God Bleeds for this Covenant
Rev. Kurt Lantz 5 Lent B Jeremiah 31:31-34
March 21, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people loved by the LORD,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
You didn’t live up to your end of the bargain. It’s all void. You have disqualified yourself. The extended warranty on your car is only good so long as you keep up with the prescribed maintenance schedule. The service contract on your laptop may only be good so long as you do not open it up yourself to try to fix something on your own. There can be some pretty good protection out there for your goods, but only so long as you can fulfill your part of the agreement.
When the LORD brought His people out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, He made a covenant with them at Mount Sinai, that He would be their God and they would be His people. They said that they would keep His commandments and He said He would save them from all their enemies, bring them to the promised land, give it to them, and dwell with them there to bless them and make them prosper (Exodus 23:30-24:8). “And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (24:8).
It was a good deal but they blew it. They broke the covenant they made with the LORD. They did not allow Him to be their God. Instead they gave themselves to the gods of other nations, gods that did not mean to do them good but harm, gods that led them to immoral and abominable practices, that did not protect them from enemies; and so they were conquered, exiled, and brought to the brink of obliteration.
But the LORD who had saved them, who brought them out of Egypt and had promised for His part that He would be their God to save them from every evil, would not let them go so easily. He pledged Himself to them yet again, in order to give them hope in their time of despair. He promised that He would make a new covenant with them, a covenant that did not depend on their own resolve, which proved far too weak. In this new covenant they would not be inspired by their own willpower, but by the love of God for them. He would forgive their sins and so fill their hearts with His own love that they would love Him in return and be His people (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
This new covenant is like the renewal of a marriage. That is how God Himself described it. God and His people Israel had first pledged themselves to each other at Mount Sinai after He had rescued them from Egypt. But His bride then was unfaithful. She allowed herself to be lured away by the gods of foreign nations. The Bible even puts it in terms of whoring after other gods. Although the LORD was faithful to them and repeatedly called them back, it became obvious that His people just were not able to be faithful to Him. Their sinful nature kept leading them to turn to other gods in order to indulge their sinful desires; even when they knew that those gods were not good for them, that they would hurt them, and enslave them.
That same sinful nature is what dwells in you. That is what leads you to turn away from God so that you can disregard His commandments and indulge your own sinful desires. The LORD pledged Himself to you in Holy Baptism. He brought you into His family. He pledged to be your God, to save you from all your enemies, to be with you in order to bless and prosper you, to bring you to eternal life in paradise. But your sinful nature keeps turning you away from Him so that you can keep doing the sinful things that give you pleasure but destroy your relationship with Him.
Any earthly spouse would leave you. They would pack up and get out and you would be on your own. Your continual unfaithfulness would destroy the marriage. You would be served the divorce papers, the ties would be broken, they would be gone, and you would never hear from them again unless it was to collect some kind of payment from you, to make you suffer for what you have done.
But the LORD God did something totally unthinkable, something no other person or god would do. He pledged Himself to His people once again; and not in any way that would depend upon their internal resolve to keep their vows, or their ability to keep up a maintenance schedule to service their souls. It was not because they were irresistibly beautiful, or unimaginably rich. It had nothing to do with anything they could offer or give.
There is a new covenant from God to His people whereby His forgiving love is the sole binding force to keep them together. This is the only way that the sinful nature of His people will not dissolve their union, the only way that He will continue to be your God and you His beloved child.
This is so foundational to the history of the LORD’s love to His people that we divide that history up based on this new covenant. We call it the New Testament, in contrast to the Old Testament. It is the same loving God pledging Himself to His people, but a new revelation of His never-failing love and grace that overcomes all of our sinfulness in order that we might be His own forever.
You know that the New Testament is all about God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. It is His love in becoming man in order to give His life as our ransom that inspires our love for Him. It doesn’t come out of any promise we make or any internal fortitude, resolve, or strength. It is all completely dependent on what He does for us in giving Himself into suffering and death for the forgiveness of our horrible sins, our whoring sins, whereby we so often turn away from Him in order to indulge our sinful appetites.
Jesus said, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise” (Mark 10:33-34). This is what He suffered in order to get back His unfaithful bride. This is the ransom He was willing to pay in order to be your God. This is the extent of His love for you, the only way by which you will be able to love Him. A love unknown among sinful mankind, your Saviour’s love to you, love to the loveless shown that you might be lovely.
It was at the last celebration of the Passover with His disciples that Jesus took a cup and said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). Yes, it is His blood poured out upon the cross to ransom you from your sins; His blood poured out upon you in Holy Communion. This is the New Testament, the blood of Jesus. This is His covenant with you. This is His love to have you as His own, to forgive you all your sins, to create in you a new heart to love Him so that you will not leave Him.
Imagine a spouse who is not only willing to take back their unfaithful mate, but who will pay the price of all their debts, forgive all their adulteries, wash and cleanse them from their sinful addictions, care and heal them from their horrible infectious diseases, and do it even though it drains away their very own life. That is the only kind of love that has any hope of sustaining such a marriage. It requires pain and sacrifice and suffering and death. That is why we don’t often see that path taken when one spouse is unfaithful. It hurts too much. It is beyond us. It requires divine love and forgiveness. It is the right thing to do, but the impossible thing to do.
And yet this is what your God does for you, just so that you will love Him, so that you will give up on those other gods that use you and hurt you and enslave you. He does it all for your sake, so that you will be safe, saved, in this life and the next.
Jesus’ blood of this covenant is given to you here at the altar for the forgiveness of your sins, and so that you will love Him. This blood of Jesus cleanses you from all your unfaithfulness. It purifies you from every spot and stain. It transforms your heart to learn to love the One who gave His life for you. This blood of Jesus gives you what you do not possess on your own, the inspiration to keep the covenant, to cling to the love of Christ, to let it fill you and spill out in your love for others.
Your sinful nature will not allow this to happen on its own. It is only the love of God for you in the blood of Jesus that will drive you to give of yourself to ransom others, to forgive their sins against you, and to live in the peace of knowing that you have a God who loves you and has conquered your sinful nature so that you might love Him. No matter how detestable your sins have been, how many times you have played the whore to indulge your desires, how stained and dirty and polluted you have made yourself, Jesus has poured out His blood to redeem you. He has given His life to ransom you. And by the blood of this new covenant, the LORD forgives your iniquity and remembers your sins no more.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.