“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” —Deuteronomy 30:6
When—then, then—when, and in between the two thens, the heart of the passage, which is a passage about the heart. That’s the structure of our text. Antecedent, consequent, the heart, consequent, antecedent.
But as we begin to analyze the antecedent, it is critical that we determine if the antecedent is temporal or conditional. Is the antecedent an “if” or a “when?” Is this an if-then or a when-then statement? While there is indeed an “if-ness” that is sensed on the surface, it is the “when-ness” of this passage that is most pronounced. This passage is not so much telling us what should be, though it does speak to that, as it is telling us what will be.
The central portion of our text is made up of promises, the consequents. At the heart of these promises is a promise that stands out. It is a promise that meets the conditions necessary for all the other promises. If you just lump all the promises together, you have a chicken or the egg conundrum. It appears that the chicken is laying the egg that hatches the very same aforementioned chicken. When Israel returns to Yahweh and loves Him with all her heart and all her soul, then God will restore her. But then, we are told that Yahweh will circumcise the hearts of His people so that they love him with all their heart and all their soul. Here is a promise that meets the temporal conditions that result in the consequent blessings promised. Here is a promise that guarantees all the other promises. That is why we have a “when” instead of an “if.” God will give them a new heart. They will return. He will bless.
The Old Covenant is not identical to the New, but neither is it antithetical to it. The Old is not an administration of the New, but it does advance it. The Old holds forth the New in promise. The gospel flower of the New that comes into full bloom in Christ is held forth at this point by the stem of the law as a bud of promise. Everything about the Old shouts flower, but, again, it holds it forth as a bud of promise. It is with Christ that spring comes and the bud blooms. And with the budding flower, seed falls to the ground. And that seed does not return void. It accomplishes God’s purpose. It brings forth life. And that life is a new heart—anew heart that loves Yahweh with its all, that hears his voice, that obeys His commands.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” —Deuteronomy 5:6
Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The real division of the Bible is this: first, everything you get from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 3:14; then everything from Genesis 3:15 to the very end of the Bible.” Spot on, and yet, we must also say that here we come to another major dividing line, not simply within Scripture itself, but especially in the church. Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum state, “It is the interpretation of the relation of the old covenant to the new the is the basis of all the major divisions among Christians, i.e., all the denominational differences derive ultimately from different understandings of the covenant at Sinai to us today.” While I would argue that the differences between we Reformed Baptists and our Presbyterian brothers go all the way back to Genesis 3, it is here that they come to a head.
Also, it is here that we diverge sharply with our Dispensational friends. And the division is growing generally among Christians and Evangelical churches for whom the Old Testament, the Law, is avoided like the Judean wilderness. No one lives there anymore. It’s flyover territory. We may mine the OT for some illustrations and inspirational stories. We may rip some sentimental lines from the Psalms or grab a proverb or two when needed, but can we say with Psalmist, “Oh how I love your law! It is my mediation all the day,” (Psalm 119:97).
I’m afraid that Andy Stanley’s asinine exhortation that the church needs to unhitch her faith from the Old Testament, though many reacted against it and Andy himself tried to walk it back, wasn’t really a needed exhortation. We largely are unhitched.
As for those of us who are hitched, or who wish to be, do we know what it is that we’re pulling? We know we’re hauling law, but do we recognize that the trailer itself on which the law rests is covenant? Further, do we realize that this covenant is one of redemption and grace? Hijacking Paul’s contrast of the Old and the New and driving it places he never intended, we pit the Old and the New against one another. Because we do, we now don’t know where we’re going. While we will largely still agree that the law is meant to drive us to grace, we’ve forgotten that grace also leads us back to the law.
Additionally, because we don’t know the Old, our supposed knowledge of the New is hollowed out. We’ve lost the plot, the background, the anticipations, the images, the shadows, the promises, the types, and the covenant soil out of which the New Covenant blooms. In short, we’ve become strangers to the covenants of promise.
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” —Genesis 17:1–2
When the covenant was cut with Abram in Genesis 15, God walked it alone. Concerning the covenant promises, Abram had asked God, “How shall I know…?” (Genesis 15:8). God instructed Abram to bring him several animals. Abram cut them in half and laid the pieces opposite one another. Manifest as something like a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, God passes between the pieces. Normally, when a covenant was made, both parties would walk through the pieces, pledging covenant loyalty and invoking a curse on themselves should they fail to keep covenant. But God walked it alone.
In Genesis 12, Abram walks, leaving Haran to journey to the land God would show him. In Genesis 17, Abraham walks before God, keeping covenant, circumcising all the males in his household. Between Abraham’s two walkings, God walks it alone. and it is there, in Genesis 15, where Abram does nothing but believe God’s word, that we are told, “he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
Paul makes a big deal of this order in Romans 4 telling us that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Romans 4:11–12; emphasis mine). The order is critical. It is an order one must keep in mind when they read “walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly” (Genesis 17:1–2; emphasis mine).
Before the sign, the signified. God circumcises before Abraham does. There is a circumcision without which circumcision means nothing. Because God walked it alone, Abraham walks. His covenant faithfulness ensures ours.
Saints, Jesus walked it alone. He walked before God all His days to be your righteousness. He walked to the cross to bear the wrath of the Almighty for your sin. He walked out of the tomb conquering death and Satan. Because He walked it alone, you walk in Him. Because He died and rose, you have died and risen and may be baptized. Because He circumcised your heart, you may love. Because of His covenant faithfulness you may keep covenant.
“And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’
And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’
Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’
And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” —Genesis 15:4-6
When all you have is God’s covenant word, you already have all you need. Twice Yahweh comes to Abram repeating His covenant promises (15:1, 7). Twice Abram replies with a lament of faith mingled with doubt.
“O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?…
O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” (Genesis 15:2, 8; emphasis mine).
“What will you give?” While Yahweh does lead Abram to look at the stars, these simply serve as an illustration of the Word. When Abram doubts the Word, Yahweh gives him the Word. Abram has nothing more in his hand, but the Word is once again laid on his heart.
“How am I to know?” While Yahweh does formally establish a covenant with Abram at this juncture, nothing of the promise is realized. This covenant act is simply one reinforcing the covenant promises already made. God has spoken. Now He speaks louder as it were, still, this covenant act is essentially the promise spoken again. God had spoken. It will certainly be. He speaks again in this act to emphasize to Abram the certainty of His promise. When Abram doubts the Word, God still essentially gives him the Word.
All the days of our pilgrimage, the fullness of the promise will ultimately lie ahead of us. All the days of our pilgrimage, we will have nothing but the Word, sacraments, and our Lord’s covenant presence with us as His people. This is all we need. As we sojourn, as far as the promise of full and final deliverance from sin and of a land not marred by its curse, we have nothing but the Word. And in this, we have all that we need, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. When you doubt the Word, cry out to your covenant Lord, that by His Spirit, He would minister the word of Christ to you afresh.
What has he given? He has given us Christ. He has given us His Word testifying of Christ.
How are we to know? He has given us Christ. He has given us His Word testifying of Christ.
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. —Genesis 9:12–15
Everyday of humanity’s existence is full of complaint at the curse come for man’s violating the covenant of creation while little gratitude is shown for God’s faithfulness to the Noahic covenant that preserves creation despite our unceasing sinfulness. We complain of the curse we have merited and offer no thanks for the faithfulness of God in relation to the rainbow that hangs in the sky.
The Noahic covenant might be the most unappreciated of covenants by those bound by it. At least mankind acknowledges the covenant of creation in a sense by his grumbling at its enduring curse. But the common grace that rains down on all man in the Noahic covenant is unacknowledged. It is assumed. It is too common to treat God’s common grace as a common thing. It is not.
All that is, is now, because God remains faithful to this covenant. Even among the saints this covenant is neglected. We study the others. That’s where the controversy and interest is. But among orthodox theologians, everyone agrees for the most part on the substance of the Noahic covenant. Ho hum. So common.
We are the poorer for our lack of attention to this covenant of common grace, this covenant of preservation. Brown and Keele write,
“At the end of God’s multi-colored bow rests a theological pot of gold. The Lord’s promise not to destroy the world is a covenant, with an integral place in Reformed theology. The Noahic covenant is the covenant of common grace, the realm of our everyday lives under the sun. Its theological significance extends in several directions. It broadcasts how God governs this world and its goodness. It discloses some of man’s obligations and roles in the world, and it even points us to Christ. The Noahic covenant is crucial to a biblical understanding of the world and is a necessary part of covenant theology.”
God’s common grace is comely. It is surprising and stunning. His common grace is uncommonly wondrous. It doesn’t save, but it does preserve. Without this preservation of humanity there would be no humanity to save. Let’s not fail to gaze upon God’s bow hung in the sky and wonder at the rich colors of this covenant with all its blessings of common grace upon creation fallen under the curse for man’s disobedience.
"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said “The real division of the Bible is this: first, everything you get from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 3:14; then everything from Genesis 3:15 to the very end of the Bible.” Not only is this spot the critical point at which history is divided, it is also the point at which the two main branches of covenant theologians part: credobaptists and paedobaptists. So sharp is the division, that some of my paedo brothers would snicker at me thinking myself a reformed or covenant theologian at all. That’s ok. I’ll make my jokes too. Hang around.
Historically, the fundamental parting point between the two isn’t any text dealing specifically with baptism, but in how we understand what is called the “Covenant of Grace.” The Second London Baptist Confession (LCF), also known as the 1689 Baptist Confession, is a revision of the Westminster Confession (WCF). This speaks to the great affinity we have with our Presbyterian brothers. But in examining chapter 7 of each of these confessions, French Baptist theologian Pascal Denault says, “This is the most discordant passage of the confessions of faith. Knowing that the Baptists made every effort to follow the Westminster standards as much as possible when they wrote their confession of faith, the originality of their formulation of the Covenant of Grace is highly significant.” Where chapter 7 of the WCF has seven articles, the LCF has only three. And even where the LCF follows the WCF in form, the content is significantly different. For instance, WCF 7.5 reads,
“This covenant [referred to as the “covenant of grace” in the previous article] was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation, and is called the Old Testament.”
The next section, after speaking of the fulness that comes in gospel and Christ, goes on to state, “There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.” In contrast, the LCF 7.3 reads,
“This covenant [again previously identified as “the covenant of grace”] is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament; and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect; and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.”
Our Baptists forefathers didn’t want to speak of there being one covenant with two administrations, but rather, one covenant that is progressively revealed, and further, it is first revealed as a promise. And surprisingly and beautifully, that promise is housed in a curse under the arrangement of the covenant of creation.
I’ve made the statement that while our presbyterian brothers can get too crazy with the glue, we baptists can get too excited with the scissors. Nonetheless, I believe we Baptists are a bit more mature in our use of the scissors. If my presbyterian brothers are like third graders with the paste here and there, we baptists are like fifth graders with the scissors. But we can’t really boast, because what we are cutting away from is a masterpiece of their making. A savant of a third grader made the masterpiece, but then added some silly little bit. It’s like the Mona Lisa, but with a little Superman flying in the corner. All we fifth graders did was cut away that last little bit and make it better. You’re welcome. Semper Reformanda!
Yet, being fifth graders, we must admit there is room for improvement. May I be so bold as to presume to take the scissors to both the 2nd London and the Westminster confessions? I do so with confidence that Scripture demands it and because the best Baptist explanations, in my opinion, demand such a change.
I don’t think we should speak of a covenant of grace as being “made” at all anywhere in the Old Testament, as both the WCF and LCF do just prior to these statements (WCF 7.3; LCF 7.2). Instead, I would propose we say that the New Covenant itself was promised in Genesis 3. It is a potent promise to be sure, but only a promise at this point. The New Covenant isn’t covertly established here or there in the Old under an alias only to throw off the disguise in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. The New Covenant isn’t made or established at this point, it is promised, and that promise continues to expand and be clarified through each successive covenant.
And it is here where I think our Baptist forefathers got a bit wild with the scissors. Again, WCF 7.5 speaks of the covenant of grace being administered in the time of the law by “promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore signifying Christ to come.” While I would never want to speak of the Old Covenant as being an administration of the Covenant of Grace, I do believe we must say that it, along with the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, do minister the New Covenant. They minister it as a promise held out within them. The covenants of old are not themselves administrations of the new, but they do minister the new in promise. This is why Ephesians 2:12 speaks of them as “covenants of promise.” This is why the New Covenant is new! Because in it, what was promised is now established by the shed blood of Christ. We must cut the covenants realizing that covenants are cut. The cutting that establishes the New Covenant is the blood of Christ.
“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:15–22).
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” —Genesis 2:16–17
“Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship,” so many an evangelical says. Ok, but what kind of relationship is it? It is a covenantal one. The saint’s relationship to God is a covenantal relationship and because that is so, we may say it is a religious relationship, for covenants involve oaths, vows, commandments, and sacrifices.
Also, insofar as we say Christianity is a relationship, that alone doesn’t make the Christian distinct from any other man. All men relate to God covenantally. The question isn’t whether or not you have a relationship with God, but what kind of relationship it is? Do you relate to God in Adam, under the covenant of creation, as one cursed, or, do you relate to God in Christ, under the new covenant, as one blessed?
As man fell in Adam, so He is redeemed in Christ. Man fell covenantally. He is redeemed covenantally. Both Adam and Christ function as covenant heads. A study of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 makes this clear and proves illuminating for Genesis 1 and 2. As Adam’s disobedience condemns, so Christ’s obedience justifies. In Adam we see the old humanity, fallen. In Christ we see a new humanity, raised up.
We call this covenant made with Adam the covenant of creation or the covenant of works and it is still in effect; not with promise, but with condemnation. It is in effect on all humanity as violated in Adam. When God makes a covenant, He makes it for keeps. His yes is yes and His no is no. He doesn’t make covenants lightly to break them once man has broken them. Left to himself, this is where man is, covenantally in Adam.
If you think you got a bad rep in Adam consider two things. First, how many times have you proven that Adam represented you well? You are no fine red citizen with an immoral blue representative. Second, if you are to have any hope of salvation, you want it so that another can rep you as your federal head. You are saved in a sense by the covenant of works. Saints, we are saved by works. They’re just not our own. Jesus bore the curse of God for our law breaking and He obeyed the Father perfectly in our place meriting our salvation that we might be clothed with His righteousness. He is the second Adam, the head of a new humanity.
And blessed be our God, things are now far better for us in Christ than they ever could have been in Adam. In Christ, we are not simply made in the image of God; we are being conformed to image of the Son. In Adam, there is the possibility of falling; in Christ, there is the assurance we never will. In Adam, the creation under man’s feet was under threat of a possible curse. In Christ, all is made new, and eternally glorious.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Why study the covenants? Saints, because they’re ours. Your Bible is divided up into an Old Testament and a New Testament. “Testament” is an unfortunate though understandable rendering. “Covenant” is the idea. Old Covenant. New Covenant. That’s your Bible.
It is true that these labels are man made, but they are goodun’s. Read Hebrews again if you doubt that. If you don’t doubt it, then you can reach this conclusion: you cannot understand your Bible if you do not understand covenant. “Covenant” is like the spine of your Bible holding all its pages together. The Bible is thoroughly covenantal. The covenants are yours the way the Bible is yours. Because the Bible itself is covenantal through and through and because the covenants are yours, the Bible is yours.
There are many who would dispute this. Dispensationalist Bibles have weak spines. When you pick up a Scofield or Ryrie study Bible, a lot of stuff falls out. Dispensationalism has been the majority report within Evangelicalism since shortly after J.N. Darby planted the invasive seeds of it in the mid 19th century. Dispensationalism basically sorts all the Bible into one of two boxes labeled “Ethnic Israel” and “Spiritual Church.” Sure, upon close examination they say there are seven boxes in total, but those others are more like jewelry boxes whereas these two are shipping containers. Progressive dispensationalists allow some things to go into both boxes, but for the classic guys like Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, those boxes didn’t leak. Regardless, in both schemes, progressive and classic, there are two distinct plans, one for ethnic Israel, one for the church. The people of God are divided, and thus, so too is the Bible.
But what God has joined together, let not man separate. Two have become one, Jew and Gentile are made a new humanity, a singular people in Christ. All that was foreshadowed in the Old Covenant, the saints enjoy in fulness. Abraham is ours. Our hearts have been circumcised. The blood of the Passover Lamb marks us. We draw near to the most holy place coming to a throne of Grace. We are part of the true Exodus. Like the patriarchs, we are exiles looking for that city whose builder and maker is God. We are heirs according to the promise—the promise made in the Old Testament.
Let us not be strangers to what we are no longer strangers to—the covenants of promise. The covenants (plural) promised (singular) the Christ. In Christ, all of God’s promises are yes to His people, and by His blood, we are part of that people.
Saints, behold, days are coming. Days are coming when Yahweh “will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast,” (v. 27). Days are coming when Yahweh “will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” (v. 31). Days are coming when “the city shall be rebuilt for the LORD,” (v. 38). These days are the focus of what is called “The Book of Consolation” (running from Jeremiah 30–33). The Book of Consolation is a bright star in the dark night of Judah’s judgment. Jeremiah has long warned Judah of the darkness of exile, but here, he tells them that they do not go into exile without a light of hope.
The same key phrase introduces the book in 30:3: “For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” Later in our text, the same hope is expressed with the phrases, “it shall come to pass” (v. 28), and “in those days,” (v. 29). Jeremiah 30:24, after speaking of the fierce judgment that is soon to break upon them, promises, “In the latter days you will understand this.” In Jeremiah 31:1 we read, “At that time, declares the LORD, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.” In 31:6 God tells them, “For there shall be a day when watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim: ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God’ ” (all emphasis mine). These coming days are the fulfillment of that frequently mutilated promise of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This future, this hope, is so much more epic than what many make of it.
These days, all these promises of restoration, the fullness of the consolation held out for the people of God—all this is to be realized in the Christ, God’s king, the Son of David.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them” (30:8–9; emphasis mine).
Though “The Book of Consolation” is theologian speak, a label invented by men for this distinct portion of Scripture, it is a near perfect one, for these promises and the comfort extended therein are exactly what Simeon looked forward to.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:25–32; emphasis mine).
So then, these days have come and they are coming. They are here now, but not fully here yet. The eschatological promises were inaugurated with the first advent of Christ and will be consummated at His second advent. This age is fading away, and the age to come is breaking into the present. John Mackay opens commentary on this passage writing, “The clause begins with ‘Behold!’ … , probably to emphasize the reality and imminence of what is being talked about. The significance of the time reference in this phrase is much debated, but it seems to point to a future scene, the precise time of which is not revealed, but which is certain because the coming events are already rising out of present circumstances (30:3). What will happen will be a development of factors that are already at work. Therefore those who by faith accept the divine analysis of the situation can be confident that what is foretold will come to pass.”
Judah could be sure of these future promises because of how they arise out of the present. If Judah could be confident and take comfort in these promises, as they saw them arising out of God’s present doings, how much more may we?
Because these days have come, we may be certain they will come. The Christ was born the Second Adam. The Christ lived to be our righteousness. The Christ died bearing our sins. The Christ rose conquering our foes. The Christ ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father with all things being put under His feet. The Christ will certainly come again. Oh how much of the comfort promised here has already come in part and so how much more may we take comfort that the fullness certainly lies ahead? Oh saints, let us now with the eyes of faith behold! days are coming!
Meridian Church · 7.5.20 Jeremiah 31.27–40 Days Are Coming Josh King
What is that thing that you like or want to like, but you can’t admit it because you know that person likes it? This isn’t the same thing as a guilty pleasure. There, the thing itself embarrasses you; like a dude admitting he enjoys the music of a particular boy band. What I’m speaking of is shame felt because of who or what is associated with the thing. It isn’t that you like the boy band; it’s that you don’t want to like the thing that the boy band likes. Or, perhaps you’d like to buy a certain product, but you don’t, not because of the product itself, but because liberals are known for endorsing it.
Say you are in a small group and folks are mentioning passages that are dear to them. No one wants to say Psalm 23 because everybody knows and loves that one. No one picks that one because they want to be unique and original. That is one kind of sin. I’m aiming at another. The exact same reasoning might happen with Jeremiah 29:11 if you were in a prosperity gospel preaching church. Frequent flyers over these skies probably don’t visit such destinations. Still, Jeremiah 29:11 will go unmentioned because it is so associated with that movement. In the first instance, when you mention Psalm 23, people may think, “He said that because it’s the only [eye roll] passage he knows.” In the second instance, when you mention Jeremiah 29:11, people suspect you’re a heretic.
Prosperity gospel preachers are guilty of ignoring huge chunks of the Bible. Though less dangerous, let us not ignore the few—oh the very few—that they have picked up as if they are guilty by association. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, even the parts that those guys seem to really like. How clever of the enemy: if he cannot get you to forfeit the truth for love of a lie, he may get you to forfeit the truth for fear of the lie.
And thus we have distanced ourselves from this promise. Some have tried to justify the distance by arguing that this text has nothing to do with us. But is this so? This kind of relegating of Old Testament promises to the wastebasket smells dispy-ish. The specifics of the promise do sound very Jewish and ancient. “It happened to them; it happened back then,” so we reason. Yes, but did it fully happen?
This chapter transitions from false prophets to true promises. Chapters 26–29 record a number of showdowns between Jeremiah and the false prophets. In stark contrast, Chapters 30–33 are known as the “Book of Consolation.” Here, some of the sweetest promises in all of Scripture are recorded, the very “plans” Jeremiah is speaking of. What are these plans? The apex of them is spoken of as a “new covenant” or “everlasting covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31–34; 32:36–41). Do these verses have anything to do with you? The author of Hebrews thinks so (Hebrews 8–9). Read all the promises of restoration held out here and see if the new covenant is not what ties them all up with a bow.
So then, when you’re afraid to drink out of that coffee mug with Jeremiah 29:11 printed on it that your auntie Gertrude gifted you, know that you already drink of the cup of Jeremiah 29:11. It is the cup of the new covenant of Christ’s blood poured out for the forgiveness of your sin.
The exiles who returned to Jerusalem only came to the hills of this promise. We have come to the heavenly Zion. We have come to the mountain, but yet, we are only at the base. And so it is that we look back, or should, to the shadows cast by this mountain, so that we might better know the peak that awaits us in Christ. Jesus is gathering the exiles from all over the earth. They are His people. He is their God. He has redeemed us out of captivity and He will restore all that was lost by sin and its curse. He will bring us home where He will dwell in our midst forevermore. This is our hope. This is our future. This is His plan.
Meridian Church · Jeremiah 29:1–32 || True Promises And False Prophets || Josh King