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An Exposition of
Jeremiah 31:31-37

by Andrew Corbett

(Jer 31:31-37 NIV) "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers 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. "This is the covenant I will make with the house 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. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man 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 wickedness and will remember their sins no more. This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD Almighty is his name: Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, "will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me." This is what the LORD says: "Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done," declares the LORD.

This is a controversial passage even among evangelical conservatives. It presents a major problem to liberals due to its explicit prophetic nature. This problem lies in its fulfilment. If this is a fulfilled prophecy, then the liberal is immediately confronted with evidence for divine inspiration of Scripture. For the evangelical conservative, the interpretation is either done dispensationally, or in a Reformed fashion.

INSPIRATION

The Protestant System of Hermeneutics regards Scripture as inspired by God. This foundation of our interpretational system demands that we treat all Scripture with due respect and prayerfulness for we are dealing with God's message through man to man. Therefore we seek God's intended message in the midst of this passage rather than looking to put our own interpretation into the passage.

The inspiration of this particular passage is supported by its prophetic nature. God said that He would establish a new covenant with His people, and this is precisely what Christ mediated.

(Luke 22:20 NIV) In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."

(Heb 9:15 NIV) For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

The other aspect to this passage's inspiration is found in its frequent use of the term "the Lord says" and "declares the Lord". This passage overtly claims its inspiration from God. While liberals can claim that God's Word is contained within Scripture, this surely can not be said of this passage. On the basis of this passage being inspired by God, we proceed to interpret it with much care.

OUR GOAL

Our primary goal is not to speculate endlessly as to possible interpretations. We seek to know what God's Word is to us within this passage. We are not placing devotional outcomes above proper exegetical processes. But we are looking for the application of God's Word in daily living after we have ascertained its original intention.

From this passage we see that it was God's intention to do away with the Old Covenant and bring in a New one. We are told that this covenant would not be a legalistic one. It would be a covenant where its laws will be written in our minds and placed upon our hearts.

(Jer 31:33 NIV) "This is the covenant I will make with the house 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."

Therefore if we have entered into this New Covenant with God, we are not bound to external rules and laws. God does not expect us to work for our salvation. Redemption is a matter of allowing God to do something inside us. While the Old Covenant was based on Law, the New Covenant would be based on a relationship with God Himself. The statement that He would be our God and we would be His people is a covenant expression between two people entering into a relationship. God was looking for a relationship with His people under the New Covenant. Realising this is a source of strength to the believer struggling under a weight of trying to earn favour with God.

CONTINUE WITH THIS ARTICLE


1. (Jer 29:10 NIV) This is what the LORD says: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.

2. Ramm, 1995 (1970):264

3. Ramm, 1995 (1970):265


© 2001, Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania

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