Lent 5, March 21, 2021

Know the Lord

Text: Jeremiah 31:31–34

  • Jesus compared his own death and resurrection to the destruction and rebuilding of the temple (Jn 2:19–22). Thus we may see Jeremiah’s prophecies of the destruction and restoration of Jerusalem as pointing to Good Friday and Easter. 
  • Moreover, the death of the unfaithful nation and the return of the faithful remnant signify the daily life of every Christian. We are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and Lent in particular calls us to remember our Baptism daily. 

Human nature hasn’t changed much in the 2600 years since Jeremiah. People still rebel against leaders, live an immoral lifestyle, and worship other gods. But God has done something truly new: he has made available the forgiveness of sins through the vicarious work of Christ Jesus. 

V 31: 

  • Constitutes one of the most important prophetic passages in all of Scripture, as testified by its quotation in its entirety in the NT, Heb 8:8–12 (see also Heb 10:16–17). 
  • In fact, this passage is the primary reason we refer to Scripture’s two sections as the Old and New Testaments.
  • “Declares the Lord” occurs four times in these four verses. 
  • Jeremiah is speaking with authority straight from God.
  • Notice throughout that God takes the initiative: “I will make,” “I will put,” “I will be,” “I will forgive,” etc.
  • In the coming days, the covenant made at Sinai will be referred to as the “first” or “old” covenant. 
  • The new covenant does not violate the old, nor do its benefits differ in substance. 
  • But the new supersedes and fulfills the old. 
  • Like the old, the new will involve Torah (teaching or doctrine), forgiveness, and a covenant relationship between God and his people.
  • The difference is that it will be written on his people’s hearts. 
  • The external demands of the Law will give way to the internal guidance of the Spirit. 
  • The rigid, burdensome commands will be replaced with the freedom, joy, and spontaneity of people who are new creations in Christ. 
  • This new covenant is eschatological; it will be fully realized at Christ’s return when God’s people enter the new heavens and earth. 
  • True, it is now already in place due to Christ’s work. But the new covenant makes us heirs of the age when God’s promises will be fully implemented, when the old will be forgotten forever, and we who are now simul justus et peccator will be saints—period!
  • This is written in the form of an "unequal" covenant i.e. God ALONE is making the covenant it is not a " you do your par & I will do mine"
  • The “new covenant” (vv 31–32) is an unconditional covenant of divine commitment, also called a royal grant (See Concordia Self-Study Bible, p. 18). 
  • “The days are coming.” – At JUST the RIGHT time (God’s Time!)
  • The royal grant points to the radically new covenant brought into effect through the person and work of Jesus Christ which supersedes the Sinai covenant of human obligation mediated through Moses (Heb 8: 13).

V 32: 

  • "Grabbed or grasped" their hand - image of a child being pulled off the road
  • Ba’al -  “to rule, be lord; marry.” - “though I was a Lord/husband to them.”
  • God assures them that he will be their God in spite of their previous infidelity. 
  • The sacred covenant union could be reestablished only by God’s forgiveness and mercy. 
  • Christ is the bridegroom, and the church is his bride, washed clean (Eph 5:21–33; Rev 21:9; 22:17). 
  • God is merciful. He loves his people. He reinstates, forgives.

V 33: 

  • To say that God’s Law will be written in man’s mind and on his heart is to say that man will become a new kind of creature. 
  • This is not a "new" as in from scratch but rather a "renewal" a "re-establishment" of the previous covenant that was broken
  • This is done when the Torah becomes flesh - JESUS!
  • No longer will God’s will (expressed in the Law) be something external, condemning man because of his disobedience, but the will of God will be part of who man is. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17). 
  • This renewal is, of course, incomplete in this life (Romans 7).
  • The Body of Christ after Pentecost is NOW the Torah of God!!

V 34: 

  • KNOW - is not a knowledge of humans or intellect but rather made possible by the forgiveness of sin, we GROW in our relationship with God in Christ!
  • Forgiveness is NOT a result of peoples character or ability to keep the law but because God is simply willing to forgive and meet His demand for justice within Himself in Jesus! 
  • The prophet Ezekiel said it this way: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek 36:26–27).
  • “Know the Lord.” “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12).
  • “Remember their sins no more.” This phrase is not an indictment of God’s omniscience, but a description of his mercy. 
  • For the sake of Christ, he will not recall our sins on the Day of Judgment. 
  • Revelation 20 describes the opening of books that recorded the deeds of the dead and declares there will be no punishment for those whose names are found in the Book of Life. 
  • Matthew 25 indicates the “sheep” do not have their sins remembered, but only hear recounted the deeds done in faith.
  • But how does this state of affairs come about? How does man become a new creature? How does he acquire God as his God? How does he “know” God? 
  • The answer is in v 34. “For ‎כִּ֤י , ‘because’] I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
  • It is important that we make this distinction between cause and effect. 
  • Unless we pay attention to the grammar, we might start to think that only if we become a new creation (having the Law written on our hearts) can we have God as our God, know him, and have our sins forgiven. 
  • To do this would make the new covenant the same as the old covenant, which had said “the man who obeys them will live” (Lev 18:5).
  • We usually remember our sins and perhaps think that our memory of them is evidence that God hasn’t really forgotten them. But in Christ God has forgiven and forgotten. He promises, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jer 31:34).
  • The promise of the Jeremiah text that you need to KNOW is that all people will know the Lord, for it is the Lord who will reveal himself to all people (v 34). Thanks be to God who remembers us, not because we have disappointed and failed him, but because of his great mercy.