A Better Promise (Jeremiah 31)

In Sermons, The Whole Story, Year 2024 by harvest.admin

Resource by Peter Park

Jeremiah 31 – A Better Promise

If you’re new, TWS – Gen to Rev – Every story, every book, comes together to tell one big story about one person, Jesus. Today, we are in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet because the book is very sad and heavy. But the chapter we’re going to be in, chp. 31, is one of hope. We’re going to look at the three reasons why God’s people can be hopeful in the midst of darkness when all hope seems lost. 3 “The days are coming…”

1. New BeginningJer 31 27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord. 29 “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ 30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.

First, God’s people can be hopeful because there is a new beginning coming. Vvs. 27-28 kind of sound like Ge. 1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created man and the animals and his directive was for his creation to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. These verses in Jer. 31 sound like a re-creation, where God will again plant and bring growth both for mankind and creation. There’s a restoration happening. But the question is, why is it needed? What’s happened to God’s people that they need a new beginning? 

Context: Well ever since Ge. 3 as we’ve seen week after week this year, God’s people continued to reject the God who created them, the God who saved them out of slavery from Egypt, the God who brought them into the Promised Land, the God who promised to bless them and dwell with them if they obeyed his commandments. And God’s people for some crazy reason still decided to reject his goodness and favor to go after the false gods of other nations. The temple, where not just Israel went to worship, but all the nations of the earth would come to seek the one true God, has been destroyed. And God’s people have been exiled and carried away from the Promised Land. These were some of the darkest times of Israel’s history. They’d lost everything.

It’s a replay of Ge. 3. when Adam and Eve were forced out of the Garden of Eden, out of the presence of God, because of their sin. Here in Jer.,  God’s people have again been forced out of God’s good land, away from his presence and blessing. And I want us to see and feel the weightiness of this. Mankind, every single person, has rejected God and all the sin and death and brokenness that we experience here on earth is not only what we deserve. They are our just punishment for rebelling against God. But this is the life and world we chose.

“Well, I’m not Adam or Eve, or Israel or Judah.” Yes, that is true, but we also have committed the same treason against God, ratified their sin by our own sin and rejection of God. “Well, how have I sinned against God?” Have you ever lied or slightly bent the truth in your favor? Been overly angry with someone and lost your temper? (Bad Driver in KL?) Ever said something behind someone’s back or even thought it in your head? Have you ever looked at someone of the opposite sex with anything less than the purest of thoughts? Have you ever wished you had the possessions or life that other people have? Or looked down on people who have less, who are of a different ethnic or religious background or culture as lesser than you? Would you honestly say, you live for God or for yourself? And the list of questions could go on to expose the utter depths of the sin in our hearts. (I’m a “professional Christian”…) You and I have sinned against God whenever we have not loved God, not loved Jesus, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and others as you love ourselves, which is pretty much all the time. The Bible says, there is no one righteous. Not even one. (Ro. 3:10)

And it’s to these rebellious people, us, who don’t deserve it, that God, out of his love and grace, will give a new beginning. Not just a little change, but a new start altogether.

Now what’s going on with the phrase and the end about fathers eating sour grapes and their children’s teeth hurting? (Not medical advice.) (School. The whole class got in trouble because one or two kids? That’s what the children of Israel were experiencing.) Apparently, it was a common saying during the exile. (Kids in exile – Mom and dad, why are we here? You did what??? You mean you used to live in a land flowing with milk and honey – MY: sambal and teh tarik – and you were bad listeners to God and that’s how we got here? What were you thinking?!) 

God is saying, that’s not going to happen anymore. Every person will be accountable for themselves. They will not be punished or saved based on anyone but themselves individually. Note: You’re not saved because your family is Christian. You’re only saved if you are a Christian. And the reverse is also true that you’re not not saved because your family or culture or peoples are not followers of the one true God. You are not saved because of your sin and you are not in right relationship with God. You are responsible for yourself. (Fair)

So God’s people, who are in exile and in discipline for their idolatry, are given hope for a new beginning where God is going to restart things and his people will no longer be punished or saved as a group, as a whole, but according to each person.

Now, how is this different from previous restarts, like Noah? Because that didn’t really work out. It’s because this new beginning was going to be based on…

2. New Promise/Covenant Jer. 31 31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors 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. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people 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. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘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.”

35 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: 36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the Lord, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.” 37 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.

So God makes a New Covenant with his people. But before we get into the details of this new one, again, let’s talk about why there was even a need for it? What was wrong with the old ones?

Quick review of the covenants God had made with his people before:

Noahic – God regretted making man because their thoughts were constantly and only on evil. So God sent a worldwide, catastrophic flood to wipe out all of mankind except for one family. And afterwards, God promised, even if the people deserved it, he would not execute that kind of judgment again. He would show restraint.

Abrahamic – God promised to bless all the nations of the earth through one family.

Davidic – God promised a king who would one day come and rule an everlasting kingdom in justice.

-*Mosaic* – Which is the one referenced here in Jer. 31, where God promised to bless his people if they followed his law but would curse them if they didn’t. 

One more note about these covenants: Conditional vs Unconditional – Unconditional covenants are dependent on God alone, dependent only on his faithfulness and ability to keep his word. And often, God puts his reputation, his name, at stake as his guarantee to keep his one-sided responsibility for the covenant. And there are no “ifs” that involve man’s conditions. The Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants are unconditional covenants. And the Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant meaning there are conditions God has to abide by and man also has to keep in order not to break it.

Now, there was nothing inherently wrong with the previous covenants. They build on one another. Sometimes, I’ll hear people say, “The God of the Old Testament is so different from the God of the New Testament. They can’t be the same.” – He’s the same, not different. God is revealing more of himself over time. – Progressive Revelation.

The problem with the previous covenants was that there was actually something wrong with us. We could not keep and repeatedly broke the Mosaic Covenant with God, to follow and obey him. We are covenant breakers because we aren’t good people inside. We aren’t inherently good people who do bad things here and there. Our hearts, the very core of our being, are wicked and rotted. (I didn’t have to teach my kids how to sin – disobey, mean. – Learned it from their mom. JK.) (Livestream – Every thought, every word uttered in private, every deed done in the dark.) God’s Law taught us what sin was and revealed it within us, but it didn’t create sin in us. And so the covenants were inadequate in relation to our sin and our need for forgiveness.

Hebrews 8 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8 For he finds fault with them when he says: … 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

If the old covenants were sufficient for our problem, there wouldn’t be a need for a new one. But they couldn’t fix our heart problem or save us. So God, out of the overflow of his heart, his love for us, made a New Covenant that would do two things for us:

1. New Hearts. Because there was no fixing our old corrupted hearts that loved and desired sin, we loved darkness, we needed new hearts that loved God and obeying him. Whereas in the Mosaic Covenant, the old covenant, the law was written on stone tablets and taught to the people, with the New Covenant, the law would now be written on our new hearts by the Holy Spirit. It would be internal. And this is a huge difference because before Christ, the Holy Spirit did not dwell within God followers like he does today. Back then, the Holy Spirit would come and go depending on the person’s obedience. (Saul and David) But for true believers today, the Holy Spirit seals us and dwells within us, and will never be taken away from us because God’s presence is not dependent on our obedience, but Christ’s perfect obedience for us. And God’s presence that was lost in the fall has now been partially restored back to us in the Holy Spirit as a down payment, as a guarantee that one day we will be with him again face to face.

But until then, we are living in the already, not yet dynamic where as believers, we have already been saved, we already have God’s promises to us being fulfilled, but we have not yet experienced the fullness of all that Christ has won for us. For example, with the law on our hearts and the Holy Spirit within us, we as believers have the power to say no to sin. For any sin we come across and are tempted with, doesn’t matter what it is or how strong the temptation, the Holy Spirit within us is greater and can overcome that temptation. But the reality is that we still have the flesh that desires to sin. And so we sin. Even though we have already fully been saved, we will not be completely sin-free until we are with Jesus again. Paul – Do the things I don’t want but don’t do the things I do want. (New Year’s Resolutions – Self Control – with unhealthy tasty food, porn, losing temper..)

But with our new hearts we have a new found hatred for sin and love for God and the ways of God, for the things that are honorable and pure. And these new hearts were only possible because there was a way for…

2. Forgiveness of sins. Many cultures and religions have a theology/belief on sacrifice or paying a penalty for their sins. Or at least the idea of doing enough good to offset the bad. Israel also had its own elaborate and complex sacrificial system given to them by God. But the blood of animals could never take away our sins. Our good works could never be enough to make up for all the sins we have committed. Why? We are image bearers of God and the sacrifice to atone for sin has to be of equal value with someone made in the image of God. So animal sacrifice, no matter how much, could never be enough. And if our sin was against an infinitely holy God, then our finite good works could never make amends and make peace with God. The only payment we could ever make is by dying the death we deserve.

Then on what basis will God forgive and forget because God is just and cannot just overlook wrongdoing, how will God forgive our sins so that we can be given new hearts and the Holy Spirit? 

Gospel: There is only one way. Jesus, the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself up for us is the only way for anyone to be forgiven of their sins and made right with God. The God-Man, Jesus. Fully God. Fully Man. As fully man, Jesus could pay the penalty of death we deserved for our sin. He could stand in our place as one of us, as our equal. And as fully God, Jesus could satisfy God’s holy wrath against our sin once and for all through his sacrifice for all people.

Heb. 10 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

He is the promised one who is the fulfillment of all God’s promises and covenants…

-Noahic – God would hold back his full judgment on people by not wiping them completely off the face of the planet because one day he would pour out this wrath on his son, Jesus.

-Abrahamic – Jesus is the one through whom all the nations would be blessed because as the premier descendant of Abraham, in him all the nations would find their salvation.

-Mosaic – Jesus is the only one who has ever followed all of God’s laws perfectly because he loved God perfectly. And because of this he is able to gift us and clothe us in his righteousness before God.

-New Covenant – Jesus is the one by whose blood we have the forgiveness of sins and new hearts.

-Davidic – And Jesus is the king, whose kingdom is here and is coming, where there will be perfect justice and peace…

3. New City Jer. 31 38 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. 40 The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the Lord. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.”

Now those boundaries probably don’t mean anything to you, but these verses are describing the coming New Jerusalem, the Heavenly city, where Jesus is king. There is no more sin. The kingdom is perfect. And we are with him forever.

Rev. 21 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Everything started perfectly in a good garden, but everything went wrong when man turned away from God. And in his goodness, instead of leaving us in our sin and death, he gave us a  new beginning based on a new promise fulfilled by Jesus’ blood to a new everlasting city in his presence again. So even now if our world and our circumstances look dark and hopeless, we know that God is faithful to this word. (Allie – Why don’t we live a long time anymore?)

Sureness of salvation. “How do I know I am saved?” – Unsure of themselves…are they worthy, do they deserve it. Be bold in your salvation. It’s not being proud about ourselves and how good we are, but a confidence in Jesus’ perfect and finished work for us.

-Pray boldly. We have full access to our heavenly Father.

-Work hard for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. 1) Preaching the gospel. 2) Being active in bringing restoration and hope to all the broken parts of our world. (Refugee Ministry)

If you’re here and you’re not a follower of Jesus. We are so glad you’re here. And because we love you and desire for you to have the joy and hope that we have in Jesus, we are going to tell you the hard truth, the bad news, that you are an exile, cast away from the presence of God because of your sin. And you are saved not by coming to church, knowing Christians, or even your family being Christians. And there’s nothing you can do to save yourself. But the amazing, good news of the gospel is that Jesus loves you and gave his life for you to save you. Will you receive him? His death for you and his life for you?

Other videos in this series: