A New Covenant For A Spiritual-Minded Israel
“For 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 I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12
Two weeks ago, we began our consideration of the New Covenant as foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, that which the inspired writer of the Hebrew letter quotes here in chapter eight. Here is Jeremiah’s quote in entirety.
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)
We took on briefly the first section of that quote dealing with God’s promise of coming days when He would “effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and Judah”. Why? Because they did not continue in His covenant, but rather chose a pattern of continual rebellion and idolatry, exasperating His patience so that He no longer cared for them.
Now, we turn our attention to the actual New Covenant that was to be made “after those days”, i. e., the termination of the Old Covenant era.
I will make a new covenant
Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, a priest, raised in the priestly city of Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin (Jer. 1:1). We don’t know for certain, but it’s possible that his father Hilkiah could be the same high priest who was so influential in the restoration of the Temple and the observances of the Law under the leadership of the righteous King Josiah. (2 Chron. 34:9, 35:8) Jeremiah would have been familiar with the Temple system, likely accompanying his father there as he was growing up and looking forward to his opportunity to enter into service as a priest upon reaching the age of thirty. Consider the impact this revelation from the LORD concerning a New Covenant would have upon a priest of the Old Covenant system. We’ll discuss that more in later installments.
When Jeremiah was commanded to “write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book” (apparently relating to those of chapters 30-33 specifically) by the LORD (Jer. 30:2), Israel, the northern kingdom, had not existed as a nation for approximately the last 125 years. Judah, the southern kingdom, was drawing its last breaths under the weight of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Their future, as prophesied by Jeremiah, was the Babylonian captivity he had foretold in Jer. 25:1-11. In the midst of these conditions, Jeremiah speaks of the promise of a new age to come when the LORD shall make a New Covenant with both the house of Israel and Judah. There, in these words, is the future hope and promise of a reunified nation, a reversal of their fortunes and true atonement of their sins, and a return to the land given their forefathers (Jer. 30:3). Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah’s, had also prophesied of the time to come when God’s people would once more “live in their land” (Ezek. 28:25-26) The consolation of this section of Jeremiah’s letter is restoration.
The New Covenant and the House of Israel
The next question that needs to be answered in light of New Testament revelation is, ‘Who is the house of Israel to which the promise is made?’ This is not an insignificant question brethren, since the influence of premillenial teaching has so confused the concept of who constitutes the house of Israel today. If you go with New Testament scripture, it’s clearly the church.
The Gospel of John helps identify the nation prophesied. Through the gospel, Jesus would “gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:52) These children of God according to New Testament revelation, which should always be used to interpret Old Testament prophetic utterances, are not of the flesh, but are spiritual. This principle harmonizes with the overall theme of Hebrews of moving the believer from the physical to the spiritual. Consider: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” (Rom. 2:28-29) “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.” (Gal. 4:28-29) Other passages that support the church as being the prophesied Israel comprised of Jew and Gentile (house of Israel) are Romans 9:23-26 interpreting Hosea’s prophetic statements of Hos. 1:10-11,and Acts 15:14-18 interpreting Amos 9:11-12 concerning the rebuilt booth of David. The New Covenant was designed for a spiritual-minded Israel!