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Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland
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Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet

#6
The New Covenant
Seminarian Mark Ehrlichmann
August 6, 2006

Jeremiah 31:31-34
31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt -- a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33 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 within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more."  (NIrV)




God speaks to His people about His New Promise.  A personal promise of a heart-to-heart relationship.  He begins by saying:

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt — a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.

Let me give you a story: A Dude Ranch where people come from all over to relax and play.  They stay in a dormitory like place, where everyone has their own room but share everything else, kitchen, bathroom, shower, television, computer, exercise room, etc.  And there are rules, that were posted on a sign, for everyone to know what is allowed and not allowed, how people should respect each other and help each other, and how through being respectful of each other and helping each other they will grow into an understanding of a dependence on everyone doing their part and being responsible for themselves and accountable to others.  This was a covenant that the owners had given to the people so that they could enjoy their experience on the ranch.

It happens that over time the people in the dormitory began to grow frustrated with the rules because they felt the rules were limiting their pleasure.  Everyone began to think more of themselves instead of others.  They began to feel the rules did not apply to them anymore because they did not feel the benefits of the rules anymore.  They became more and more rude and self centered.  They felt the problems were not their fault and that there was nothing wrong with their behavior.  They began to think that the people who established the rules -- the owners of the Dude Ranch -- did not know what they were doing or would not enforce the rules because nothing was done to enforce them.

They started laughing at the rules and went about doing what they felt was best. Things soon became unorganized, chaos and all kinds of evil things happened.  There was no order.  The ranch began to lose money.  People who planned to come soon cancelled their plans.  The people broke the covenant. The people failed to follow the rules.  

What do you think will happen?  Think about what should happen.  I think it would be safe to assume that the owners would kick everyone out and begin all over again.  The owners decided to make the rules a personal contract that people must sign before they begin their vacation. 

Jeremiah is telling us that the Israelites were like the people on the dude ranch.  That they totally broke the covenant; that they failed to follow God’s ways for generations.  They even refused to listen to Jeremiah’s appeals, they have refused to return to his ways. God has sent the Babylonians to punish them for these sins by deporting many and destroying Jerusalem (including the Temple).   Now, through Jeremiah, God tells the people that he will make new again both Israel and Judah, and that time will come soon.  Jeremiah now proclaims  the Lord’s plans for the building and the planting for making the people new again.   In early Israelite history, sin was largely collective meaning if a person sinned, it affected the whole nation.  Reminds me of the Jews stating just before Christ was crucified, "Let his blood be on us and on our children." (Matt. 27.25)  Jeremiah explains that from now on "all shall die for their own sins" (v. 30). The sin of one generation will no longer be inflicted on the next. Responsibility will be personal.

God has decided to make it personal to the people of Israel and Judah and us. As we hear the Lord say through Jeremiah:

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 within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD;

God’s "new covenant," like the old covenant, shows that:

Unlike the old covenant,
But how does God make us aware of this new covenant you may ask?

Through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit that God gives us in His Word, in our “hearing,” in our Baptism.   The Holy Spirit makes faith alive in us so that we can have Belief!  So that we can Be Life!  So that we can grow as His Children in the Light of the New Covenant and Mature into the Living Branches that grow fruits of the Spirit in spreading His Word. 

So that we will have a tool for dealing with everyday life.  A tool to help us with how we learn about God and Jesus.  A tool that helps us to understand that God wants us, us, to KNOW Him.  To have a relationship with Him.  Not to know about Him.  That is easy to do.  We can learn about anything. 

We can and want to learn about how to use a computer, how to drive a car, how to cook our favorite foods.  We want to know about our favorite sports teams and players, about movie stars and their lives.  We learn about and gossip about other people, but don’t really get to know them.  But through our learning about these things, do we gain any peace and comfort that helps us to relax and not worry so much?  We hear about people becoming addicted to drugs and smoking.  That is not learning about drugs and cigarettes, that is KNOWING drugs and cigarettes.  Think about that.  Anyone with an addiction will tell you that.  That Knowing drugs and cigarettes can lead you towards a life of destruction.

God wants you to KNOW HIM and wants to lead you to a life of glory.  He does not want you to only know about HIM. 

KNOWING means having a relationship with HIM.  Letting Him fill you with HIS life-giving streams of water, His life-giving Bread.  That is why He says that He will write His law on our hearts so that we WILL Know Him.  Know His Love for us and His command for us to Love one another.   Another way He comes to us is through the Lord’s Supper.  He reveals His Promise of Love through the Bread and Wine.  The promise of Forgiveness.  I have a poster of the Lord’s Supper.  It is a picture of the Lord’s Table with many different people and cultures of the world sitting with Jesus.  The caption above says: "What language would He use to speak to each of these?"  The caption below says: "Their own!"  God gets personal with us now through Jesus Christ.

God will remain the same; the change will be in us.  He now gives us the gift to live in His Way.  A gift because it is His to give and He gives to us freely because He created and loves us so much and wants a relationship with us.

The old covenant had the doctrine of retribution (punishment) built in.  Guilt was necessarily followed by punishment.  How then can God make a new covenant if the old covenant should bring a curse.  Answer: 

"for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more."

In other words, our only hope lies in God's forgetfulness.  We now have a personal relationship with Jesus.  God made the relationship between Himself and us a personal one.  That is what he means when He says “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”  That means that along with our responsibility for our life and our accountability to others in the way we respect and help each other, we have the hope and confidence of trusting in His Forgetfulness of our sins through His Son, Christ Jesus.  And we have the ability to forgive each other in Jesus’ Name.  God is showing us that He is our Good Shepherd.

Psalm 23 helps us to KNOW HIM.  Let us now read the Psalm again:

L:    The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.
C:    HE LETS ME REST IN GREEN FIELDS. HE LEADS ME TO CALM WATER.
L:    He gives me new strength.
C:    HE LEADS ME ON RIGHT AND HOLY WAYS THAT HONOR HIS NAME.
L:    If I walk through a very dark valley named "death, no-matter.
       I will not fear, because You are with me.
C:    YOUR SHEPHERD'S STAFF AND STICK COMFORT ME.
L:    You prepare a table for me in-front-of my enemies.
C:    YOU POUR OIL ON MY HEAD; YOU FILL MY CUP TO OVERFLOWING.
L:    Truly Your love and mercy will stay with me all my life,
C:    AND I WILL LIVE IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER.

God in His awesome power works wonderful things through us.  Through giving us a trusting heart that understands what He has written on our hearts.  So that we may KNOW HIM and HIS LOVE through JESUS. 

Do you KNOW HIM?  Do you Trust HIM to be your Good Shepherd?  Do you want HIM to be your Good Shepherd?  Take comfort and know dear friends, God will be your Good Shepherd.  All you need to do is ask Him, Believe in Him.  KNOW Him like you know yourself.  I promise you He will be your best friend and your best Guide for your life.



Thus says the LORD:
    "Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    do not let the mighty boast in their might,
    do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth;
but let those who boast boast in this,
    that they understand and know me, that I am the LORD;
I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth,
    for in these things I delight," says the LORD.  (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIrV)