The New Covenant

by Joseph Hunting

"'Behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, '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 bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,' says the LORD.

'But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: after those days' says the LORD, 'I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

'No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' says the LORD. 'For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'" (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

In Jeremiah's time Israel was still under the terms of the covenant made with them at Mt. Sinai. That was a conditional covenant based on the promise: "IF you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people on the face of the earth, for all the earth is mine" (Exodus 19:5), and Israel ratified the covenant by replying: "All that the LORD has spoken we will do."

Also it is important to note that the New Covenant is to be made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah -- not with Syria, Egypt, Russia, U.S.A. or Britain, or anyone else for that matter. It's an agreement that will be made by God with Israel and Judah. So how do Gentiles come to be under the terms of the New Covenant? In writing to the Galatians Paul tells us that when Gentiles have been redeemed by the Messiah they are adopted as sons, and he also teaches (Romans chapter 11) that Gentiles, as wild olives, have been grafted contrary to nature into the good olive tree which is the true Israel of God.

Jeremiah says that this New Covenant is "not according to the covenant" God made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt. That covenant of course was the Law which was given at Mt. Sinai which the people broke even as it was offered to them (the episode of the golden calf). So the New Covenant is not a revised form of the old one. Nor is it modified in any way to suit changing conditions, such as Israel trying to keep the Law without a Temple, without a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin for nearly two thousand years. The New Covenant is absolutely separate from the Law; it is NOT according to the Mosaic covenant made at Sinai.

We read further in the teaching of Jeremiah concerning the New Covenant that this covenant God will make "with the house of Israel" will be "after those days" , when "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Looking back over the events of history we can identify just when the Lord made that covenant with Israel. It was on the 14th day of Nisan in the Jewish calendar in 32 A.D., and the account of this event is recorded for us in Luke 22: "Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover ... and when the hour had come, he (Yeshua) sat down, and the twelve apostles with him ... and he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me'. Likewise he also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.'"

Then after those days God said He would put His law in their minds and write it on their hearts, which thing He did on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts chapter 2 when at least three thousand Jewish believers were added to the number of disciples gathered together in Jerusalem for the Feast celebration. At that time God did indeed do a new thing in Israel. Those believers did become His people and He did become their God.

And the outworking of the New Covenant is progressive. Whereas it was made with Israel on the 14th Nisan in that year, and God wrote it on the hearts of the believers on the Day of Pentecost, it didn't end there. It has been in force ever since, right up to the present day, and it will remain in force until the Lord the Messiah comes again in power and great glory.

With this in mind Jeremiah penned the next phase of the New Covenant and its outworking. "No more shall every man teach his neighbour ... saying 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them ... for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more."

In its primary application this promise is to Israel, and it will take the Millennium to achieve a redeemed and restored Israel, the head and not the tail among the nations on earth. As we compare Scripture with Scripture we marvel at the power of Almighty God to bring about repentance and faith in His people that will ultimately bring Him back to reign as King of kings and LORD of lords.

Jeremiah certainly dispels any doubts man may have about God's ability to fulfil His Word regarding the New Covenant and Israel. Replacement Theology and doubt and unbelief are burned to ashes by the extraordinary lengths God has gone to in order to confirm His Word regarding His people Israel.

"'Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night ... If those ordinances depart from before me,' says the LORD, 'then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before me for ever.'

"Thus says the LORD: '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 LORD."