St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

May We Treasure Our New And Better Covenant

Sermon on Jeremiah 31:31-34

Text: “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

How often don’t you hear a television or radio commercial telling you that there product is “new and improved”? They are calling your attention to the fact that the old product has been changed for the better. What this implies is that the old product was lacking in some way or another and so the company has changed it. Now, this product will meet your needs. This morning, we want to look at something that truly is new and improved. MAY WE TREASURE OUR NEW AND BETTER COVENANT. 1. Better, Because It Will Not Fail. 2. Better, Because It Is Written In Our Hearts. 3. Better, Because It Offers Full And Free Forgiveness.

First of all, we would do well to explain the word, “covenant.” A covenant is an agreement between two people, a contract, if you will. In the Old Testament, when an agreement was reached between two parties, whether it be political or financial, an animal would be cut in half and then laid on the ground, with some space between the two halves. The two people who had made this covenant would walk together between the two halves. This signified their pledge that the same thing should happen to them as had happened to this animal, if they should break their word. The making of a covenant was a very solemn occasion.

God made a covenant with his people, Israel, at Mt. Sinai. After God gave his law to the people, he told them, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5&6) God was setting up a covenant with Israel. He said, ‘If you keep my command, I will bless you. If you do not, I will punish you.’ This is a very simple covenant. God told them that they would be blessed or punished, depending on their conduct. After the people heard God’s law, they said, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.” (Exodus 24:7) They pledged themselves to be faithful to the covenant that they entered into with God.

However, as verse 32 of our text points out, “They broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them.” The Lord likens his covenant to a marriage vow. He says that he was faithful. He kept his part of the covenant. The people of Israel were like an unfaithful wife. Throughout the Old Testament, the people of Israel are accused of spiritual adultery, as they left their faithful Lord to run after false gods and other sins. They broke the covenant. They did not keep their part of the bargain. Now, God, who is a just God, must punish them. If they had kept their part perfectly, there would have been life. However, since they did not, their sins had earned the punishment of death. The covenant failed. Please note that it was not God who had failed. God was faithful. It was man who failed.

So God, in his love for mankind, tells the people of Israel, “The days are coming . . . when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors.” (Verses 31&32) God would make a new covenant that was different than this first covenant. This one would not fail because it would not depend in any way upon man and his actions. Mankind is unable, because he is sinful, to keep any part of an agreement with God. Now, in the new covenant, God would do everything. Because God is perfect and does all things perfectly, this covenant would not fail. That is one reason why this new covenant is better than the old.

This new covenant would also be better because it will be written on the heart. The old covenant was handed to Moses on Mt. Sinai on two tablets of stone. It was written there so that all people could see it. Yet, even though they saw the words of the covenant, it did not necessarily mean that they would make it their own. There were many people who could and did leave the words of the covenant lie there.

This is not the case with the new covenant. This one would be written on the heart of all who are a part of this covenant. The covenant becomes a part of the person. It has become the way that the person lives their lives. He is thoroughly acquainted with the new covenant that God has made with man.

God describes the knowledge that will be had, “No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Verse 34) This doesn’t mean that there will be no more education. We can all continue to grow in our knowledge of God and his love for us. Rather, the knowledge that is spoken of here is a knowing by faith. If you have faith, there is nothing that you can add to it. This is what makes people a part of the new covenant. If you have faith, you have entered into this covenant with God, and it was God who gave you this faith. When a person is brought to faith, this new covenant becomes a part of their lives. A New Man is created that is perfectly in tune with what is pleasing to God. The Christian will want to do things that are pleasing to God, because of the new covenant that is written in their hearts by faith. This new covenant is better than the old because it is written on our hearts.

This new covenant is also better because it offers full and free forgiveness. The Old Covenant of the Law did not do so. The Old Covenant was unforgiving. It was cut and dried that those who kept God’s Law perfectly would have eternal life. Those who did not, who even failed once, would be punished with eternal death. In the Old Covenant, eternal life was conditional. It depended on the person’s perfection. There was no room for any imperfection. In the end, the Old Covenant could only offer death, because all people are sinful.

In contrast, the New Covenant offers full and free forgiveness. The Lord says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Verse 34) All of the sins that we have committed will be forgiven. God tells us just how completely we are forgiven, by saying that he will “remember their sins no more.” All of the things that we have ever done wrong are gone from God’s sight. Because we are part of this New Covenant, all of our sins are forgiven.

This is true because of what Jesus did for us. His perfect life satisfied God’s demands for perfection. His blood assures us that all of our sins are forgiven. Because Jesus died for the entire world, God forgives all sins. Then, God brings his new covenant in and tells us that whoever believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin will have eternal life. The New Covenant that we become a part of when we are brought to faith offers and gives us eternal life. Life is ours, both now and for eternity, because of what Jesus has done for us. The New Covenant offers and gives full and free forgiveness.

This morning we have compared the Old and New Covenants. We have seen that the New is better than the Old. The New Covenant will not fail because it depends on an unfailing, perfect God rather than faulty man. The New Covenant has been written on our hearts and has become a part of our lives. The Old Covenant can only condemn us because of our sins. The New Covenant gives full and free forgiveness of these sins. Clearly, the New is better than the Old. We praise our God that he loved us so much that he offered a New Covenant to a sinful world, which did not deserve his mercy. We thank him for everything that he has done for us, for we could never have done anything on our own. We also want to show our love to God by following the New Covenant that is written in our hearts. May we praise our God for the New and Better Covenant. May he be forever praised. Amen.