The Portrait of a Restored Heart - Jeremiah 31: 30-34
The New Covenant mentioned in Jeremiah 31 describes the scope of the restoration God promised His children. The restoration begins with the clan of Israel and Judah v27, 31 with a futuristic fulfilment in New Israel - the Church, the true people of God. The quality of the future, Jeremiah talks about is of a fellowship that is far beyond this world. Although the nation was doomed for exile - another desert wandering - God’s favour is found in that particular experience. Circumstances around us don’t direct God’s blessings.
God’s dealings with His people can be understood through the imagery of God as a Shepherd. Although God will scatter His sheep in judgment, He will gather them again together into one-fold. He is the faithful covenant-keeping God. The return of Israel is very significant as it will mark the beginning of the New Covenant. God is putting into place a new creation order.
We shall look at two Truths that helps us understand God’s Process of Restoration
I. It has the Handwriting of God
The Covenant, God entered into with the children of Israel at Sinai was a covenant of faithful love; it was like a marriage relationship. But the nation became unfaithful and broke all her marital vows. The response of the nation to God’s law showed clearly how the salvation of the nation could not be achieved through the law because the people were unable to keep it.
However, the Lord is going to intervene. He will make a new Covenant with His people. Starting the new covenant with Israel and Judah is very significant because they were the first recipients of the old covenant. The sole aim is to take it to the nations as enshrined in the call of Abraham (Gen. 12: 3).
This New Covenant will not be like the former one Yahweh made with their forefathers. What is new about the New Covenant is the quality of the community God is creating by His mighty act (Dearman, 2002: 287). The quality of the New Covenant is such that the law of the Lord will no longer be before His children in stone tablets. It will now be internalized in the New Man. It will be an essential part of man when God writes it in man’s heart with His own hand. Today, we live in that reality. The Spirit of God indwells in us and testifies that we are indeed God’s children.
One thing is clearly established here; By disobedience, sin became engraved at the centre of the heart of man. But in the New Covenant, sin has now been displaced by the law of the Lord. The Law of the Lord now sits at the centre of the heart of man by the presence of the Holy Spirit. No longer man will sin by default, it will only be a matter of choice. Man will now delight in the law of the Lord. Yet, sin will constantly desire to reclaim that seat. It will constantly combat man's desire to obey God. But the Salvation of the Father working through the power of the Holy Spirit empowers man to say no to sin (Titus 2:11-12.)
This transition into the New Covenant is very significant and it has a lot of implications. For instance, in the old covenant, the stone tablets with the commandments were kept in the Ark of Covenant in the most holy place of the Temple. To have it written by God in the heart of men makes man the Temple of God and the heart of man the most holy place. This transformation will be the basis of the new knowledge of God. This new knowledge is not some kind of intellectual knowledge. It is based upon forgiveness and a rebuilding of a new life that guarantees newness of an intimate relationship with God. This begs the question; what is it that governs our hearts?
In the end, we will see that as the New Covenant that is now written in the hearts of men, God Himself will redirect men to now focus on Yahweh with an unwavering commitment. The Lord will no longer need to hold His people by the hand because they will naturally seek God and follow Him for and by themselves. There will be no more wandering as the motivation to serve God is now generated from inside not outside.
II. It is a Heart that is Forgiven
The old covenant was broken by sin and disobedience. But the new one cannot be broken by human sin because it has been sealed with the blood of Jesus. The failure of the old was not with God but with men’s inability to keep it. The new was made more potent by God through the blood of Jesus and written in the hearts of men; a place it cannot be broken, damaged, changed, or removed. Ps. 119:11 “Thy word have I hidden in my heart…”.
The heart that is restored is a heart that has been forgiven. When God says “I will remember their sins no more”, the point is that the continuous sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament was a constant reminder to Israel of her sins. Jesus’ sacrifice is so perfect such that no further sacrifice was required. By this, no remembrance of sin will continue. God will forgive His people and will not charge their sins against them anymore because it has been paid for.
The mercy of God in forgiveness is indescribable. Paul has argued this extensively in Romans. God has fixed the heart of man such that man will understand and appreciate His power of forgiveness. Those who think that the mercies of God are to be taken for granted are those who still have sin seated in the centre of their heart. Those who have the law of the Lord at the centre of their heart are people who have experienced the transforming and renewing power of God. They understand the power of God’s mercies in forgiveness. They live their lives in constant appreciation of God’s mercies; that is worship. This is the essence of the restoration in this New Covenant; that God’s people will worship God in Spirit and truth.
The final state of restoration will be a great reunion of all of God’s children. God has engraved His love letter in the hearts of all His children uniting us all into one body under one Shepherd. What we do here together as God’s community is a foretaste of that. We enjoy fellowshipping with Him now and here in part, guaranteeing what we will enjoy in heaven with all God’s children from every tribe, race and gender.
There is a future that awaits us. The current realities do not define it, but shapes and prepares us for it. The final change and the complete newness that we anticipate is what awaits us in heaven. This is our message while we are here. Let’s live this good news so that the world will see and receive the salvation of the Lord.
Rev Solomon Guruza Ubasi is serving as the Senior Pastor at ECWA Seminary Church and the Chaplain/Lecturer at Jos ECWA Theological Seminary. He is currently a PhD candidate with OCPRL.
Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash
For Other Sermons by Rev Solomon Guruza Ubasi