1. What twofold commission did Jeremiah fulfill?
JEHOVAH gave Jeremiah a twofold commission. One part was “to uproot and to pull down and to destroy and to tear down.” The other was “to build and to plant.” The prophet accomplished the former by exposing the wickedness of the proud Jews, pronouncing God’s judgment on them as well as on Babylon. Yet, Jeremiah’s prophecies included hope for the future. He foretold the building of what God purposed to be built and the planting of what He purposed to be planted. For example, Jeremiah was fulfilling the second part of his assignment when he directed attention to the restoration of the Jews to their homeland.—Jer. 1:10; 30:17, 18.
2. Why did Jehovah execute judgment on his people, and to what extent?
2 That Jeremiah proclaimed restoration did not mean that God would beforehand pamper his people or compromise his standard of justice. No, he would execute judgment on the wayward Jews. (Read Jeremiah 16:17, 18.) In Jeremiah’s day, few in Jerusalem were “doing justice” or “seeking faithfulness,” and Jehovah’s patience had reached its limit. He said: “I have got tired of feeling regret.” (Jer. 5:1; 15:6, 7) Those Jews had “returned to the errors of their forefathers, the first ones, who refused to obey” Jehovah’s words. Moreover, they angered God by their adulterous relationship with false gods. (Jer. 11:10; 34:18) Jehovah would correct his people, even chastise them, “to the proper degree.” As a result, some individuals might come to their senses and return to him.—Jer. 30:11; 46:28.
3. Why should you consider the prophecy about the new covenant?
3 God used Jeremiah to foretell something that would have much broader and long-term benefits—a new covenant. In considering Jeremiah’s prophetic writings, we have ample reason to focus on this bright aspect: the new covenant. It was to replace the covenant that had been made with Israel after the Exodus, with Moses as its mediator. (Read Jeremiah 31:31, 32.) When instituting the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus Christ spoke of this new covenant, so it is definitely of interest to us. (Luke 22:20) The apostle Paul referred to this covenant when writing to the Hebrews. He quoted Jeremiah’s prophecy and stressed the importance of the new covenant. (Heb. 8:7-9) But what exactly is the new covenant? Why did it become necessary? Who are involved, and how can you personally benefit? Let us see.
WHY THE NEW COVENANT?
4. What did the Law covenant accomplish?
4 To understand the new covenant, we first have to grasp the purpose of the former one, the Law covenant. It was to accomplish a number of excellent objectives for the nation that was awaiting a promised Seed, who would be a means to bless many. (Gen. 22:17, 18) When the Israelites accepted the Law covenant, they became God’s “special property.” Under that covenant, the tribe of Levi would provide priests for the nation. When making that national covenant between himself and Israel at Mount Sinai, Jehovah mentioned “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” but left open when and by what means that would come about. (Ex. 19:5-8) Until it did, that covenant made it clear that the Israelites could not keep the Law in all respects. So it made their sins manifest. Hence, under the Law, the Israelites were to offer sacrifices regularly to cover their sins. Yet, there clearly was a need for something more, a perfect sacrifice that would not have to be repeated. Yes, there was a dire need for lasting forgiveness of sin.—Gal. 3:19-22.
5. Why did Jehovah foretell the new covenant?
5 We can thus begin to see why, even while the Law covenant was still in force, God had Jeremiah point forward to another covenant, the new covenant. Out of his love and kindness, Jehovah wanted to make permanent help available to more than one nation. Through Jeremiah, God said regarding those in this future covenant: “I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.” (Jer. 31:34) Though that promise was given in Jeremiah’s day, it holds out a wonderful prospect for all mankind. How?
6, 7. (a) How do some feel about their sinfulness? (b) Why can considering the new covenant encourage you?
6 We are still imperfect and often become aware of this reality. That was illustrated by a brother who was fighting against a significant personal problem. He comments: “When I relapsed, I felt terrible. I thought that I could never atone for what I had done. I found it hard to pray. I would start by saying, ‘Jehovah, I don’t know whether you are going to hear this prayer, but . . .’” Some who have had such a relapse or have committed a sin have felt as if “a cloud mass” were blocking their prayers from reaching God. (Lam. 3:44) Others have been haunted by memories of past wrongdoing, years after the incident. Even otherwise exemplary Christians may say things that they later regret.—Jas. 3:5-10.
7 None of us should feel that we could never stray into inappropriate conduct. (1 Cor. 10:12) Even the apostle Paul realized that he erred. (Read Romans 7:21-25.) In this connection, the new covenant should come to mind. God promised that one key aspect of the new covenant would be his remembering sins no more. What an incomparable benefit! Foretelling that must have truly moved Jeremiah, and we can similarly be moved as we learn more about the new covenant and see how we can benefit from it.
Why did God conclude a new covenant?
WHAT IS THE NEW COVENANT?
8, 9. What did it cost Jehovah to make forgiveness of sin possible?
8 As you come to know Jehovah better, you increasingly realize how kind and merciful he is to imperfect humans. (Ps. 103:13, 14) In foretelling the new covenant, Jeremiah highlighted that Jehovah would “forgive their error” and remember sin no more. (Jer. 31:34) You can imagine that Jeremiah might have wondered how God would accomplish that forgiveness. At least he could understand that in speaking of a new covenant, God meant that there would be an agreement, or contract, between Him and humans. Somehow, by means of that covenant, Jehovah would accomplish what he inspired Jeremiah to outline, including forgiveness. More details would have to await God’s further revealing of his purpose, including what the Messiah would do.
9 You may have seen parents who spoil their children, not disciplining them. Would you expect Jehovah to be like that? Not at all! This is clear from the way the new covenant took effect. Instead of just canceling sins, God scrupulously met his own standard of justice by providing the legal basis for forgiving sins, doing so at great cost to himself. You can gain insight into this by noting what Paul wrote when discussing the new covenant. (Read Hebrews 9:15, 22, 28.) Paul mentioned “release by ransom” and said that “unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” In the case of the new covenant, this did not mean the sacrificial blood of bulls or goats as offered under the Law. No, the new covenant was made operative by Jesus’ blood. Based on that perfect sacrifice, Jehovah could ‘forgive error and sin’ lastingly. (Acts 2:38; 3:19) But who would be in this new covenant and gain that forgiveness? Not the Jewish nation. Jesus said that God would reject the Jews, those who offered animal sacrifices under the Law, and He would turn to another nation. (Matt. 21:43; Acts 3:13-15) That proved to be “the Israel of God,” composed of Christians anointed with holy spirit. In basic terms, the Law covenant was between God and natural Israel, while the new covenant is between Jehovah God and spiritual Israel, with Jesus as its Mediator.—Gal. 6:16; Rom. 9:6.
10. (a) Who is the “sprout” for David? (b) How can humans benefit from the “sprout”?
10 Jeremiah depicted the coming One, the Messiah, as the “sprout” for David. That is fitting. Even while Jeremiah was serving as a prophet, David’s royal family tree was cut down. However, the stump was not dead. In time, Jesus was born in the line of King David. He could be called “Jehovah Is Our Righteousness,” highlighting God’s deep concern for that quality. (Read Jeremiah 23:5, 6.) Jehovah allowed his only-begotten Son to experience suffering on earth and to die. Then Jehovah—in harmony with justice—could apply the value of the ransom sacrifice of the “sprout” for David as a basis for forgiveness. (Jer. 33:15) This opened the way for some humans to be declared “righteous for life” and anointed with holy spirit, becoming parties to the new covenant. As further evidence of God’s concern for righteousness, others who are not directly in that covenant can and do benefit from it, as we will see.—Rom. 5:18.
11. (a) On what is the law of the new covenant written? (b) Why are the “other sheep” interested in the law of the new covenant?
11 Would you like to know other distinctive aspects of the new covenant? One major difference between it and the Mosaic Law covenant is what they were written on. (Read Jeremiah 31:33.) The Ten Commandments of the Law covenant were written on stone tablets, which eventually disappeared. In contrast, Jeremiah prophesied that the law of the new covenant would be written in human hearts, and it would endure. Those who are parties to the new covenant, anointed Christians, truly appreciate this law. What of those who are not directly in the new covenant, the “other sheep,” who hope to live forever on earth? (John 10:16) These too delight in God’s law. In a sense, they are like the alien residents in Israel, who accepted and benefited from the Mosaic Law.—Lev. 24:22; Num. 15:15.
12, 13. (a) What is the law of the new covenant? (b) Under “the law of the Christ,” why would you not feel coerced into serving God?
12 How would you reply if asked, ‘What is this law that is inscribed in the heart of anointed Christians?’ Well, this law is also called “the law of the Christ.” It was first given to spiritual Israelites, those in the new covenant. (Gal. 6:2; Rom. 2:28, 29) You could sum up “the law of the Christ” in one word: love. (Matt. 22:36-39) How do those of the anointed get this law written in their heart? Key ways are by their studying God’s Word and approaching Jehovah in prayer. Accordingly, those aspects of true worship should be regular features of the lives of all true Christians, even those who are not in the new covenant but who want to benefit from it.
13 “The law of the Christ” is referred to as “the perfect law that belongs to freedom” and “the law of a free people.” (Jas. 1:25; 2:12) Many were born under the Mosaic Law, but no one is born into the new covenant or under the law of the Christ. None who become obedient to the law of the Christ are coerced into serving God. Rather, they are delighted to know that God’s law can be written in hearts and that lasting benefits of the covenant that Jeremiah foretold are available to humans today.
How did God make forgiveness possible through the new covenant? How can you learn about the law that is written in hearts?
BENEFICIARIES OF THE NEW COVENANT
14. Who clearly benefit from the new covenant?
14 Upon learning that the 144,000 are in the new covenant, some may have thought that only these benefit from it. Perhaps they thought so because only anointed ones are to partake of the emblems at the annual Memorial of Christ’s death, where the wine represents the “blood of the covenant.” (Mark 14:24) Recall, though, that those in the new covenant are to be associates with Jesus as the “seed” of Abraham, by means of which all nations will be blessed. (Gal. 3:8, 9, 29; Gen. 12:3) Somehow, through the new covenant, Jehovah will fulfill his promise to bless all mankind through Abraham’s “seed.”
15. What role are the anointed foretold to have?
15 Jesus Christ, the primary part of the seed of Abraham, serves as High Priest, and he provided the perfect sacrifice that makes possible forgiveness of error and sin. (Read Hebrews 2:17, 18.) Yet, God long ago pointed forward to “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex. 19:6) In natural Israel the priests were from one tribe, and the kings were from a different tribe. So how would this promised nation of king-priests come about? The apostle Peter directed his first letter to ones who were sanctified by the spirit. (1 Pet. 1:1, 2) He referred to such ones as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession.” (1 Pet. 2:9) Anointed Christians in the new covenant will thus serve as underpriests. Think of what that means! We daily struggle under the influence of sin, which still ‘rules as king.’ Those serving as underpriests will have had a similar experience. (Rom. 5:21) They will be aware of how it feels to make mistakes and grapple with guilt. So along with Christ, they will be able to sympathize with us as we overcome sinful tendencies.
16 At Revelation 7:9, 14, the “great crowd” are seen “dressed in white robes,” which implies a clean standing with God. To be in line to survive “the great tribulation,” that great crowd is now being formed. Hence, even now these gain a certain righteous standing before God. They are being declared righteous as Jehovah’s friends. (Rom. 4:2, 3; Jas. 2:23) What a benefit that is! If you are part of the great crowd, you can be sure that God is willing to work with you as you strive to remain clean in his eyes.
17. In what sense does Jehovah “remember” sins no more?
17 What happens to the sins of those whom God favors? As noted earlier, Jehovah said through Jeremiah: “I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.” (Jer. 31:34) God does this for the anointed on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice. In a similar way, God can forgive the sins of the great crowd on the basis of the same “blood of the covenant.” Jeremiah’s saying that God would “remember” sins no more does not imply that He would have a memory lapse and simply not be able to recall the sins. Rather, it indicates that once Jehovah has administered any needed discipline and forgiven a repentant sinner, God throws that past sin behind Him. Think of the sins King David committed involving Bath-sheba and Uriah. David received discipline and felt the consequences of his sins. (2 Sam. 11:4, 15, 27; 12:9-14; Isa. 38:17) Yet, God did not keep holding David accountable for those sins. (Read 2 Chronicles 7:17, 18.) As indicated in the new covenant, once Jehovah has forgiven sins, based on Jesus’ sacrifice, He remembers them no more.—Ezek. 18:21, 22.
18, 19. The new covenant contains what lesson about forgiveness?
18 Accordingly, the new covenant highlights a wonderful aspect of Jehovah’s dealings with sinful humans, both the anointed, who are in the covenant, and those with an earthly hope. You can trust that once Jehovah has dealt with your sins, he will not bring them up again. God’s promise about the new covenant thus offers a lesson for each of us. Ask yourself, ‘Do I try to imitate Jehovah by not dredging up the offenses of others, errors that I have already said I forgave?’ (Matt. 6:14, 15) This applies to small offenses as well as to very serious ones, such as a Christian mate’s sin of adultery. If the innocent one agrees to forgive the repentant adulterer, is it not right to ‘remember the sin no more’? Granted, our putting errors behind us may not be easy, yet it is one way that we can imitate Jehovah.*
19 We can apply this lesson related to the new covenant even as respects someone who was disfellowshipped but repented and was reinstated. What if that person had caused you loss or had defamed you in some way? Now he is accepted back into the congregation. How will what we read at Jeremiah 31:34 influence our personal thinking and response? Will we forgive the transgressor and not keep bringing up the wrong again? (2 Cor. 2:6-8) Truly, that is something that all who appreciate the new covenant should try to apply in real life.
How can you apply a lesson about forgiveness illustrated in the new covenant?
PRESENT AND FUTURE BLESSINGS OF THE NEW COVENANT
20. How is your attitude different from that of many in Jeremiah’s day?
20 In Jeremiah’s day, many Jews were saying, in effect: “Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.” (Zeph. 1:12) Although they had some knowledge of who Jehovah is and what he is like, they felt that he would not take action; nor would he expect them to live up to any standards. You, though, know that nothing escapes divine attention. You have a respectful fear of God and definitely want to refrain from doing bad. (Jer. 16:17) At the same time, you know Jehovah to be a benevolent Father. He takes note of our good deeds, whether others see them or not.—2 Chron. 16:9.
21, 22. Why do you no longer need to be told: “Know Jehovah”?
21 A significant aspect of the new covenant is this: “I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, . . . And they will no more teach each one his companion and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know Jehovah!’ for they will all of them know me.” (Jer. 31:33, 34) The anointed on earth today have shown that they have God’s law within them. They love the truths found in it, rather than relying on the teachings of any human. And they have happily shared Bible knowledge with those forming the great crowd. Thus, these with an earthly hope have also come to know and love Jehovah. They willingly submit to his direction and trust in his promises. You probably fit that description. You know him as a Person and have a personal relationship with him. What a benefit that is!
22 How have you been able to strengthen your relationship with Jehovah? You no doubt remember occasions when you felt that he answered your prayers. Through such experiences, you deepened your appreciation for the kind of God he is. You may have sensed his assistance as you recalled a scripture that helped you to cope with adversity. Cherish such experiences. As you keep on studying his Word, your knowledge of him will continue to increase—an ongoing benefit.
23. How can knowing Jehovah free you from unnecessary troubling feelings?
23 But linked to the new covenant is another blessing that we can experience now. Knowing Jehovah as the one who provides forgiveness in line with that covenant can help free us of persistent feelings of guilt. For example, some who had an abortion before they knew God’s standard may sense guilt and sadness because they deliberately ended the life of a developing human. Others feel that way because they took lives when they engaged in warfare. Jesus’ ransom sacrifice—fundamental to the new covenant—provides for forgiveness of truly repentant ones. That being so, should we not be convinced that if Jehovah has forgiven our sins, he views the matter as closed? We need not dwell on the sins that Jehovah has bountifully forgiven.
24. What encouragement can you draw from the account at Jeremiah 31:20?
24 We find graphic evidence of God’s forgiveness at Jeremiah 31:20. (Read.) Decades before Jeremiah’s day, Jehovah punished the ten-tribe northern kingdom of Israel (represented by Ephraim, the prominent tribe) because of their idolatry. They were taken into exile. Yet, God was deeply attached to the people of that nation and showed them tender affection. He still cherished them as “a fondly treated child.” When he thought about them, his intestines ‘became boisterous,’ meaning that his deep feelings were touched. This account, found in the context of the new covenant, shows how largehearted Jehovah is toward those who repent of past misconduct.
25. Why can you be grateful to Jehovah for the new covenant?
25 Jehovah’s promise to forgive sins through the new covenant will reach its fullest extent at the end of Christ’s Millennial Reign. Jesus Christ, together with the 144,000 underpriests, will have restored to perfection loyal humans. After the final test, mankind will then be full-fledged members of Jehovah’s universal family. (Read Romans 8:19-22.) For centuries, all have been groaning under the burden of sin. However, Jehovah’s human creation will then have “the glorious freedom of the children of God,” freedom from sin and death. Consequently, be confident that through the loving arrangement of the new covenant, you can obtain abundant benefits. You can benefit now and forever through the “sprout” for David and enjoy “righteousness in the land.”—Jer. 33:15.
How can you benefit from the new covenant now and in the future?