The Covenants God Keeps (5): Heart

. 4 min read

Note: Video is incomplete.

Christ Church, Mountain Top
to Worship, Psalm 51.1-17
John 12.20-33
Jeremiah 31.31-34
we come to the climax of the covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures, the “new
covenant” described uniquely by Jeremiah in what some call the most moving
passage in the Hebrew Scriptures (Bright, Anchor Bible). It is a passage that
has been appropriated in the Christian tradition to refer specifically to
Jesus, who offers us “my blood of the new covenant” for the “forgiveness of
sins”. This is an appropriate and biblical usage of the theme, yet we must
remember that the first time the Scriptures describe the “new covenant” is
around 600 or more years before Jesus, as a promise given to our Jewish friends
and neighbors. We must remember, as well, that this new covenant, which
Jeremiah describes in contrast with the old, nevertheless utilizes language
associated with that covenant with Israel at Sinai, language associated with
      For example, in the new covenant, “I will
put my law (Torah) within them” and “they will all know me” (Jeremiah 31.33,
34). And we hear Moses declare, “The word is very near to you; it is in your
mouth and in your heart for you to observe” (Deuteronomy 30.14). And, before
Jeremiah, the prophet Isaiah writes, “The earth will be full of the knowledge
of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11.9; see also Habakkuk 2.14).
There is a contrast between old and new, certainly. There is also continuity.
ministry takes place during the final days of the Jewish state of Judah. The
northern kingdom, Israel, what is spoken of today as the “ten lost tribes” has
already been destroyed. In the south, Jerusalem becomes weaker and weaker, both
in military might and political capital. What bothers the prophet most,
however, is that they are wandering further and further from their God. “You
have lived as a prostitute with many lovers – would you now return to me?”
(Jeremiah 3.1). Yet, in this oracle, God offers hope: “I will build you up
again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take out your
tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful” (Jeremiah 31.4).

      The way of disobedience is at the center
of why the new covenant is necessary. “It will not be like the covenant I made
with their ancestors when I took them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant
which they broke” (31.32). Two weeks ago, we read the basic commands of that
covenant, the “top ten” originally engraved on tablets of stone. What we didn’t
read is that while Moses was up on the mountain receiving these commands – away
from the people for forty days and nights, the same time frame as Lent – Israel
decided that they needed a visible god. They made a golden calf, offered
sacrifices, threw a wild party. When Moses saw it in action, he threw down the
stone tablets, breaking them at the foot of the mountain. But it was already
broken by the people of God living “as a prostitute”. Last week, we looked at
another story of broken covenant. This time, no idols and no orgies, just lots
of whining and complaining. Sometimes, it takes us a long time to learn our
lessons and we only learn, it seems, the hard way. A new covenant is necessary
for all of us.

Write it on their hearts (1) – Motive
(not purity of but location of)
      From stone to heart
      Because I said so
            Children and parents
            Workers and bosses – even pastors!
      Because I love you
Write it on their hearts (2) – Pain
Corinthians 3.3 – “You are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with
ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on
tablets of human hearts.”
      Write: En-Grave
      “Cut a covenant” (the Hebrew expression
for “make a covenant”)
      Theology of pain … a path to
            transformation (Jesus “learned
obedience by what he suffered”)
Not a pursuit of pain for pain’s sake, but a theology of pain, a recognition
that pain is a part of life and we need to think about our own pain in terms of
faith and in relation to God.  This is
not about answers or about simplistic ways to feel better.  And, we must be about the work of Jesus in
bringing healing to the pains of our community and world.
Knowing God
      Relationship/Love (as a way of knowing),
rather than reason or doubt
            Youth class on relationships – what
do you love about Robin?
      Equality – “no longer shall they teach one
another … from the least to the greatest”
      What makes it all possible: “for I will
forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more” (31.34)

      Our faithless hearts – a prostitute with
many lovers – are forgiven … and transformed. We are transformed into “virgin
Israel”, totally fresh, totally clean, totally holy and pure.