grace!
How do we respond to such marvelous grace? It's simple, really. By living out what he has called us to do if we're in covenant relationship with him. It all boils down to two simple things:
Loving the Lord above all else.
Loving all our neighbors well.
That is our worshipful response to God's glorious grace, to simply live out the twofold Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40), because God, through his Spirit, has already enabled us to live this way. Of course, we struggle with this. Our own selfishness and pride often get in our way, mainly because we're still attached to our sinful flesh. But if we're willing to humble ourselves and set our selfishness and pride aside, God's Spirit within us will certainly lead us to love God and love our neighbors.
This week, ask God to help you grow in humility. Ask God to help you set pride and selfishness aside. And then see how his Holy Spirit might work through you. I can't guarantee much to you in this life, but if you've trusted in Christ, then all the benefits of the New Covenant are already yours, which is an indication that the Holy Spirit has spiritually regenerated you and dwells within you. So I can guarantee this: if you're already Spirit-filled, and if you're humble enough to allow yourself to be Spirit-led, then you'll find yourself growing more and more in your love of God—worshiping him, honoring him, and living for his glory—and you'll also find yourself growing more and more in your love for everyone around you—as a more loving spouse, as a more loving parent, as a more loving friend, and as a more loving exile who does not belong to this world.
Put it to the test. Practice humility, and see if God won't lead you in living in light of the New Covenant!