22 March: Jeremiah 31.31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

The New and Heart-Driven Covenant

Jeremiah the prophet (active from about 622BC) has been seen as the archetypal bringer of baleful news and unpopular truth. Yet he is also one of those voices who give major heart-stopping insights into God’s nature and loving, transformative purposes: “I have loved you with an everlasting love and so I still maintain my faithful love for you” and “He who scattered Israel …. will guard him as a shepherd guarding his flock.” (Jeremiah 31: 3 & 10b). Towards the end of this key chapter he unfolds the ground-breaking concept behind the New Covenant between God, Israel and Judah. It is to reach far beyond the legal, social agreement between husband and wife (31:32). The whole dynamic of the relationship is to be internalised, as if by some biological or technical procedure – through writing its laws and principles on people’s hearts. With the laws’ impress will come deep inner assurance of Who this God is, How He can be encountered by any rank of person and enjoyed with a personal experience of forgiveness (31:34). It is a transition from coldly telling people to keep rules that are too hard for them – to offering a way to begin, develop and grow in these very things, that very relationship, from the very core of being, because a new pattern is actively unfolding from within.

If you engage imaginatively with computers, you could say that the New Covenant offers our innermost being a new programme that will start up and move us step by step nearer God as we are motivated to activate it and respond with it.

George Herbert (1593-1633) wrote: “O smooth my rugged heart, and there / Engrave Thy reverend Law and fear / Or make a new one, since the old is sapless grown” (from “Nature”).

In great thankfulness, using contemporary haiku, I write:

Love’s invitation
On the heart: to know, love, blossom
For the King of Heaven.

Heart’s lines deep graven –
No commands, but invitations –
Forgiving showers from heaven.

To know, move, and from
Inner impulse love: Heaven’s pulse,
Not wild human grit.

New programme within;
New bonds, like cookies, installed;
New life patterns run