They Shall Not Teach, ‘Know The Lord.’
“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
We’ve almost finished our journey through this rich Old Testament quote of the prophet Jeremiah by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews concerning the prophesied New Covenant. The last section of Jeremiah’s inspired words are found in Chapter thirty-one, verses thirty-three and thirty-four: “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.”
This week, we delve into the declaration, “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.”
Know the LORD-Old Covenant style
Jeremiah, as we mentioned some weeks back, was of the house of Hilkiah, a priest in Anathoth. As a priest, he was entrusted by the LORD with teaching the people the law (Lev. 10:11) of the LORD as revealed through the prophet Moses, and, as part of the priesthood, insuring the king wrote a copy of the law upon a scroll in the presence of Levitical priests, so as to insure the king would learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of the law. (Deut. 17:18-19) From the top strata of society in Israel to the lowest strata, the priests taught. These two passages also imply that the word of God in written form was not readily accessible to the common person in Israel. Thus the people’s intimate knowledge of the Law was predicated upon the priests’ faithful execution of their duties.
A reading of the historical books of the Bible, (1 & 2 Kings; 1 & 2 Chronicles) reveals the fact that the priests didn’t do so well in performing that duty. In times of apostate kings, the priests were often not strong enough to overcome the pull of idolatry, causing the Temple to be desecrated, the sacrifices to cease, and feast days to go unobserved. A righteous king would arise here and there in Judah and set things back in motion. A few such kings were Jehoshaphat, who sent the priests to teach “in Judah, having the book of the law of the LORD with them..” (2 Chron. 17:9); Hezekiah, who had the Temple cleansed after being desecrated and charged the priests saying, “My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to minister to Him, and to be His ministers and burn incense.” (2 Chron. 29:11); or Josiah, the great king the prophet Jeremiah himself was very familiar with. When the book of the law of the LORD was discovered during the repairs done to the Temple during his reign, upon hearing the word, repented and began the restoration process among the people to faithfulness by reading the Law to them in public and “removing all the abominations from all the lands belonging to the sons of Israel.” The result? “Throughout all his lifetime they did not turn from following the LORD God of their fathers.” (2 Chr. 34:33) But like all the previous good kings, Josiah died and was replaced by another king who “did evil in the sight of the LORD his God.” (2 Chron. 36:5)
This was the history Jeremiah was familiar with along with the prophecies of coming judgment upon a people who had spurned the Law and would continue to do so. Is it so hard to imagine a surprised Jeremiah when these proclamations of the LORD were first made known to him? No longer necessary to teach his fellow citizen or brother to know the LORD? Huh?
All shall know the LORD
In this New Covenant house of Israel (the church), no longer will a brother or fellow citizen need to be taught to know the Lord. So this is speaking of those who are already in the church. Before anyone can even enter into the church to become one’s brother, neighbor, or fellow citizen of spiritual Israel, a requirement of the gospel is knowing the Lord first. “for ‘Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:13-14) Before you can make the call to be saved, you must know who the Lord is. Thus we see why Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, first established through the Old Testament scripture just exactly who Jesus was, emphasizing that the Father had “made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). You can only know the Jesus of the Bible is the one true Lord and confess Him as such, if you first have come to believe it based upon reasoned proof that the Bible is the word of God, then you can make the call to be saved. That call we know comes in our immersion upon the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:38, 1 Pet. 3:21). Once immersed, we are added to His church (Acts 2:41), becoming a brother and fellow citizen in this spiritual kingdom. Thus we fulfill Jeremiah’s prophetic utterance, “For all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.” Amen!!