Grace mercy and peace are always for you from God and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Life is full of promise. In our human relationships on a daily basis, we make promises to one another. Especially in our love relationships, we speak promises that deepen the bond of our hearts. The deepened trust that fills us with joy and peace but also fills us with love, which defines the relationship of life we share.
The Bible also speaks of promises. It uses the language of covenant. A covenant is a mutual agreement between two or more parties, which binds them together and defines their relationship. A mutual promise is a covenant.
The Bible actually speaks of six covenants:
✡ The Abrahamic covenant.
✡ The Mosaic covenant made between God and His people at the base of Mount Sinai after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
✡ The Priestly covenant and the whole vision of sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
✡ The Deuteronomic covenant.
✡ The Davidic covenant: God promised King David that a Son of his would sit on the throne and rule in peace and glory forever. This is what gave rise to messianic hope.
And finally, as Jeremiah’s passage in this prophecy speaks of . . .
✡ The New covenant that God would make where all would know Him, His law would be written on their hearts, and He would forgive their sins. We believe this covenant is fulfilled in Jesus our Savior.
In Old Testament times, nations entered into Suzerain covenants. These treaties provided a relationship between a strong king and country, and a weaker king and country. The weaker would agree to pay the stronger the terms of a covenant in order to gain their protection or to appease them so that the stronger would not obliterate them. It was a covenant between unequals, a covenant of mutual accountability. If the weaker country and king did not pay up or keep the terms of the covenant, the stronger king and country would punish the weaker or even destroy them.
The Mosaic covenant made at Sinai is a covenant of mutual accountability. The language is conditional. If you obey the terms of this covenant, then God will bless you. If you do not obey the terms of this covenant, then punishment and curses will follow. This is the language of the Mosaic covenant. It is conditional upon the faithfulness of God’s people.
There are three covenants in the Bible where God guarantees the promise:
● The Abrahamic covenant
● The Davidic covenant
● The New covenant, which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The New covenant is not just new in time, but also in quality. It is superior to all other covenants and, therefore, makes them obsolete. God has offered it, God has promised it, and God’s power makes it happen. The terms of the covenant cannot fail or change. They are fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior. That is the Good News – that in the name of Jesus, every promise God has made to us in the Scriptures finds fulfillment. It is sealed and guaranteed in the blood of Jesus Christ.
In response to God’s new promise, we say to God, I believe your promise is for me. I gladly receive your Spirit in a relationship of trust. I am glad to be in a covenant with you, the living God.
Life is full of broken promises in our human experience. Ever heard someone say, “Cross my heart and hope to die”? People have a hard time keeping their word.
☞ “I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.”
☞ “I promise (even though I didn’t meet the deadline) to get it done for you by tomorrow.”
Maybe the most significant broken promises are those made between a man and woman on their wedding day where they say “I promise to love you forever” or, “I will always be faithful to you”, but as the months and years pass, something is broken and the covenant falls apart.
Why do people break their promise?
✗ Maybe they never intended to keep their word.
✗ Maybe they outright rebel against the terms of the covenant.
✗ Maybe they develop amnesia and forget.
✗ Maybe they betray the person they have entered into a covenant with.
Someone once said, “In our promises, we often write checks that our soul can’t cash.”
What’s the result of broken promises?
☹ Fractured relationships. There’s an immediate emotional turmoil. We’re upset by people who have violated their word. The relationship or partnership loses credibility.
☹ Trust is diminished. It creates a relational dissidence, distance, estrangement, and alienation that might never heal well of.
The Bible says that God’s people, Israel, broke their covenant with God. They were unfaithful, promiscuous and worshiped other gods. They oppressed the poor for their advantage. They disobeyed God’s law. And they lived as if God didn’t even exist, indifferent to Him.
Before we start poking a finger in someone else’s face and say, Yup! Give it to him. They were wrong. They were bad! we should look at ourselves. What about us? Paul succinctly says, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. . . . What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me . . . (Romans 7:19, 24). All too often we’re like the apostle Peter who to Jesus said, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will. I will die for you” (Matt. 36:33, 35). Then that very night he denied knowing Jesus three times.
Broken promises in human relationships.
Broken promises even between us and God.
So when Jeremiah is speaking this prophecy of a New covenant, it is in response to forty years of God’s people’s disregard for God’s pleas to come back into covenant fellowship with the living God. Eventually, because of their disobedience, God’s people are defeated by Babylon. All their loved ones are killed, and those who survived are hauled off into exile, enslaved to foreign people and wonder if they have a future.
Broken promises are significant, but sometimes life is broken beyond repair. Is that you? Has your life been broken beyond repair? One pastor said that we spiritually are broken and powerless. He said you could bring a pig into the house, put it in the bathtub, scrub it up, polish its nails, put a ribbon around its tail, brush its teeth, and douse it with Chanel No. 5, but what will happen the first time you open the door, and the pig sees a manure-filled mud hole? He is going to go straight to the mud hole and wallow in it. Why? It’s his nature, and he likes it.
I, as a man who is a broken sinner, have a shadow side that by the devil’s temptation always gets drawn away from the God I love and pulled to the mud hole.
This spring, I went north to our family cabin near Bemidji, Minnesota. As I turned on the water for the summer season, I discovered that the water pump in the pump house, which provides water for the cabin, had a cracked steel casing. Last fall when I drained the pipes, I forgot to remove the plug that would’ve drained the water so that when freezing temperatures came, it wouldn’t damage the pump. Now the pump was broken beyond repair. It no longer pumped water.
Jeremiah said in an earlier chapter (17:9), “The heart is deceitful above all else and desperately sick. Who can understand this?” In some measure, all of us can relate to that Scripture.
Is your life in exile? Are you enslaved, living in bondage to something that holds you captive and robs you of freedom, joy, life, and love? Have you lost hope? Do you feel powerless to bring about change in the essential matters of your life?
If so, I have really good news for you! God says, “I’m going to make you a New promise, and I will raise you up to new life.” Let’s talk about what this New covenant looks like.
This New covenant, first of all, is guaranteed by God’s power and action. Our response is to just believe the promise for us and gladly receive the Spirit’s blessing to live within us. We believe and receive.
Second, God’s New promise has been sealed in the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. When Jesus was on the cross, His blood sealed the promise. The blood sacrifices of the Old Testament – sheep and goats – were sacrificed to atone for sins and bridge the gap to reconcile relationship between people of God. The blood of Jesus Christ ran down the wooden beam of the cross at Calvary to establish this New covenant. It led to the universal proclamation in the name of Jesus that all who repent and believe in the name of Jesus are forgiven their sins, and we’re invited to live in an atmosphere of God’s favor, of God’s grace.
This New promise of God is also motivated to change our inner heart.
Our son, Luke and his wife Liv, have two beautiful Norwegian elkhound huskies named Gus and Elske. They are beautiful animals, and when they go outside with Luke or Liv, one – the female, Elske – is never on leash. But Gus always has to be on leash. Elske will stay very close to her master and immediately obey her master’s voice. Gus – though a very beautiful and good dog – will put his nose to the ground and be in the next county before he lifts his head if he is not on leash. He will not listen to his master call. Therefore, he has to stay on leash.
When God changes us in the New promise made in Jesus Christ, He touches the heart at an inner motivational level, and we wish to obey the Master. We no longer live under the law of a leash holding us so that we don’t do stupid things. Our heart is now given over in loyalty to God in the covenant of Jesus Christ.
This New covenant says that we will know God in a relationship of love. The relationship is no longer transactional where the sacrifice blood of the goat atones for my sins. We enter into a whole new relationship that is guaranteed by God and filled with His love poured out to us.
This New covenant is also eternal. God says in the name of Jesus, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you (to myself) with loving kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3). Nothing will change it. “Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:38).
So, again in Jeremiah 31, God says, “Pick up your tambourines and dance for joy” (vs. 4b). I have turned your mourning into dancing. I’m resurrecting you to new beginnings. Here is the beauty in this new promise of God: It’s never too late to start over with Jesus.
Do you have difficulties you can’t fix? Jesus makes you a new promise in His love.
Do you have impossible things in your life you can’t undo?
Are you carrying guilt or shame?
Do you have habits you can’t break?
Are there temptations too powerful for you to control?
The answer is not to try harder. The answer, and the basis of our hope, is the wonderful promise of God. In the name of Jesus, you are forgiven. You belong to God. You are people of the New covenant. God has made you a New promise.
So Lord God, today again, I believe your promise is for me, and I gladly receive your Spirit that I might live in this covenant of love with you forever. Amen.
Pastor Lee Laaveg