The New Covenant
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jer. 31: 31-34)
The Old and New Covenants are not a mutual agreements between equal parties as in most marriage and business contracts; but is a gracious relationship that is both initiated and defined by the superior, which is Almighty God. Therefore, because followers of God are in a covenant relationship with Him, they are obligated to accept completely the terms He sets down for the relationship to exist. The Book of Hebrews provides the most comprehensive treatment of the New Covenant and chapter eight enunciates the specific components this glorious covenant which supersedes and excels the older covenant of Sinai. The apostolic writer cites the prophet Jeremiah, who 600 years earlier foretold of the New Covenant during a time when Israel was relapsing into rebellion after the extraordinary revival that marked the era of the young King Josiah's reign: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and writhe them on their hearts; and I will be there God and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach His neighbor, and none his brother, Know the Lord,' for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Heb 8 8-12; cf. Jer. 31:34). Jeremiah's prophesy of the New Covenant was delivered at a pivotal juncture in the history of the nation of Israel. The religious climate in Israel during Jeremiah's ministry could be described as bi polar or manic - depressive; not unlike Dickens' opening lines in A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times-it was the worst of times.”
The paradigms of Josiah and Jeremiah
Jeremiah began his ministry five years into the last great awakening of the southern kingdom of Israel that was precipitated by the young King Josiah calling the nation to a covenant renewal after the High Priest Hilkiah, the father of Jeremiah, reported: "I have found the Book of the Law" (II Kings 22:8) while renovations were taking place in the Temple in 631 B.C. Josiah, son of King Amon, and mother Jedidah, became King of Judah at age 8, and reigned 31 years (639-609 BC). The Bible passage at 2 Kings 22:2 says that the character of Josiah's reign was good & that he followed in the steps of his ancestor, King David, and was obedient to the Lord. His reign was the last surge of political independence and religious revival before the disintegration of the Kingdom of Judah, which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. When Josiah was 20 years old, he began to clean up Judah and Jerusalem, destroying the heathen altars and the shameful idols on the hills, according to 2 Chronicles 34:3. He did the same thing in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, and Naphtali. Later on, he set up a collection system for gifts for the Temple, and paid carpenters and masons to repair the Temple, from the damage and neglect by the earlier Kings of Judah.
A scroll was found in the Temple by Hilkiah the High Priest. The scroll, containing the Laws of God, was read to King Josiah. When Josiah found out that the reason for the Lord's great anger on Judah and Israel was that the ancestors had not obeyed the laws written in the scriptures, he ripped his clothing in despair (2 Chronicles 34:21). Josiah then gathered the elders and all the people to the Temple, read the scroll to them, and required everyone...
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