“This is the covenant I will make with the people 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.”
The language of the covenant God made with the Old Testament people of Israel was full of “you”: You shall have no other gods. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. You shall not covet. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The problem with all those “you shall” and “you shall not” was that God’s people proved they could not keep up their end of the bargain. By the time the prophet Jeremiah wrote today’s verse breaking the covenant had become habitual.
The people had shown that the law’s commands could not properly motivate them to be obedient. They needed a new covenant. This new covenant would be different from the old covenant.
It would not be a list of obligations chiseled by God’s finger into stone tablets. It would not be full of “you shall” and “you shall not.” Instead this covenant would be written by God’s Spirit onto human hearts, and it would be full of I’s: “I will make … I will put … I will write … I will be their God.”
The old covenant told people what to do, but the new covenant would be all about what God did to save everyone from their sins and make a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. God made that covenant when he sent his Son into the world to do the work of salvation.
Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death, and glorious resurrection are all we need. There are no “you shall” and “you shall not” required to get into heaven. The new covenant puts God’s law in our minds for us to follow—not so that God will make us his, but because he already has.
In other words, Christians do not serve God because they have to. Christians serve God because they want to!
Lord, thank you for being my God. Help me to live for you. Amen.