The New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-37 -- By: Geoff A. Adams
RAR 6:3 (Summer 1997) p. 77
The New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-37
It is a great privilege to be covenantal with God! It involves being the objects of God’s election, commitment and faithfulness. The concept of covenant is dominant in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 54 and 55 alone we may see divine, covenantal loyalty (chesed) in association with covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Israel and David. Some suggest that there is a fade-out of the concept because there are only sixteen uses of the term in the New Testament. We argue that its ceremonial use in the Lord’s Supper continues to make it a dominant idea. The bifurcation of the Scriptures, in dealing with the old and new covenants, seems natural. One belongs to the age of preparation, the other to that of the fulfillment.
What, then, is the biblical significance of the term covenant (Heb. berith) as employed by Jeremiah? W.J. Dumbrell argues well:
To judge from secular biblical examples—and these are more than likely representative of the general ancient world picture—covenants presupposed a set of existing relationships to which by formal ceremony they gave binding expression. They operated between two parties, though the status of the parties varied considerably. The language of covenant was carefully prescribed by convention. One “cut a covenant,” oath and witnesses were moreover involved, and often there was an associated sign.1
Dumbrell further asserts: “The very fact of creation involved God’s entering into relationships with the world.... The world and man are part of one total divine construction and we cannot entertain the salvation of man in isolation from the world which he has affected.”2 Thus the idea of perpetuating a relationship is important to the concept of
RAR 6:3 (Summer 1997) p. 78
We are introduced to the expression in Genesis 6 in reference to Noah. Here it is a sovereign, unconditional, gracious prediction and promise. God initiates the action and determines its terms. The beneficiaries are Noah, his family, and every living thing. So the giraffes were included in this natural berith. The seal of the covenant is the rainbow, and the promise is that there will never be another universal flood. Salvation history may henceforth flow uninterruptedly. Immediately we run into a semantic problem as our word “covenant” is often associated with a bilateral compact with the parties of equal standing. Although the Old Testam...
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