March 20-22, 2021
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34
“IT’S A NEW COVENANT!”
SERMON TEXT: Jeremiah 31:31-34 (EHV) “Yes, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, although I was a husband to them, declares the Lord. 33But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds, and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34No longer will each one teach his neighbor, or each one teach his brother, saying, “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 guilt, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Just imagine you are on the game show The Price is Right. You get picked and make the right bid. They reveal what you can win. “It’s a new car!” You know what happens next. Screams and cheers from the crowd and the best reaction from the contestants. The opportunity to win a new car is just so exciting. And to be sure there is something to be said about the excitement of something new, like our new addition, or new clothes, or new shoes for my wife. Excitement and appreciation for something new builds when the old is worn out and broken.
That’s what God had the prophet Jeremiah announce. It was about 600 years before Jesus was born. The prophet Jeremiah announced something new was coming, a new covenant. Any of the people back then who truly understood the covenant they were living under would be so excited at the prospect of a new covenant with God to replace the old. I imagine them screaming. “It’s a new covenant!” Things are a little different with us. We are living in the days the Lord was talking about, the time of the New Covenant. It’s what the Church year season of Lent points us to: how Jesus marches to Jerusalem to deliver a new covenant and then signs and seals it with His blood. Now here’s the problem. When you’ve had something new for a while, it doesn’t feel new anymore, even if it’s in perfect condition. It starts to feel old. And what happens with to us with stuff that feels old? We don’t appreciate it anymore. So today let’s eagerly examine the two covenants God put into place, the old and the new, with the goal that we will walk out of here once again excited that we have a new covenant!
Now the best way to do this is simply to have a side by side comparison of the old and the new covenants which is really a comparison of life for believers in the Old Testament to life for believers in the New Testament. That’s what the word testament means, covenant. It’s important to remember that believers in the Old Testament were saved by believing in the Savior who would come and believers in the New Testament are saved by believing in the Savior who has come. Same Savior. Jesus. Life was very different however. Let’s look at some of the differences between old and new.
First, the Old. It was given only to the Old Testament nation of Israel. Anyone who wanted to be a part of it would have to walk like an Israeli and by that I mean live like them and follow all the rules. Secondly it was put in place by a man, a great man, but just a man. Moses delivered the covenant to Old Testament Israel. Thirdly, the Old Covenant was conditional, two sided. God promised He would do certain things for the nation of Israel like fight their wars and bless their crops and herds. The people had to do their part and keep the laws of the covenant. And there were lots of them like food laws. Certain foods were considered unclean. Did you know that if you lived at the time of the Old Covenant you would never get to eat a BLT or a half or full rack of ribs or have eggs with bacon for breakfast, not even bacon bits on your salad? You would not have ham and rolls for Sunday lunch like so much of the rest of Milwaukee. Pork was an unclean food. Speaking of unclean there were all kinds of laws that made you unclean for a period of time which meant you could not come before God and had to be isolated from other people. You were unclean if you were near a dead body of man or beast. Unclean if you had a rash. All kinds of natural body functions made you unclean. When you learn all those laws you wonder how anybody spent any time being clean. But actually that was one of the points. You can’t clean yourself up. If you lived at the time of the Old Covenant you would have to worship on Saturday and you have to make your schedule work around that day. No going to Badger games. Nothing that resembled work. Fourthly the Old Covenant was bloody all the time. Take a read through Leviticus and find out about the many, many animal sacrifices that were required. Kids when you came to church you would see and smell a lot of blood. I’d have to be an expert butcher. Now the reason for all of this is that the Old Covenant was a teaching covenant. It taught very bluntly that sin makes you unclean so you can’t come to God. Sin is horrible and requires payment in blood and death. Either the sinner paid or a substitute and as soon as I say that word substitute you know what the Old Covenant was designed to do, point to and picture Jesus. Finally the Old Covenant was a broken covenant. It forced you to say, “I must. I have to. I can’t.” Actually do you know how long it took the Old Testament nation of Israel to break their side of the covenant? Remember what Moses found when he came down Mt. Sinai? The Golden Calf. Do you think we could have done better?
What good news to hear “It’s a New Covenant!” “Yes, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, although I was a husband to them, declares the Lord. 33But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds, and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34No longer will each one teach his neighbor, or each one teach his brother, saying, “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 guilt, and I will remember their sins no more.” Let’s look now at the new Covenant that you and I get to live under. First, it’s for everybody, not one nation. For God so loved the world. Secondly it was put into effect by Jesus Himself, the only Son of God. Thirdly it’s unconditional. It’s one sided. It’s all God’s doing. Six separate times God says “I will” when talking about the new covenant. It’s a covenant that frees us from those unkeepable Old Testament laws. So fire up your Traeger and smoke that pork but just remember as you do so that life under the New Covenant means whether you eat, drink or whatever you do, you can do it all for the glory of God. That happens my friends when realize that our freedom from “I have to obey the law” is replaced with the freedom of “I get to” of the Gospel. Jesus has perfectly obeyed for you in this New Covenant. So obedience flows from love. It’s not I must, I have to, I can’t. It’s I want to, I get to, I will. And when we fail. Did you hear what He said? “For I will forgive their guilt, and I will remember their sins no more.” With God nothing is impossible, even forgetting and what He forgets is our sins. And He can do that because the New Covenant was put into effect with the blood of Jesus shed one time on the cross which made full payment for all sin. And that payment points to another difference. The New Covenant is permanent. It can’t be broken because it’s all on God. This covenant makes us God’s people forever! As great as we might think it is to be able to eat Easter ham and not worry that what we eat or touch will make us unclean what’s so much better is to know that forever is real and forever is with God and forever is with all my fellow believers. It’s a new covenant!
Now I suspect that those who win a new car on a game show gradually lose their excitement—especially when they realize they owe taxes on what they won. Then the new car becomes old. Friends, let’s not let that happen with us. It’s a new covenant. God’s mercies are new every morning. Every day you wake up you have a fresh start because God remembers your sins no more. And to help us remember Jesus gave us something that every time we see it, every time we participate, is to lead to renewed excitement and joy. You know what that is. “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” What a blessing! Amen.