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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Jeremiah 31

Verse 3

‘LOVED WITH EVERLASTING LOVE’

‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love.’

Jeremiah 31:3

I. We cannot estimate the length of God’s love.—When did it begin to be? Long before I was born. Long before the Cross was raised on the brow of Calvary. Long before the world was made. Its foundations lie in His own eternity. And when will it cease to be? Neither in the hour of death, nor yet in the ageless years that stretch beyond. ‘Yea,’ He says, ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love.’

II. We cannot measure the breadth of God’s love.—I have a very many-sided nature. Body, soul, spirit; my intellect, my memory, my imagination, my conscience, my will, my heart; each has its distinct and separate demands. But He meets and satisfies them all. ‘Your soul,’ He assures me, ‘shall be as a watered garden.’

III. We cannot scale the height of God’s love.—Up to the noblest honours and joys He raises me, above the world’s wealth and victory and royalty, up to His own presence, His own home, His own heart. ‘He that scattereth Israel will gather him,’ He tells me, ‘and will keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.’

This is love that deserves the name. When such a God is ours, when we are His, how rich is our heritage!

Illustrations

(1) ‘The whole chapter is full of promises of love and light and joy, preceded, as such blessings must ever be, by the broken heart and the contrite spirit on the part of the recipient. Its primary reference is to Israel at the restoration, when the Lord returns to bless Zion and restore Jerusalem. But, meanwhile, it is for the spiritual Israel—for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ—the Messiah Who has come.’

(2)‘From no less fountain such a stream could flow,

No other root could yield so fair a flower:

Had He not loved, He had not drawn us so;

Had he not drawn, we had nor will nor power

To rise, to come;—the Saviour had passed by

Where we in blindness sat without one care or cry.’

Verse 27

A GOOD TIME COMING

‘The days come.’

Jeremiah 31:27

I. The hopefulness of God’s message to Israel.—The kingdom was doomed, but yet there were good times coming. The characteristic of true religion is that it has always more future than past. An ill day for a people, a church, or any one person when they look back. Henceforth, said St. Paul ( 2 Timothy 4:8); our Golden Age is ahead of us—

(1) ‘The prophet catches a glimpse of blessing in the future. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord.” The Lord sees hope for us when we can see none. This suggests the value of the Divine promises. They are always glimpses into the future. They are given to cheer us in our present darkness. There is no hour so full of gloom in the life of any child of God, but if he will only open his Bible he will see gleams of light bursting through the overshadowing clouds. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.” What a blessed thing is hope! “Behold, the days come.” Yes; it will not be always dark and sad. We can say this in every time of misfortune, adversity, or sorrow. Better days are coming. We ought to learn this truth well. We ought never to grieve inconsolably, however bitter the sorrow; we ought never to despair, however hopeless the circumstances appear. God calls down to us in His words of promise, telling of light that already gilds the far-away hill-tops.’

(2) ‘Fathers may well beware of eating sour grapes, and so setting the children’s teeth on edge. “I wish,” says Bunyan, writing of the time when, as a young man, he was reproved for profanity, “that I might be a little child again, that my father might learn me to speak without this wicked way of swearing; for, thought I, I am so accustomed to it that it is in vain to think of a reformation, for that could never be.” ’

Verse 31

A NEW COVENANT

‘I will make a new covenant.’

Jeremiah 31:31

The progress of Jewish history, as recorded in the Old Testament, was marked by a series of covenants, in which God declared His gracious purposes towards His people, with the conditions on which His favour was to be enjoyed, and the people, on their side, promised to do all that God commanded. Thus covenants were made with Noah after the Flood; with Abraham, when the land of Canaan was promised to his descendants; at Sinai, when Israel became a nation; and with Joshua after the conquest of the Promised Land.

Jeremiah recalls in particular the covenant at Sinai, which marked the formation of the Jewish people, and in which the pledges between God and Israel were sealed with sacrificial blood. It was indeed a memorable scene when, at the bidding of Moses, the Israelites vowed fidelity to Jehovah. But the vow so solemnly taken was broken. Year after year, generation after generation, the people sank into idolatry and all the sins that idolatry begets. And at last God permitted the overthrow and exile of the nation. The ancient covenant, so often broken, was dissolved.

It is at this point that Jeremiah speaks. Looking forward, the prophet perceives the gathering of a new Israel, and the granting of a new covenant. When was the ‘new covenant’ established? At the moment when the great sacrifice was offered which consecrated the Israel ‘of faith’! On the betrayal night Jesus took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood.’ The old covenant was made at Sinai, the new at Calvary.

The new covenant is distinguished by Jeremiah in three ways.

I. It is a spiritual one.—Its terms are written, not on stones, but on tables of the heart. The new régime is not of outward regulations, but of inward principles. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ demands a righteousness which shall exceed that of the old law; not merely abstinence from impure deeds, but purity of soul; not the refraining from murder only, but the cherishing of a spirit of love.

II. Another note of the new covenant is its universality.—‘They shall all know Me.’ The old covenant recognised a priestly order, the new creates a kingdom of priests. The old required a line of prophets, the new calls every believer to be ‘taught of the Lord.’ This feature of the new covenant was emphasised by the Reformers. Luther refused to recognise the priestly caste which came between the people and Christ. John Hooper, at St. Paul’s Cross, declared to the citizens of London that, if spiritually enlightened, they might judge for themselves as to matters of faith and conscience, neither pope nor priest having the right to interfere.

III. The third characteristic of the new covenant is that it is a covenant of forgiveness.—The note of the earlier covenant was obedience, that of the later is mercy. Moses stood for law, Christ stands for love. Hence our Saviour declares that His blood of the new covenant is ‘shed for many unto remission of sins.’ We are under the ‘covenant of grace.’ What we could never merit, God freely gives. And the faith that accepts the ‘gift of God’ becomes the spring of the new life, out of it arising the gratitude and love which are the motive forces of Christian character.

It is well to ask ourselves sometimes whether we are living according to the ‘new covenant.’ Are we really prompted by spiritual motives? Do we know God for ourselves? Have we the humble joy of those who love much because they have been forgiven much?

Verse 33

LIGHT-WRITING

‘I will … write [My law] in their hearts.’

Jeremiah 31:33

( A sermon to children)

Did you ever think that the best writer in the world is light? A photograph is a writing by means of light. When you go to a studio and say, ‘I want my photo,’ what the artist does is this: he puts you in a certain position, then he arranges the camera—a darkened box with an opening in front, in which a glass to catch up and refract the rays of light is inserted—then into the back part of this box he places a little glass; and then in a moment your image, formed on the glass in front, is focused in the other glass in the back part. There you are! The light has done what pen and ink could not do. Now see in this a type of the photograph spoken of by the prophet.

I. What it is that receives the image.—If you speak to the photographer about his art, he will tell you that the sort of surface which suits him is one that is sensitive—easily affected by the sun’s rays. Now if you look at the word of Jeremiah you will notice that in God’s photographic work the camera is said to be the inward part: that which takes the image is the sensitive fleshy table of the heart. If there is no writing of God there, the saving work of the blessed light has not yet been begun.

How can we receive the writing of God in our hearts? A photographer must get his glass or lens made specially for his work. God needs a heart specially for His writing, and He alone can give you that heart. ‘A new heart also will I give you.’ God’s will is to take away the stony heart, and give you His heart which will receive His light.

II. What is the image received?—‘I will write My law in their hearts.’ The photograph which God makes in the heart is myself as I should be. When I see any child showing a wicked temper, I say, that is not the real, right child. Just as we are, sinners away from God, we are not our real, right selves. My real, right self is in the law of God. God’s law is ‘exceeding broad,’ but the whole law is gathered up in Jesus Christ. A great preacher of old used, when preaching, to hold a tablet with the name of Jesus written on it. We hold up His name before you, praying that you may have it written on the table of your hearts.

III. How the picture formed is perfected.—Suppose that you looked at the glass after the photographer was done with you. What would you see? Nothing. Your likeness is there, but it is scarcely visible. The artist has to wash the plate in acids, and by and by the likeness comes out. And so when God’s light streams into your heart, the image is written, but it needs many washings to bring out the likeness. ‘There is a fountain filled with blood.’ There is nothing so strong as that blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit takes that heart to the fountain, and washes and bathes it, until little by little the mind is renewed and the beauty of holiness gradually grows.

The photographer, when all is ready, says, ‘Now look steadily.’ Look straight to your loving Saviour, and pray for His Holy Spirit. He it is Who can open your eyes and give you the power to look.

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/jeremiah-31.html. 1876.