31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV)
“And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
It’s a wonderful thing, a great and precious blessing to have God as your God, to belong to him as his people, because he is God, the cattle on a thousand hills are his. He really is your God whether you want him to be or not. He is the one we all answer to on our deathbeds. He is the one who created us and ordered the seasons. He is the one who has made this day for us to rejoice and be glad, the maker of heaven and earth. And it is his law that kills, the law written in letters upon stone, millstones for our necks, the covenant he made with the Fathers of Israel in the time of Moses when he took them by the hand, covenanted with them like a husband to a wife, to be their God, but they broke his covenant. They were unfaithful.
Covenants are a bit like that. Marriage is perhaps the one covenant we most have experience with in this life. It is perhaps also the hardest type of covenant there is to live with and by also. So difficult people are afraid to enter in to this covenant today. There are different types of covenants, but most, unlike a will or testament, have a two way street aspect to them. Two parties bound to do their part. God is faithful and Israel the bride makes like Gomer, goes after other gods, hires herself out chasing the glory of this world, when it was really God all along who had given her all she had, even as it is God who gives daily bread to all evil people. It was God who gave the Egyptians all the wealth the Israelites plundered as they left asking their masters and mistresses for gold and jewelry. This world belongs to God and everything in it too, everything we receive including our very own lives is a gift from him. And this is true whether or not we honor him with it.
And, of course, this is what God wants. When he speaks here of being their God, and them being his people, he speaks of you. It is a special relationship that God wants with you. It is actually a special relationship that he wants to have with all people. And it is this that he promises here. When he talks about a new covenant, not like the one the fathers broke, a new covenant that cannot be broken. A new covenant that fulfills the old in the death of his son, Jesus Christ the Son of Man, the new testament in his blood. This covenant is not like the old, because it is one of promise on behalf of God to forgive sins and remember iniquity no more.
The old covenant was written on stone, but the new on our hearts. The old was a matter of letter, the new a matter of Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit that comes with baptism, a circumcision made not with hands. Now is the Spirit within us, daily and richly forgiving all our sins, that we know the Lord now intimately the way a husband knows a wife, and a wife her husband. It isn’t a matter of law, but of love. And though we in this life never truly love God with all our heart soul and mind, or our neighbor as ourselves, though our conscience be ever able to recount times when we showed less patience than Job, when tired we were perhaps harsher with our children than was warranted, annoyed by a spouse, broken and mad at ourselves, yet we know now through the death and resurrection of Jesus the love of God, who loves you, yes, even the whole world with all his heart all his mind and all his soul even with his very own life itself the blood of the new testament shed for the forgiveness of many.