God’s Mercy Equals Sins Remembered No More
“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
As we prepare to consider the last section of the quote from the prophet Jeremiah concerning the New Covenant which the writer of the letter to the Hebrews cites from Jeremiah 31:33-34, it would serve us well to remember the reason the Holy Spirit moved the writer to pen these words of Jeremiah. The Spirit was seeking to establish firmly for the Hebrew hearers at that time, and the modern day reader now, that Christ Jesus as the eternal High Priest has mediated “a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.” (Heb. 8:6b).
The pull of things physical is a strong distraction to anyone. With the physical Temple still standing and the apostate Jews offering worthless sacrifices at the time of the letter’s circulation among the Hebrews, the true spiritual Jew (circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, not by the letter of the Law, Rom. 2:28-29) would need to properly understand what it meant to be a beneficiary of the New Covenant. Appraisal of all things moves from the physical as a baseline for judgment to the light of the heavenly and/or spiritual. Secondly, proper appreciation of the tremendous blessings and promises incorporated within the New Covenant is moved from the temporal to the eternal. Brethren, these principles are just as critical to us today where we are bombarded by the allure of the physical world that lies in the power of the Evil one.
With that reminder, we’ll close out our look at the declaration from Jeremiah by considering the last statement from the context of Jeremiah’s entire proclamation concerning the New Covenant. “For I will be forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:34b
The Law and mercy
Last week, we contemplated how the announcement of the New Covenant would be seen through the eyes of the prophet Jeremiah in reference to “knowing the LORD”. The promise of people in New Covenant Israel not needing to be taught to know the LORD would have been no small task to grasp fully, and somewhat shocking, since priests were entrusted with teaching the people. Although not understanding all its principles and components completely, it’s likely Jeremiah would have had some idea of the power necessary within the New Covenant to produce the type of people prophesied.
Another component of the New Covenant that would reverberate and challenge his perspective, being acquainted only with the Law and the Temple sacrificial system, would be the idea that sins would be completely forgiven and forgotten forever. How could this be? What happened if they fell short or stumbled, thereby sinning. What sacrifice would they need to bring? Payment had to be made by someone, right? Under the Law, there was no mercy. As the Hebrew writer would later note in chapter ten, verse twenty-eight, “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If one was caught in sin, the Law was not there to extend mercy, it was there to execute judgment.
The Law-Sins remembered
In the Law and sacrifices was the “reminder of sins year by year.” (Heb. 10:3) Year after year, the various sacrifices required would be offered, all “commemorating” the sin of the people. The closest the people could come to forgetting their sins was in the typology of the day of Atonement. The priest, by laying his hands upon the scapegoat and confessing all the peoples sins, would transfer those to the goat. The goat was then led away and out of the sight of the people, released into the wilderness. On the day of Atonement, the peoples’ sins for the year would also be forgiven. Yet, if someone left that proceeding and broke the Law by sinning, it was right back to the Temple to offer the necessary sacrifice as payment to be returned to good standing in Israel and not be cutoff.
God’s mercy and memory loss in Christ
All the Old Testament sacrifices were insufficient to really pay for the peoples’ sins. Because of that, God couldn’t forget the sins of man since they really hadn’t been paid for. The only sacrifice that would produce the right results would be the sacrifice of an unblemished man, offered willingly in payment of mankind’s sins. That man was the beloved son of God, Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect faithful life to God, then in the ultimate example of love and mercy, laid down His life for the sins of mankind. He was the offering, and the one who would be resurrected to present the offering of His blood before the Father in heaven, insuring proper and full payment was executed on behalf of all those who be partakers of this New Covenant. This, as we know according to Scripture, was God’s plan all along. “But go and learn what this means, ‘I DESIRE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:13)
The price being paid, we are now justified before God, no longer burdened with needing to make payment, but are truly free in Christ and our sins remembered no more by the Lord. There is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Praise God for His mercy and memory loss in our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.