The People of God: Part 5 of 7 Promise of a New Covenant

Throughout the history of the Israelites, they were plagued and sickened by divided loyalties, mistrust, unfaithfulness and disobedience. Instead of living “shema” (Deut 6:4-9) and leaning into their identity as the people of God, the Israelites constantly turned away from God and rejected their belonging in favor of self-preservation and self-sovereignty.[1] They struggled with being a people who reveal to the nations the glorious name, ways and character of creator God. They failed in being a people who brought God’s life-giving blessings to the nations. Thus, they were not worshipping and serving God or partnering with him in his redemptive and restorative mission.[2]

In view of the Israelites ongoing dilemma, God sends his messengers, the prophets, to get the attention of his people. Instead of giving up on his people, he shows his steadfast love by drawing them back to him through judgement and through messages of life and hope. The prophets speak messages focused on God’s sovereignty with the aim that Israel would recognize that their sovereign God should govern all their “doings.” The prophets confronted the sins of the Israelites and counseled them to change their behavior towards others. God speaks through Isaiah saying, “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from my sight. Stop doing evil. Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause” (Isa 1:16-17).

Moreover, the prophets announced both judgment and hope. They announced God’s judgement as a warning for the people to turn back to God. This message of judgment ultimately resulted in exile, “but even in the midst of sin, judgement and exile the prophets proclaimed YHWH’s grace-filled, unaltered commitment to [his] mission.”[3] God still desired that his people participate in his restorative mission by being the instrument that “bring[s] life-giving blessing to all the nations.”[4] Thus, the prophets speak a message of hope “that somehow, someday YHWH will accomplish his intentions for the people by doing for them what they can’t do for themselves. YHWH will deal with the human dilemma of divided loyalties by transforming the people’s character so that they can live out their identity as the instrument of the divine redemptive mission.”[5]

This involved the promise of the new covenant. Through Ezekiel, God says, “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant I will establish and multiply them and will set my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Ezek 37:26-27). Through Jeremiah, God says,

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares 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 (Jer 31:31,33).

God promises a new move that will further his redemptive and restorative mission in the world. He gives his people hope that they will be forgiven of their sins and receive a new and clean heart. They will have a new spirit which will allow them to enter into a close personal relationship with God and to fulfill their God given mission.[6]

[1] Brad E. Kelle, Telling the Old Testament Story: God’s Mission and God’s People (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017), 166. [2] Kelle, Telling, 165. [3] Kelle, Telling, 165. [4] Kelle, Telling, 165. [5] Kelle, Telling, 168. [6] Charles H. H. Scobie, The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2003), 483-485.