For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind…
It will be observed that the last-named promise is pardon. But though the last mentioned, it is the first bestowed, as indicated by the conjunction for, by which it is introduced. Pardon is not only promised, but is here represented as the reason for the preceding blessings. It is evident that the author, in his enumeration of these blessings of the better covenant, presents them in the inverse order of their realisation. In them he traces the Divine process of salvation, but starts at a point where that salvation has reached its highest fruition on its moral side, that grand moral achievement, the complete surrender of the soul to the Divine will, indicated by the writing of the law in the heart, and descends by the several steps of the process to the initiatory one, the pardoning of sins. It follows, then, that in order to understand duly these truths of overwhelming interest, we must deal with them according to their logical sequence.
I. THE PARDON.
1. Its source. This is indicated by the expression, "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness." The source, then, of the promised pardon is the mercifulness of God. We mean, of course, its moral source, for its legal source is the atonement of Jesus Christ.
2. We have also the fulness of this act of mercy indicated in the expression, "their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." This oblivion of transgression is a feature of the Divine pardon much emphasised in the Scriptures, with a view, no doubt, of duly impressing men with the fact of its absolute entirety. Nothing can be more emphatic than the prophet's declaration regarding God's dealings with the sins of Israel — "And Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). Absolute oblivion is the prominent idea of this graphic figure. That which is cast into the depths of the sea cannot be commemorated. An incident in connection with the laying of the Atlantic cable furnishes a striking illustration of the insuperable difficulty of marking spots in mid-ocean. When the first Atlantic cable was being laid it broke in mid-ocean, and the severed pieces dropped into the bottom, and the vessel was compelled to return to England to procure the means of recovering the broken end. Before, however, leaving the spot, means were adopted to mark the place, so that on their return the lost end might be found. So a suitable buoy was constructed, and every precaution taken to render its foundering or drifting impossible, as they supposed. But on the vessel's return the buoy laid down with such care was found, but, as careful astronomical observations showed, it had drifted over five hundred miles away from the spot where it had been originally moored. The broken end of the cable was never recovered. Thus is strikingly illustrated the impossibility of erecting memorials in mid-sea. God, therefore, by representing Himself as casting our sins there, would tell us how completely He forgets them, and how certain it is that He will never charge us with them again.
II. THE INTUITIONAL KNOWLEDGE OF GOD ASSURED BY THE BETTER COVENANT. The knowledge of God forms a very important part in the Divine redemption. It is, so to speak, the Alpha of the whole process. Our Lord represents it so — "And this is eternal life, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3). The knowledge, however, referred to here, is introductory to the blessings of salvation, whereas that of the text is the outcome of the blessing realised. We come to the blessing through the knowledge in the one case, but in the other we come to the knowledge through the blessing. In the first instance the knowledge is our schoolmaster to the blessing; in the second the blessing becomes our schoolmaster to the knowledge. The knowledge of God obtained through experience of His pardon is the grandest of all knowledge of Him. It is also the only infallible knowledge. An eminent minister, recently addressing a number of young ministers starting for the mission-field, said, "You will never lack a theme, for your mission is to tell of Him whom you know better than you know any one else besides." Never was uttered profounder thought or one more true. Those who know God know Him better than any one beside, better than they know their most intimate friends, better than husband knows his wife, or wife her husband, better than children know their parents, or parents their children. We may be deceived in our nearest and most intimate friends and relations, much as we may know respecting them. But God cannot deceive us. The nearest friend may fail us, but God cannot fail us.
III. THE DIVINE KINSHIP ASSURED BY THE NEW COVENANT. The relation to His people indicated by this expression I take to imply fatherhood. When God promises to be our. God, He promises to be our Father, and the pardoned soul apprehends Him in this light. In short, it is the pardoning act that reveals God to the soul first in this light. In this transaction he discovers God becoming his God as a father, for this act of pardon is, above all, a fatherly act. Our Lord has shown us this in that inimitable parable of the prodigal son. In nothing is God so intensely a father as when He forgives. And the child never understands his own father, never has the fatherly attribute so deeply revealed to his heart, as when he has had occasion to experience the joy of his father's forgiveness. Again, this relationship is in itself a guarantee of the fullest and most devoted service on their behalf. If the statement, "I will be to them a God," is equivalent to the statement, "I will be a Father unto them," then we know what it must mean as regards undertaking and acting for them. Some light is thrown upon this by the words already quoted — "God is not ashamed to be called their God." To this is added, "for He has prepared a city for them." This preparing of a city for them is given as a proof that He is not ashamed to own Himself as their God. As if it should be said, "He is not ashamed to avow Himself their God, for behold on how grand a scale He discharges the obligations of that relationship." We have no need to be told what the title "father" signified to the child: care, love, guidance, support, and all without stint.
IV. THE ASSURANCE WHICH THE BETTER COVENANT GIVES OF A LOVING, CHILDLIKE SUBJECTION TO THE DIVINE WILL. Parental government is by means of laws wrought in the heart; magisterial, by laws without. The parental relationship of God, fully and deeply realised by the believer, quickens the filial disposition, inducing such a humble, yet cordial, assimilation to the Divine will, comparable only to the " putting of the Divine laws into the mind and writing them upon the heart." Let us try and get at the meaning of these peculiar expressions regarding the law, "the putting it into the mind" and "the writing it in the heart." Now, the mind and the heart represents two sides of our nature, the intellectual and the emotional. Here, then, we have guaranteed to us the fact that the law, the sanctifying principle, shall take possession of these two ruling sides of our moral nature, exerting upon them an influence both subduing and formative.
(A. J. Parry.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
WEB: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days," says the Lord; "I will put my laws into their mind, I will also write them on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people.