Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NIV)
“The days are coming,” declared the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 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 the covenant, though I was the husband to them,” declares the Lord. “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. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to 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.”
Human conditions: The ministry of Jeremiah spanned 5 decades, dating from 627 B.C. to 586 B.C. In his messages, Jeremiah pictures the transgressions of his people, the invader God would send, the rigors of the upcoming siege, and the calamities of the resulting destruction (MacArthur 1037). During these times, the spiritual condition of Judah is deep idolatry of other gods along with other sins. Although some kings like Hezekiah made reforms, most of the kings led the people to idol worship and human sacrifice. Flagrant sins like injustice, adultery, and tyranny was common throughout the land. Although destruction is certain for them, God Himself forecasts restoration of His people as seen in the passage above.
God Himself and His Work: In this passage, God promises a new covenant upon the people. In contrast to the old covenant, which was confined to the house of Judah, this promise of God is upon everyone in this world – including Gentiles. First, we note that God fulfills this graciously. God made the old covenant but it was the people who broke it (Henry 944). In the old covenant, the people made an oath to God. This time, no oath is required from them, for God Himself will do the entire reformation. Second, God’s work in this new covenant discards the work of the people – specifically the traditions and temple practices. Before, sinners were saved upon their repentance and continual observance of legal sacrifices. This covenant refers to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate sacrifice for the salvation of men. Ephesians 2:8-10 explains the absence of human works in salvation, and Hebrews 4 tells of the all-sufficiency of Christ as the High Priest for the reconciliation of men to God. Third, God tells in this passage that salvation is available for all men. The phrase “from the least of them to the greatest” implies that sinners, whether poor, rich, strong, or weak, receives salvation by grace through faith in God. Further, the full realization of this covenant refers to the future. God’s salvation has already been made available to all men through Christ, and the clearness of understanding God and His word is now being fulfilled by God through the preaching of the gospel until the end of all time.
God’s Will for Us: First, the passage tells us of God’s gracious will for the salvation of men. God could have left the unfaithful Israel and, in fact, the entire humanity in their unfaithfulness. In Ezekiel 18:30-32, God says that He takes “no pleasure in the death of anyone.” Although not everyone will be saved, for many will deny Christ and His salvation (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Matthew 7:13-14), God extends mercy to all. This therefore, calls us to share the gospel to all, unconditionally and without pretext. Lastly, this assures us of our salvation. Through faith in Christ, God will forgive our sins and will remember them no more. This truth should compel believers to rejoice and worship God for His gift of justification.
Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume IV (Isaiah to Malachi). Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library. PDF e-book.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006. Print.