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Sabbath School Lesson Begins
The Book of Jeremiah
Lesson 11 December 5-11
Read for This Week's Study: Gen. 9:1-17; 12:1-3; Gal. 3:6-9, 15-18; Exodus 24:1-18; Jer. 31:31-34; 1 Cor. 11:24-26.
'The days are coming,' declares the
Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and
with the people of Judah' (Jeremiah
Although the Bible speaks of
in the plural (Rom.
9:4, Gal. 4:24), there is only one basic
covenant, the covenant of grace, in which God bestows salvation upon
fallen beings who claim it by faith. The idea of plural
arises from the various ways God has restated the essential covenant
promise in order to meet the needs of His people in different times and
But whether it's the Adamic covenant (Gen. 3:15), the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3, Gal. 3:6-9), the Sinaitic covenant (Exod. 20:2), the Davidic covenant (Ezek. 37:24-27), or the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-33), the idea is the same. The salvation God provides is a gift, unmerited and undeserved, and the human response to that gift-in a sense, humanity's holding up its side of the deal-is faithfulness and obedience.
The first mention of the New Covenant is in Jeremiah, in the context of Israel's return from exile and the blessings that God would grant them. Even amid calamity and trouble, the Lord extends to His wayward people the offer of hope and restoration.
Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 12.
Sunday December 6
We look at how bad the world is today; that is, we see all the
evil in it, and yet God still bears with us. Thus, we can only imagine
just how bad things must have been in order for the Lord to destroy the
whole world with a flood.
God had given men His commandments
as a rule of life, but His law was transgressed, and every conceivable
sin was the result. The wickedness of men was open and daring, justice
was trampled in the dust, and the cries of the oppressed reached unto
heaven.-Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 91.
Read Genesis 9:1-17. What covenant was made between God and humanity, and how does it reflect God's grace toward the creation?
The covenant God expressed to Noah was the most universal among the biblical covenants; it was with all humanity, and it included the animals and nature too (Gen. 9:12). Also, this was a one-sided arrangement: the Lord didn't impose any requirements or stipulations upon those with whom He was establishing the covenant. He simply was not going to destroy the earth with water again, period. Unlike other covenants, nothing was conditional about it.
God then sealed His covenant with a visible sign, that of a rainbow, which symbolizes the covenant promise that the earth will never be destroyed by a flood again. So, anytime we see a rainbow, the mere fact that we are here to see it is, in its own way, a vindication of this ancient covenant promise. (After all, if we had been wiped out in a universal flood, we wouldn't be here to see the rainbow!) Amid the constant sin and evil here on earth, at times we are blessed with the beauty of the rainbow, a sign of God's grace toward the whole world. We can look up at it and draw hope, not only from just how beautiful it is in and of itself, but also because we know that it's a message from God, a message of His love toward our wretched planet.
Dwell upon the grandeur and beauty of a rainbow. Especially in light of what the Bible tells us about the rainbow, in what ways can it draw us toward God, toward transcendence, toward something greater than what this mere earth itself offers?
Monday December 7
Read Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-5, 17:1-14. What do these texts tell us about what the Lord intended to do through the covenant He made with Abraham?
The Abrahamic covenant of grace is fundamental to the entire course of salvation history. That's why Paul used it to help explain the plan of salvation as it was fulfilled in Jesus Himself.
Read Galatians 3:6-9, 15-18. How does Paul connect the covenant made with Abraham to Jesus and to salvation by faith alone?
Through Abraham's seed-referring not to his many descendants,
but in particular to one, Jesus (see Gal.
3:16), God would bless the entire world. All who
would be a part of Abraham's seed, which happens by faith in Christ (Gal.
3:29), would find that Abraham's God would be
their God as well. Even back then, Abraham
believed God, and
it was accounted to him for righteousness (Gal.
3:6). Abraham was no more saved by works than
the thief on the cross was; it's always and only God's saving grace
that brings salvation. Abraham fulfilled his end of the covenant
promise. His obedience revealed the faith that took hold of the promise
of salvation. His works didn't justify him; instead, the works showed
that he was already justified. That's the essence of the covenant and
how it is expressed in the life of faith (see
Dwell upon the great truth that your hope of salvation comes only from the righteousness of Jesus credited to you by faith. What great hope and joy can you derive from this wonderful provision made in your behalf?
Tuesday December 8
How was the covenant made between Israel and God at Mount Sinai? Exodus 24:1-18
Moses and some leaders went to Mount Sinai. These leaders included Aaron and his two sons, who represented the priests; and the 70 elders and leaders, who represented the nation. The men accompanying Moses had to stop from afar, but Moses was allowed to go on up to where God appeared.
Moses later came and affirmed the covenant with the whole
nation. He proclaimed what God had spoken to him, to which the nation
answered with the following words:
All the words which the
Lord has said we will do. (See
Of course, as sacred history has shown and as our own experience often proves, it's one thing to make the claim to be obedient; it's quite another to reach out in faith and surrender in order to harness the divine power that gives us the grace to do what we say we will.
Read Hebrews 4:2. How does this verse explain Israel's failure? How can we learn to avoid the same mistake?
Only by faith and by grasping the promises that come by faith can we be obedient, an obedience that is expressed by loyalty to God's law. Obedience to the law was no more contrary to the everlasting covenant in Moses' time than it is in ours. The common misperception about the law and the covenants, which usually arises from reading Paul, stems from a failure to take into account the context in which Paul was writing, that of dealing with his Judaizing opponents. They wanted to make the law and obedience to it, central to the faith; Paul, in contrast, wanted to make Christ and His righteousness the central component.
How often have you said,
that the Lord has told me, I will do? only to fail to follow
through? How does this unfortunate reality make the promise of grace so
much more precious? What hope would you have without it?
Wednesday December 9
Read Jeremiah 31:31-34. What do these texts mean both in their immediate context and in ours today?
Jeremiah uttered these words amid the greatest crisis the people had yet faced: the coming Babylonian invasion, when the nation was threatened with all but certain extinction. Here again, however, as in other places, the Lord offered them hope, the promise that this was not going to be the ultimate end, and that they would have another chance to thrive in the presence of the Lord.
So, the first promise of the
found in the Bible is in the context of Israel's eventual return from
Babylonian exile and the blessing that God would grant to them upon
that return. Just as the breaking of the covenant made at Sinai (Jer.
31:32) brought them into exile, so the remaking
of this covenant would preserve them and their hope for the future.
Like the Sinai covenant, the new covenant would be relational, and it
would include the same law, the Ten Commandments, but now written not
just on tablets of stone but in their minds and on their hearts, where
it should have been all along.
The same law that was engraved upon the tables of
stone is written by the Holy Spirit upon the tables of the heart.
Instead of going about to establish our own righteousness, we accept
the righteousness of Christ. His blood atones for our sins. His
obedience is accepted for us. Then the heart renewed by the Holy Spirit
will bring forth 'the fruits of the Spirit.' Through the grace of
Christ we shall live in obedience to the law of God written upon our
hearts. Having the Spirit of Christ, we shall walk even as He walked.-Ellen
G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 372.
Under the new covenant, their sins would be forgiven, they
would know the Lord for themselves, and they would obey God's law
through the power of the Holy Spirit working in them. Old covenant in
shadows and in symbols, new covenant in reality, salvation was always
by faith, a faith that would reveal
the fruits of the Spirit.
Thursday December 10
The prophecy of Jeremiah about the new covenant contains a double application: first, it refers to Israel's return to God and His bringing them home; second, it refers to the work of Jesus the Messiah, whose death ratified the covenant and would change the relationship between humans and God. It's in the New Covenant that we get the fullest expression of the plan of salvation, which before had been revealed only in shadows and types (Heb. 10:1).
Read Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:24-26. How do these texts link back to Jeremiah's prophecy?
The broken body of Christ and His shed blood were revealed in the Old Testament in the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb. The juice of the vine represents the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, revealed in the New Testament. The work of Jesus did not begin with the New Testament; it embraced the Old as well, and in the communion service we can see the link that unites what Jesus has done all through salvation history.
The bread and the juice, then, provide the shortest summary of that salvation history. Though they are just symbols, it is still through these symbols that we understand God's incredible work in our behalf.
The Communion service points not just to Christ's death, but
also to His return, without which His death would be all but
meaningless. After all, what good would Christ's first coming be
without the second, when we are resurrected from the grave (1
Thess. 4:16, 1 Cor. 15:12-18)? Jesus established
the link when He said,
But I say unto you, I will not drink
henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it
new with you in my Father's kingdom (Matt.
26:29). No question, Christ's first coming is
inseparably tied to His second. The first finds its ultimate
fulfillment only in the second.
Next time you partake of the communion service, think about Christ's vow not to drink of the fruit of the vine until He does so with us in the kingdom of God. How does that make you feel? What does that say about the closeness that Christ seeks with us?
Friday December 11Further Thought: As we saw, the Bible teaches that the rainbow is a sign of God's covenantal promise never to destroy the earth by water again. Sure, thanks to science, we now know that a rainbow occurs when sunlight is both refracted and reflected in drops of water, dispersing the light at various angles. Light enters a raindrop at one point, is reflected off the back of that drop at another, and leaves at another, creating the colors that we see. Poet John Keats feared that science would
unweave a rainbow,but even if we could parse, measure, predict, and quantify everything about a rainbow down to the innards of each photon and the underbelly of every quark, what would that prove other than that we understand better the natural laws God used to create the signs of this covenant promise? Science might one day be able to explain everything about how rainbows are made-even to 25 digits to the right of a decimal point-but it can never explain why they are made.
We, though, know why. Because God created our world in such a
way that when sunlight and mist are in right relationships to each
other, the mist breaks up the light by refracting and reflecting it at
different angles that create bands of electromagnetic waves which, when
reaching our eyes, imprint the image of rainbows in our minds. And He
did it (the
why that science can never explain) to
remind us of His covenant promise that never again would He destroy the
earth by water.
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