Jeremiah and the New Covenant
Many people fail to realize the New Covenant is Jewish. It was given to the Jewish people through the prophet Jeremiah. Jesus ratified it with His blood on Passover, when He went to the cross.
All covenants must be ratified with blood, which is how Moses ratified the Mosaic Covenant: “Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the Lᴏʀᴅ has made with you according to all these words’” (Ex. 24:8).
The New Covenant is found in Jeremiah 31, a chapter filled with divine assurances of God’s love for and redemption of the nation of Israel in the midst of the chaos of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.
God, who knows the end from the beginning, allowed Jeremiah to look into the future to give His Chosen People hope and a glimpse of the day when they will be back in their land and dwell in safety. He declared His unfailing love for them and promised them a new covenant that they would not be able to break.
As the southern kingdom of Judah’s demise drew near, God declared,
“Behold, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places; the city [Jerusalem] shall be built upon its own mound [meaning on the same spot as the first Temple]….I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish;…I will punish all who oppress them. At the same time,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people” (30:18–20; 31:1).
God also affirmed His eternal love for the Jewish people: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (31:3).
The Hebrew word translated “lovingkindness” is hesed. Hesed connotes faithful, unfailing, absolutely steadfast love. It is found more than 250 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and usually refers to God’s love for His covenant nation. Explained Bible scholar Dr. Charles Ryrie, “In the O.T. [Old Testament], communion, deliverance, enablement, enlightenment, guidance, forgiveness, hope, praise, [and] preservation are all based on God’s hesed.”1
Throughout Jeremiah 31, God reminds His people they have a future:
Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations;…Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth….They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them….For I am a Father to Israel….“He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.” For the Lᴏʀᴅ has redeemed Jacob (vv. 7–11).
Today many teach God has rejected Israel and replaced it with the church. But this concept is foreign to Scripture. God repeatedly declares exactly the opposite, particularly in the New Covenant:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lᴏʀᴅ, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke….I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts;…I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (vv. 31–34).
The first covenant revealed a need. It pointed out how helpless we are because of sin. The New Covenant addresses that need through “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).
God made one more monumental promise. With unmistakable majesty, He decreed the permanence of Israel’s existence:
Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the Lᴏʀᴅ of hosts is His name): “If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lᴏʀᴅ, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ: “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Jer. 31:35–37).
The apostle Paul, a Jewish rabbi, told the Gentiles in the church in Rome not to think more highly of themselves than they think of the Jewish people because God has a plan for Israel: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Rom. 11:26–27).
Nations will come and go. Israel will remain forever. And someday “all Israel will be saved” (v. 26), to the glory of God.
- Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible NKJV (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1985), 1365 n. Hosea 2:19.