(Jeremiah 31: 31-34)

Your Order Has Shipped


I love ordering from Amazon.  It’s so easy.  You go online, find what you want, and place your order.  Then you wait for the confirmation message and soon after that you get the message that says: ‘Your Order Has Shipped” along with the estimated date of delivery.  Now all you have to do is wait for the gray truck to stop in front of your house and for the smiling driver to hand-deliver your package.  And should you not be home or not hear the truck pull up they’ll even send you an email with a photograph of your delivered package next to your front door.  Amazon is excellent at making good on their promised delivery, although they may sometimes be off a day or two but that’s okay.  The delivery is guaranteed.


And it’s that guaranteed delivery that the prophet Jeremiah is talking about in our reading from the Old Testament this morning.  Several hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ the prophet wrote: The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.  It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.  They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord.  You get a sense of God’s frustration here with his children.  It’s a lot like the frustration we feel as parents with our unruly children or, perhaps, it reminds us of our rebellious teenage years when we took everything our parents did for us for granted.  The “old” covenant mentioned here demanded adherence to God’s laws and stipulations that were given to Moses by God in the book of Exodus where God said to Moses: So now, if you faithfully obey me and stay true to my covenant, you will be my most precious possession out of all the peoples, since the whole earth belongs to me. (Exodus 19: 5) But the people were unable to keep them, including the commandment to love and serve God and abandon all others.  This they did not do.  For God, it wasn’t just one or two minor slip ups.  The history of Israel was permeated with idolatrous activity, only occasionally broken by periods of true faithfulness to God.  The people seemed incapable of acting in sustained obedience to the covenant.  It wasn’t like God was asking them to do the impossible.


Jeremiah writes that God said: No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time.  I will put my instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  This expression looks forward to the time of fulfillment of the New Covenant, which found fruition in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This new covenant would be initiated by God himself, assuring its effectiveness.  Putting the Law in their minds and writing it on their hearts describes the total inner motivations of mind, will, emotion, and spirit.  God continues by telling Jeremiah: They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.  No longer would intermediaries like priests or prophets be needed to show people how to know the Lord.  From the youngest to the oldest, from the peasant farmer to kings and princes, all would know God.  In this proclamation by God, recorded by the prophet, there is a dramatic contrast of Israel’s sinful past and the future of God’s blessing in restoration.  The Good News of Jesus Christ has been shipped.


And that’s Jeremiah’s message.  Not only has our package, our new covenant, been shipped, it has arrived!  God will take the initiative to internalize His instruction in an intimate way within the hearts of the people so that each individual might truly know the Lord.  God will now write his law on the hearts of people rather than on tablets of stone as he did with the Ten Commandments.  And such being the case, when we turn our lives over to God, He, by his Holy Spirit, builds into us the desire to obey him.  Not because it is written somewhere, but because it is written upon our hearts.  It lives within us.  In the eighth chapter of the Book of Hebrews the writer says: But now, Jesus has received a superior priestly service just as he arranged a better covenant that is enacted with better promises.  And the writer goes on to state that if the first covenant had been without fault, it wouldn’t have made sense to expect a second, and then goes on referencing our reading out of Jeremiah.  The old covenant, broken by the people, would be replaced by a new covenant, and the foundation of this new covenant is Jesus Christ.  It’s a revolutionary covenant involving not only Israel and Judah, but even Gentiles!


The one problem that we continue to encounter in both the Old Testament and the New Testament is the mistaken idea that merely keeping the law in an external manner may bring about justification.  Just follow the law, breaking as few of them as you can, and you should be alright.  There had to be more.  But according to the New Testament, as well as the Old Testament, the law could not accomplish salvation and forgiveness of sins apart from a heart of faith and humility.  This is the more.  The more of the New Covenant.  The law of God was never designed as a means of justification, but rather as a pathway for the redeemed to walk, in other words, a means of their sanctification, of being freed from sin.


Jeremiah looked forward to the day when Jesus would come to establish this covenant.  I’m sure he wanted to see it come during his lifetime, but such was not the case.  But for us today, this promised covenant has not only shipped, but it’s also here!  We have the wonderful opportunity to make a fresh start and establish a permanent, personal relationship with God who desires to write His law upon our hearts.  All we have to do is open the box and enjoy our free gift from God.


Let us pray.


Yes, gracious and loving God, this is a day of new beginnings, time to remember and move on, time to believe what love is bringing, laying to rest the pain that’s gone.  Your new covenant has arrived as promised and you have put your Instructions within us and have engraved them upon our hearts.  We praise you for your unmerited forgiveness of our wrongdoings and for remembering our sins no more.  We obey you not because we have to, but because we want to.  Guide us by your Holy Spirit to walk in your ways and move us by your grace to live our lives as true children of the new covenant focused on loving you and unselfishly loving our neighbors as we would want to be loved.  We praise you for your great faithfulness.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

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