The people of God of Jeremiah's time are in a world of hurt. The Northern Kingdom has long fallen, the people exiled to strange lands. You'd think Judah would take Israel's fate to heart and "get with the program." But no, the people seem bound to betray the covenant God has made with them. Warning prophecies of being plucked up and torn down go unheard. God is heartbroken.
In this darkest hour, God comes not to threaten destruction but to promise a new deliverance, a new covenant. God does not quit God's people, even in our sinfulness. Instead of a covenant written in stone, God will offer one that is written on the peoples' hearts. With this covenant God's people are made new. Faith is no longer bound to priest or temple or even land. Faith is now individual and universal.
This situation Jeremiah addressed sounds much like that to which Martin Luther spoke at the time of the Reformation—and much like that of today, too! To a people bound to resist, God comes afresh. God's promise speaks intimately, directly to you.
Lord God, Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness to us, even though we are unable to live up to our end of the covenant. Help us to live into your faithfulness. Amen.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NRSV)
31 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.
32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.
33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.