Hebrews 8:7-13 (HCSB)
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one. But finding fault with His people, He says:
Look, the days are coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah —
not like the covenant
that I made with their ancestors
on the day I took them by their hands
to lead them out of the land of Egypt.
I disregarded them, says the Lord,
because they did not continue in My covenant.
But this is the covenant
that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be My people.
And each person will not teach his fellow citizen,
and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know Me,
from the least to the greatest of them.
For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing,
and I will never again remember their sins.
By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.
Jeremiah and the No Fault Covenant
The writer of Hebrews references Jeremiah 31:31-34 in order to show that there was a novel covenant in view when Jeremiah had prophesied. This is to encourage us (Christians) regarding the New Covenant, that we are now a part of, which is “not like the covenant” that God had previously made with Jewish ancestry. That antecedent covenant is described by the writer of Hebrews as being “old and aging” and is “about to disappear.”
Because, God found “fault” with His people (the children of Israel).
However, regarding the people of the “New Covenant,” God does not find fault with any of them. They have something that most of the people of the Old Covenant did not have… redemption. In other words, the New Covenant people have all been saved. This means that none of them would, “teach his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’” because they all know God, “from the least to the greatest of them.”
The Merciful Forgetfulness of Sin
If you haven’t caught it yet, the key difference between the people of the New Covenant and the people of the Old Covenant is…
For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.
Such was not the case with all of the people who were of the covenant which was labeled “old” by the writer of Hebrews. As Paul wrote…
Romans 9:6b (HCSB)
For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
Another way to say it is, not all the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were of the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). That label was reserved for the New Covenant people.
A Prophet to All Ancestry
This poses a question…
Who are these New Covenant people, if they are not solely made up of direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
The prophet Isaiah describes them…
Isaiah 11 (HCSB)
Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him —
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight will be in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge
by what He sees with His eyes,
He will not execute justice
by what He hears with His ears,
but He will judge the poor righteously
and execute justice for the oppressed of the land.
He will strike the land
with discipline from His mouth,
and He will kill the wicked
with a command from His lips.
Righteousness will be a belt around His loins;
faithfulness will be a belt around His waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
and the leopard will lie down with the goat.
The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together,
and a child will lead them.
The cow and the bear will graze,
their young ones will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit,
and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den.
None will harm or destroy another
on My entire holy mountain,
for the land will be as full
of the knowledge of the Lord
as the sea is filled with water.
On that day the root of Jesse
will stand as a banner for the peoples.
The nations will seek Him,
and His resting place will be glorious.
On that day the Lord will extend His hand a second time to recover — from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west — the remnant of His people who survive.
He will lift up a banner for the nations
and gather the dispersed of Israel;
He will collect the scattered of Judah
from the four corners of the earth.
Ephraim’s envy will cease;
Judah’s harassment will end.
Ephraim will no longer be envious of Judah,
and Judah will not harass Ephraim.
But they will swoop down
on the Philistine flank to the west.
Together they will plunder the people of the east.
They will extend their power over Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites will be their subjects.
The Lord will divide the Gulf of Suez.
He will wave His hand over the Euphrates
with His mighty wind
and will split it into seven streams,
letting people walk through on foot.
There will be a highway for the remnant of His people
who will survive from Assyria,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from the land of Egypt.
What Isaiah is saying here is that God would not only “extend His hand” to Jewish ancestry, making redemption possible for them, but that He would also extend it to non-Jewish ancestry as well. In like fashion, the psalmist also touches upon this glorious, inclusionary truth…
Psalms 87 (HCSB)
His foundation is on the holy mountains.
The Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are said about you,
city of God. Selah
“I will mention those who know Me:
Rahab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Cush —
each one was born there.”
And it will be said of Zion,
“This one and that one were born in her.”
The Most High Himself will establish her.
When He registers the peoples,
the Lord will record,
“This one was born there.” Selah
Singers and dancers alike will say,
“My whole source of joy is in you.”
(For more insight on the inclusive nature of God regarding the ethnic diversity of His people described in Psalm 87, check out this past blog that I wrote by clicking here; and also this past sermon that I gave on this same psalm by clicking here.)
So, how does all this connect back to the prophet Jeremiah?
Check out who he was appointed to be a prophet to…
Jeremiah 1:4-5 (HCSB)
The word of the Lord came to me:
I chose you before I formed you in the womb;
I set you apart before you were born.
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
The New Covenant described by Jeremiah is not only for Jewish ancestry, it’s for all ancestry…
Godspeed, to the brethren!
*The painting in the photo is “Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem” by Rembrandt, 1630