“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” Jeremiah 31:31
I recently watched the sequel to the film “Wall Street,” so I can’t help but think about God’s covenant with God’s people in terms of business sense. God saw potential in the people Israel, and decided to make contract with them. But Israel fell short on their end of the agreement over and over. Over and over, God gave them merciful loopholes. Sometimes, God enforced the contract’s guidelines to hold the people accountable in different ways, but after centuries and centuries of their shady dealings, and their going back on their word, and their outright hatred/rebellion, God finally looked ready to call it all off. The contract, the covenant, was in shreds, so God let justice happen in the form of Exile. The people probably believed firmly that God was done with them now; the Temple was destroyed, and who knows what else.
But, then, out of nowhere, the prophet’s voice turns from doom to hope, and a promise that not only is God not going to totally eradicate them. Not only is God going to let them be free again. But God is going to write out a new contract, and they will still be partners together. God is still willing to be attached to these folks. Ridiculous. Gordon Gekko would flip his wig. What a bad investment. And God is supposed to be smart. How could God be willing to set himself up for failure again? If you or I knew a friend or loved one who was running their business this way, or making deals like God was making, we would advise against it and watch painfully. It would be embarassing.
To get closer to covenant, it might do better to picture it all in relationship terms. If you had a close girlfriend who consistently put up with a guy’s mistreatment, we’d tell her to not be a doormat. If she finally got up the resolve to dump him, we would support her and celebrate and encourage her to bigger and better things. We’d tell her to leave that toxic partnership behind. And if she went back again later, what would we think of her then? If she went back and said, “now we’re starting over, and this is going to be bigger and better,” we would call her nuts. Maybe we’d leave her to herself and wash our hands of it.
Both of those scenarios, to me, are getting at how God treats God’s people in history, and today. In Jeremiah, this is that turning point for those in Exile to hear that somehow God is going to come and contract with them again, and be their beloved again, and vice versa. It’s not really rational, and it leaves God terribly vulnerable to further disappointment, and it makes God seem like a glutton for punishment. But, truly, it should be a reminder that God isn’t just a human businessperson trying to cash in on a good investment. And God isn’t just a dependent relational counterpart who doesn’t know how to live without us. For whatever reason, and out of no obligation, God chooses us. Over and over, until it looks almost foolish. But thank goodness, thank the Lord, for it.
God doesn’t just offer us second and third and 200th chances, but God is creative to find new ways for us to be redeemed, and made right, and grow up into the fullness of life in him. And so the new covenant wasn’t just another try along the same old lines, but the promise for even more help. The new covenant was to be one, we know now, sealed in the very blood of the Son of God. Let all that sink in today. Today, feel just a part of what it meant to the people to hear this from Jeremiah, but also what it meant for all humans everywhere, how it came to pass in Jesus, and what it means for you, this day.