We saw from the Prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) in the previous article that sin is, among other things, a sign of our thirst. Though we know sinful things are wrong and will lead to much shame, our thirst still drives us to sin. The Prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) lived at the end of the period of the Israelite Kings – just before the judgment of Allah – at a time when sin was abundant.
By the Prophet Jeremiah’s time (600 BC – PBUH) almost a thousand years after the giving of the Law by the Prophet Musa, the lives of the Israelites had unravelled. They had not kept the Law and were thus going to feel the effects as a nation. Religion had proved a disappointment to both Allah and the thirsty people. But the prophet Jeremiah (PBUH), the messenger of judgment, also had a message about something … someday in the future …what was it?
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
“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.”(Jeremiah 31: 31-34)
So was the first covenant a failure?
The First Covenant – The Law given by the Prophet Musa (PBUH) – had been a failure not because the Law was not good. No, the Law of Musa was (and still is) very good. But the problem was that Allah had written the Law on stone tablets. With thirst in their hearts, the people had been unable to obey the Law. The problem was not with what the Law said, but where. The Law needed to be written on the hearts of the people so that the people would follow it, not on tablets of stone. The Law needed to be written inside people, so they would have the power to obey it.
But did they fail to keep the Law because they were Jews? Many people, for a variety of reasons, are quick to blame the Jews for their failures. But on this point, it will do us well to examine ourselves first. After all, on Judgment Day we will only be answering for our own failures and successes before Allah, we will not be concerned about other people.
The New Covenant writes the Law inside us
As you survey your life do you feel that you keep the Law? Is it written in your heart so you have the power to obey? If you feel you are keeping the Law as required you may want to consider your deeds in light of the teachings of the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH). Or is it for you like it was for the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day? That the Law is Good – but it is simply written on stone tablets without giving you the power to obey? Remember the standard that we learned from the Prophet Musa (PBUH). It is not enough to obey most of the law often. We must obey all of it, all the time.
If you judge yourself to fall short of the Law in some way, and feel shame about some of your actions, take heart. Allah, in His Mercy, in the message above has made another promise, of a New Covenant to come in a day future from that of the Prophet Jeremiah (PBUH). This Covenant would be different because the requirements would be written ‘inside’ the people of this New Covenant, giving them the ability to live by its decrees.
But notice that this new Covenant seems to be for ‘the house of Israel’ – the Jews. How are we to understand that? It seems that the Jewish people have at times the worst, and at other times the best of situations.
Another message – from Isaiah (pbuh)
Here the other great prophet of the Zabur, Isaiah (the one who prophesied of the Masih coming from a virgin – PBUH) had another prophecy that links with this one from Jeremiah (PBUH). These two prophets, though they lived 150 years apart (as you can see in the Timeline below) and thus did not know each other, were given messages by Allah that so complement each other that we can know that their messages originated with Allah.
Isaiah, also looking to the future, spoke of a coming Servant. Here is what he prophesied:
And now the Lord says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
and my God has been my strength—
6 he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:5-6)
In other words, this coming servant would extend the salvation of God from the Jewish people to Gentiles (ie non-Jews) so that salvation will go to the ends of the earth. Who was this coming servant? How would he do this task? And how would Jeremiah’s prophecy of a New Covenant written in our hearts rather than on stone be fulfilled? We continue looking for answers (they are there!) in the further prophecies of Zabur.