Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Sweetdreams asked a question on a previous post, and after writing up my response I decided I wanted to make it a full blog post.

Jeremiah 31:31-34, is one of the most important in all the prophets as it describes most fully the new covenant. It is an amazing passage in that it describes:

1. The partakers of the covenant. (verse 31)
2. The reason for the covenant. (verse 32)
3. The timing of the covenant (verse 33a)
4. The content of the covenant (verse 33b-34a)
5. The boundary between the last covenant and this one (verse 34b)

But I think the above is not even the best way to look at the wording (though it certainly suffices)

Instead, consider verses 31-32 as one block put in parallel with 33-34. The each indicate:
A. A timing
B. Who the covenant is with
C. How this covenant differs from the last.
D. An indication as to why this new covenant can stand over the last.

In the first chunk we are told:
A. The covenant is in the future.
B. The covenant is with Israel and Judah (“Israel” later stood in metonymy for all nations outside Judah).
C. The covenant will be unlike the first one because it will succeed where the first had failed to produce a godly nation.
D. The new covenant is allowed because Israel and Judah violated the older one.

In the second chunk we are told:
A. The covenant is “when Israel is planted back in the land.”
B. The covenant is with the “whole nation of Israel.”
C. The covenant will be unlike the first in that the laws would be written on the hearts of Israel.
D. The covenant is allowed because God will forgive all the sins Israel and Judah had done prior to it.

This last part is standard fare in the prophets: After Israel/Judah suffers, God forgives them…and then delivers them or proffers a hand of reconciliation. We see the same thing in the Exodus: the Israelites are forgiven for all their past idolatry, which allows God to start anew with a clean slate. The Israelites are never punished for any sins done prior to crossing the Red Sea, when they were “baptized into Moses.”
This has a strong counterpart in Jewish philosophy of Jesus day. When someone converted to Judaism, it was considered their own person crossing of the Jordan/Red Sea and everything about the prior life was blotted out (even to the point that a Gentile converting to a Jew could, in theory, marry those people who were his blood relatives, for the new convert was considered not to have a mother or father). The most common day for such conversions were on Passovers, which has other obvious connections to the crossing from the dead life of Egypt to the new life found in the wilderness with God.

The point of all this is to understand the “For I will forgive their sins and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.” It refers to God’s setting aside the sin done by Israel and Judah to allow for the new covenant and a new slate, just as was done in the Exodus, and just as Paul refers to in Romans 3:25 when Paul (already speaking in the past tense) refers to the sins “previously committed.” [In other words, sins committed previous to Christ’s death, the event he refers to. However, just as in the Jewish conversion, this forgiveness would apply on an individual level upon conversion: the sins done by a Christian prior to entering the New Covenant are washed away.]


Bev said...

Likewise, in 2 Peter 1:9, he writes about purification from former sins.

David Rudel said...

Yes, though I prefer the Romans reference because Paul is quite clear he is referring to sins prior to a point in time that is itself in the past...whereas one could try to construe (were one to have a mind to) 2 Peter 1:9 as referring to those sins "presently in his past" (e.g. his sins up until this moment in time.)

sweetdreams said...

David is it because of the blood used to seal covenants that you believe that Jesus was sacrificed?

I'm really struggling with the idea that it was God's will to do it this way.
I want to write off all sacrifices as an aberration but in the Garden Jesus concedes that it is the father's will.
Have you written on this somewhere already?

sweetdreams said...

This comment is for Dan Martin, he an I had an exchange that spiraled down. I just wanted to tell him he was right and I was wrong. He suggested I was cutting myself off by dissing Paul and suggested I go read Paul again. I took his advice and want to thank him because I was floored by the beauty and comfort I found in Paul's words. Not that I am on board with all of his theology yet, but I am definitely through labeling Paul as evil Satanic and other dark things. I had been spiritually starving myself but Dan pointed me to the table.

David I don't know if you could get this to Dan but I have no other way to reach him.

David Rudel said...


Where did you read that I said Jesus' blood was needed because of the requirement to seal covenants in blood?

I suppose there is something to that, but I have never made that suggestion, and it is not highlighted in scripture.

I give two discussions on the transcendent work of Christ's sacrifice:

A. Its necessity for Christ's perfection (in the vein of Hebrews 2:10 and 5:8). That discussion begins on page 146 of the book.

B. Its work on us, which begins on page 155.

If you do not have the book, you can download chapter 11 (which includes both) by going to the Excerpt Page and clicking "How does salvation work?"

And I will point Dan to your note.

Dan Martin said...

Hey Sweetdreams,

Thanks for your kind words. I'm gratified if in some small way I was able to be of service. As to your comment, I wouldn't consider myself "fully on board with Paul's theology" either. . .or, perhaps more accurately, I'm definitely NOT on board with modern Christian theology that traces itself (IMO erroneously) to Paul. The beauty of it is, once you come to the conclusion that the Bible is a record of the faithful witness of faithful men, rather than the verbally-inspired word of God, it's easy to accept the writers' wisdom without getting hung up on individual points of disagreement. In that spirit, I'm happy that you are ready to give Paul a second look.

FYI, you can always find me, along with my own musings on faith, at http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com.

Dave, thanks for making the connection.


Dan Martin said...

Now on your actual post, Dave, an observation and a question. The observation, first of all, is that I have always found it intriguing that, when we think of HUMAN covenants, there are two parties who agree to do certain things in consideration of receiving certain things from the other party. Not so God's covenants. He makes, if I may so describe it, "unilateral covenants" with his people. . .really almost more like decrees of cause and effect, but still he chooses covenental language to describe them. I've never spent the time to unpack why that is, but I suspect it's symbolic of the relational element that God has pursued vis-a-vis his creation. Have you any thoughts on that?

Second, for this particular covenant described in Jeremiah. Do you see this covenant as having taken effect already in Jesus, or do you see it as still in the future since "all" of Israel does not yet no God, nor has since the time of Jeremiah?

I think I tend toward the former, taking Paul's contention that in Jesus there now is neither Jew nor Gentile, that not all of Israel's descendents are, in fact, Israel, and that salvation is now to those who believe/trust Jesus (Rom 9-10, esp 10:12-13).

Bev said...

David, regarding Jesus' blood and covenants, see Hebrews 9. There's more context on both ends of this excerpt, but for the sake of space, I only quoted five verses.

Hebrews 9:14-18 NASB
(14) how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
(15) For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
(16) For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.
(17) For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
(18) Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood.

Mark 14:24 NASB
(24) And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

Also Hebrews 12:24 and 13:20.

I may have misunderstood your comments about this, in which case I'm quoting the obvious to you and just wasting comment space. :-)

David Rudel said...

Hi Bev and Dan,
I plan on responding to both of your comments...just give me a couple days.

sweetdreams said...

I've been thinking about your comment that the Kingdom of God and being in the New Covenant are synonymous. I think that is what you said.

If that is what you said, I think you may be onto something.

David Rudel said...

My comment was simply saying that the requirement for Christ's blood was not to meet some general principle that "all covenants require blood." The Davidic covenant, for example {II Sam. 7) required none. I think it is worth noting that the blood mentioned in the epistle of Hebrews refers not to the actual blood spilt at Sinai but the blood used later to inaugurate the temple. It is in this capacity that the writer of Hebrews sees Christ's blood as relevant...not to fulfill some abstract principle that all covenants require blood.

It had, rather, a more specific need.

David Rudel said...

Dan, I do see the covenant of Jeremiah as already upon us. The point of the "all will know me" refers, I think, to all those who happen to be in God's nation being wise unto God's desires, rather than relying on the priests/king's.

Remember that in the time of the writing of Jeremiah, Judaism was not a highly evangelistic religion. The "no man will have to tell his neighbor to know God" does not stand in comparison to a time when the Jews were actively trying to reach out to other nations but rather stands in comparison to a time when the priests, false prophets, and kings were leading Israel down a path of ruin.

I think the unilateralness you mention is based on the power of God relative to us. Sabine mentioned on another post [the "Lord of the Sabbath"] post that part of the idea of a covenant was the relationship of the stronger party to the weaker one.

However, at least in the case of the Mosaic covenant, there was a specific instance of the people having to agree to the covenant, and hence being responsible for the consequences. Perhaps this is because this covenant [unlike the Abrahmic, Noahic, or Davidic covenants] specified consequences that were actual curses rather than merely the loss of a blessing.

Dan Martin said...

I agree with you, David, about the state of fulfillment of this prophecy. Your putting it in the perspective, not of evangelism, but in the terms that we don't need a priest or intercessor was one I had not thought of vis-a-vis this particular passage, though it certainly is in alignment with my broader understanding of the work of Jesus. Thanks for tying the two together.

David Rudel said...

I think Matthew 23:8 could almost be seen as an homage to this facet of Jeremiah 31:34.

a said...

Hello David, just located your blog today and am delighted as I look forward to the reading. Found your book on Smash,,, last week and have just begun wading into what seems to me to be theological truths that touch the pulse of our Savior and Lord-Christ Jesus-Yeshua Messiah. Before giving your blog a page by page reading, I'm very interested in finding out if you are familiar with Frank Tipler,PhD-author of 'Phisics of Christianity'? Thank you for your written work and your heart to share it freely

David Rudel said...

Hi there, a.

I'm not sure if I'm familiar with Frank Tipler or not. I do know there is an extremely famous physics textbook written by a Tipler. [It was the official physics book for Texas high school academic contests...yellow with oddly-angled stripes if I remember correctly.]

Is that perhaps the same tipler?

Anyways, one warning about the edition available on smash...I don't think it has the footnotes and scripture references in it [at least some people have reported reading an edition without those references].

The pdf version at my Free Book page has those references...you might want to consider checking those out, since there are about 1000 biblical references throughout the book. [The paperback version has the references as well ;) ]


a said...

Hi David, Tuesday,1:45a
It's encouraging to get such a speedy response to my blog post to you! Thanks for directing me to more thorough download of your material. My current internet interfaces include a hp ipaq (circa 2005) and a samsung moment (3 weeks old)--- neither of which make for comfortable /efficient browsing, blogging or downloading! Yet- thank goodness for such devices that connect those of us who would otherwise not cross paths. Just read through several sets of the blog exchanges....most interesting and lively!
I'm pulling from only memory, however - I believe Dr. Tipler is head of the mathematics department at Tulane Univ.- in 'Physics of Christianity' he expresses his belief in a living Christianity that is not in contradiction to Einstein's theory, standard law, nor quantum physics. You don't necessarily have to be a theoretical mathematician to grasp his position --however.....a solid background in theoretical mathematics would put one ahead of the curve! (I am not!) Dr.Tipler states his aim is not to convince unbelievers ... his aim, if I remember correctly, was to present his belief in context to his academic experience, considerable depth of academic investigation over the lifetme of his career and professional body of work and how that collectively has formed his worldview in relationship to what most people segment into unreconcilable domains--He, on the other hand, has an understanding that believing in and following after/in Christ Jesus is more seemlessly integrated (and of course, stands apart from) into all three major theories which science currently engages as "givens" because of their relative constancy. I have already exceeded my expertise in the explaining-- When reading his work just as when I am reading yours- it seems there is a clarity and extraknowledge for seeing 'what is in plain sight' yet we have not 'seen' until we heard. In regard to that idea, Dr. Tipler and you as well, may have been blessed with 'understanding' you have been impelled to share. When you described yourself through the street scene with the young lady, you seemed to convey you were an unlikely candidate to have such a front and center spiritual life especially with such a public presence. Just as I'm pretty sure young Tipler, not in his wildest imagination, as a grad student entertained his current influence and controversy. Bearing light requires courage and risk. I hope you and Dr. Tipler are encouraged by the enthusiasm of your supporters.
Also, I wouldn't be surprised if he was the author of the textbook you mentioned. He does have a website but he's not much of a self promoter. Another site --google the 'anglican curmudgeon'--this fellow is a theologian and an attorney for the Anglican Church, is also a fan of Tipler and writes with helpful clarity even with bevity some of Tiplers concepts. His blogsite is massive requiring the internal search.
Frank Tipler explains he writes for the purpose of confirmation and not for persuasion. It seems the evidence of Jesus' words given in John 6:44 encourages this position Tipler takes.
I would like to clarify that I, pesonally care less and less that science and spirituality nor Yahweh-the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob 'line up', match, nor archeology and Genesis. The mystery is fine with me-(-excluding in times of trouble when I do ask "Why, Lord?").
We are a mystery to each other but that doesn't stop us from having relationships---and we continuely put our trust in others who can seldom live up to the burden of our trust. Yet, the only capable one is the only Holy One and He actually wants the job! Yet, we give the job to a mere mortal, a mortal who finds the job impossible even when he or she is willing to try.
All that having been said, confirmation encourages the 'saints', therefore, thank-you for yours!

I pray our Father in heaven continue to bless you and your blog! a is for alex

David Rudel said...

Wow, thanks Alex!

I apologize for taking so long to respond, but I very much appreciate your encouraging comment!

I think Paul Tipler is the author of the physics book I was thinking of, but now you have me interested in checking out Frank Tipler's work.

I hope you chime in on some other posts here [or at the John 173 discussion board].