Irony in Jeremiah’s Prophecy of a New Covenant -- By: Wilber B. Wallis

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 12:2 (Spring 1969)
Article: Irony in Jeremiah’s Prophecy of a New Covenant
Author: Wilber B. Wallis

Irony in Jeremiah’s Prophecy of a New Covenant

Wilber B. Wallis, Ph.D.*

*Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.

Jeremiah 31 contains the promise of a new covenant, one of whose perplexing features is the nature of the new covenant, or more exactly, how it differs from other covenants. So soon as attention is given to each of the details stated by Jeremiah, our perplexity increases. Each of the items adduced is but a repetition of some familiar aspect of salvation already known in the Old Testament.

(1) The new covenant involves the spiritual apprehension of the law in the: heart. This theme is already known from Deuteronomy 6:6, 7: “And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (RSV), It was a familiar note in devotional meditations, for example, Psalm 37:31: “The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip” ‘(RS. The famous prophecy of Ezekiel touches the same theme in Ezekiel 26, 27: “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances” (RSV). Hence this feature of the new covenant is not new.

(2) The new covenant involves God’s becoming Israel’s God and Israel’s becoming His people. This is quite transparent as a quotation or echo of the foundation promise to Abraham, Genesis 17:7: “And will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.” So this feature of the new covenant is not new.

(3) The new covenant includes the full and complete forgiveness of sin, a doctrine so pervasive of the Old Testament as to need no formal proof. We need only note Exodus 34:6, 7 “’The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting ...

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