HE NEW COVENANT
Jeremiah 31: 31-34
We don’t have to go too far to see the destruction caused by the wars in the mid-East—earthquakes in Italy-fires in Alberta-floods and tornadoes south of the border We watched the devastation on TV --its hard to imagine people coming home to find homes demolished—burnt to the ground--downtown strewed with rumple from the destroyed buildings—the schools, hospitals nothing spared. Maybe some of you experienced house fires and barns burnt to the ground here in our community.
It doesn’t take much to imagine how it was in 587 BC, for the Israelite after a long exile they are returning home— and they had a rude awakening, they found their city of Jerusalem destroyed and their holy temple leveled to the ground—the people were devastated.
So we can have some empathy for the Israelite coming home to the destruction the Babylonians have done to their cities.
In the midst of this devastation, comes Jeremiah a prophet of God—Jeremiah lights a candle of hope to help overcome the people’s darkness--he attempts to give the people a new spirit—trying to comfort them and give them some hope of the future.
Through Jeremiah, God cries out to the people, “I will make a NEW COVENANT and I WILL WRITE IT ON THEIR HEARTS.”
**This NEW COVENANT contains a promise. Listen, God said “I will be your God and you will be my people.”
THAT’S ALL?? You would think that the law would have been spelled out in lists of rules that told us how to behave, but no, according to God, this simple sentence said it all. All the people had to do to belong to the covenant was to say, “WE WILL BE GOD’S PEOPLE.”
There was newness in the New Covenant, “the law will be written on the heart” God promises to change the people from the inside out, to give them a center. This is God’s language of love and faithfulness.
In Jeremiah we read how God provided covenants in the past, remember the 10 Commandments which contained commands, laws, and declarations all engraved on stone tablets. The people seemed incapable and powerless to make the lifestyle changes demanded by these laws.
Besides these tablets were kept hidden in the Ark, that’s the box the rabbis carried in their travels– then kept behind the veil in the temple-opened only to the priests. Written laws could easily be forgotten and misinterpreted.
I mentioned sometime backof the “Wicked Bible.” –printed 400 years ago-Commandment -#14 Thou shalt commit adultery!! The word “NOT.” was mistakenly omitted. We see it’s easy to make an error when copying written laws and it can have a disastrous or humorous affect if taken as the law!!
Written and Spoken Covenants didn’t seem to work.
God needed a method to help us learn from lessons from the past and be more inclined to follow good advice, something we are not very good at. Just think, people undergoing bypass surgery, a life and death matter they are directed by doctors to change their eating habits, stop smoking, exercise and significantly alter their life style. They know they should make these changes, yet studies show after two years patients have forgotten to alter their behavior and continued as if they never had the surgery.
Well this time God decided we needed behavioral changes coming from within-- so a new means of communicating with the people was needed.
And God took a unique approach, “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 Tablets, nothing to carry, for it will be installed in their “HEARTS.”
Imagine on our hearts! What change will that make to our way of living? Let’s Listen, God’s not finished and has more to say.
God goes on to tell them there will be “no more teaching about God” from now on instructions for living will be on everyone’s heart—and “Sin will be a thing of the past, all will receive forgiveness of their past sins and all wrong doings will be forgotten.”
I can heard them thinking, “is this really a good news?” Laws on our heart—no teaching—no sin—every wrong forgiven. I wonder if many thought this New Covenant will take away freedom—freedom to live the way they want!
Now don’t think God had any plans to take away our freedom to choose, but God is hopeful that with a new Covenant written on our hearts, our decisions will be made with compassion from the heart as well as the brain.
I was watching a Woody Allen movie this week “The Curse of the Jaded Scorpion” he was talking to his girlfriend who believed he had stole some jewelry. I paraphrase Woody said, “Can’t you believe me! Don’t just think with your brain it’s just a mass of grey matter. Think with your heart it’s full of life with blood running through it that keeps you alive.”
Imagine this is actually what God is saying to us!
There is a parallel between God’s New Covenant to the Israelites --and God’s message to us today through the life and teaching of JESUS.
GOD gave “a law written on the heart”— JESUS taught us “to love from the heart”—GOD said “the least and the mightiest(everyone) will know Me” — JESUS said “I came to save the world.”(everyone)-- GOD told them “their sins were forgiven and forgotten”— JESUS said “your sins are forgiven, go and forget your past.”
Most important GOD told them of a new relationship .”I will be your God and YOU shall be my people.” It will be a closer bond than before. JESUS taught us by words and deeds how to live in the New Covenant, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” JESUS went the whole nine yards to be a model for us to follow. This was to be a totally new relationship between God and his people.
God only wants the best for us and with love engraved on our heart, it should give us freedom to live and love to the fullest.
It will be Intermingled with our emotions, our hopes and dreams.
What will it be like?
It will be Like FALLING IN LOVE for the first time—REMEMBER THOSE DAYS, remember the freedom we felt—We couldn’t wait to be with our love one—we brought them gifts, we wrote them love letters and we treated them with love and kindness.
It will be like grandparents, especially-grandma, hovering love and kindness on our grandchildren. Sometimes they might not deserve it but with the love and wisdom we have gathered some wisdom over the years and having GOD’S Covenant written on our hearts, we always respond to them with forgiveness and love.
Maybe that’s what it will be like, living by our heart, it will be itself an adventure in freedom—no revenge--no hate-only love—and knowing that all our actions reflect a new life that lies in our heart full of love and forgiveness.
Doesn’t that sound like the way we would want to live?
How will the New Covenant help us?
Instead of homes where parents feel the need to write down rules and set curfews, limits and chores and post them on the fridge; instead their might new approaches that will bring about family discussions and cooperation. Everyone, young and old, will have a say, share their ideas and everyone will pitch-in to make a loving home.
Picture people arguing —maybe husband and wife(we all know that scene)—two neighbours, maybe Steven Harper and Justin Trudeau slugging it out over some parliamentary procedure.
In the heat of the argument I don’t think anyone would be looking up the OLD COVENANT, written somewhere in the bible.
But love coming from our heart it will be natural to stop arguing and bickering— and will give us the freedom to compromise and not feel bitter—no winners or loser.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we would abide by God’s law written on our hearts so we could and cherish our neighbours and live in peace and harmony with creation.
In Canada we have many concerns that need to be looked into--social security, first nation poverty, homeless men and women, teenage suicides, climate change and the list goes on!
We might have better luck addressing some of these problems if we would only think and act from the heart.
It seems that God’s NEW COVENANT can work in many different situations and it seems the sooner we start applying, the love that written on our hearts, the better off we will be.
Jesus calls us to open ourselves up to God, to welcome God’s love and say “WE WILL TRULY BE GOD’S PEOPLE!”