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Adult Sunday School Lesson Summary for September 14, 2014

“Hope for the Future”

Lesson Text:Jeremiah 31:31-37

Background Scripture:Jeremiah 31

Devotional Reading:Hebrews 8:1-7, 13

 

Jeremiah 31:31-37 (KJV)

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

35 Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name:

36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.

37 Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.

 

 

TODAY’S LESSON AIMS

Learning Fact: To teach that God established a new covenant, through Christ, that offers hope for the future.

Biblical Principle: To understand the significance of the term covenant in the context of God’s relationship with His people.

Daily Application: To spiritually flourish as a result of knowing God intimately.

 

INTRODUCTION

The Newer, Better Covenant

   A mortgage is a binding agreement between a lender (such as a bank) and the person or persons obtaining the mortgage. It has obligations and benefits for both parties. The potential homeowners obtain the funds necessary to buy a house, while the lender benefits by receiving the loan back with interest. Not long ago, my husband and I refinanced the mortgage on our home. We did this to obtain a lower interest rate and therefore lower our monthly payments. This required lots of documentation, signing of paperwork, more paperwork, waiting, and finally notification that the new loan had been approved. Our old mortgage was finished, and our new mortgage was in effect. In this case, newer was better.

   Covenants in the Bible also feature agreements that express or imply obligations and benefits between parties. The Old Testament sometimes speaks of covenants made between two people, such as the one between Laban and Jacob (Genesis 31:43-53). The most important covenants in the Bible, though, are those between God and people. They are both like and unlike human-to-human covenants in various ways. The current lesson will address God’s covenant with Old Testament Israel and look at His promise through Jeremiah of a new covenant—a better one.

 

 

LESSON BACKGROUND

Time:587 B.C.

Place:Jerusalem

   The first mention of covenant in the Bible is in reference to promises the Lord made to Noah (Genesis 6:18; 9:8-17). This is followed by other God-to-human covenants: with Abram (Abraham) and his descendants Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 15:18; Exodus 2:24; 6:5), with the people of Israel after their departure from Egypt (Exodus 19:3-6), and with King David (Psalm 89:3). The covenants after Noah reflect the progress of the people of God from a family group headed by Abraham to a developed nation with a king, land, capital city, and temple. As such, these covenants are interrelated while having distinctive elements.

   There is a big picture to keep in mind: the God of Israel was known as the one who “keepeth covenant” (Deuteronomy 7:9; Nehemiah 1:5; compare Daniel 9:4). This distinguished Him from the fictitious gods of other nations, gods who were fickle and might withhold blessings on a whim, so their worshippers believed. These worshippers also believed that these deities needed constant appeasement, even by means of the horrible act of child sacrifice. The God of Israel, by contrast, promised sure blessings in exchange for faithful obedience to the clearly established terms of the covenant. To obey God’s commandments was to keep the covenant. Unfortunately, the kings and people of Israel and Judah frequently disobeyed, thereby violating the terms of the covenant.

   We should note God’s covenants to be one-sided affairs in a couple of ways. First, God establishes the terms of His covenants; there are no give-and-take negotiations in this regard. Second, God always keeps His side of His covenants. Humans may fail, but God’s promises are always true. The weakness of the covenant to Old Testament Israel was never on the part of God, but on the part of the covenant people. The relentless cycle of sin, sorrow, supplication, and salvation proved that people needed a new covenant.

   Jeremiah 31 mostly speaks of a time of restoration. Such restoration was not to come until after 538 B.C., the year the exile ended. The prophet pictures this restoration as a great parade of the “remnant of Israel” returning from all directions. This throng is not a victorious army, but includes pregnant women, the blind, and the lame, all weeping with joy (31:7-9). This sets the tone for Jeremiah’s broader vision of a new covenant.

 

 

God’s Promise of a New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-32

1. What is meant by the “new covenant” and how does this connect the Old and New Testaments? (Jeremiah 31:31, 32)

 

   The book of Jeremiah includes perspectives of the past, present, and future. The verse before us is clearly a look into the future. The promise of a “new covenant” might seem to have some reference to the return of the Jews from exile, since the covenant-breaking that led to their exile means that something has to change.

 

   However, the problem with the old covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Sinai was that God’s chosen people continually broke it. This remained the case, even though the Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt and remained faithful to them (Jer. 31:32). The new covenant would have to address the problem inherent in the old one and compensate for the inability of the people to perform up to God’s standards.

 

   The term “new covenant” is found only here in the Old Testament, although the idea of a new or renewed covenant is found in other verses (see Isaiah 42:9, 10; Jeremiah 50:4, 5). New covenant is a key concept, and the verse before us is a key passage in connecting the Old Testament with the New Testament. At the last supper, Jesus used this concept to describe the significance of His coming death: “This cup is the new testament in my blood” (Luke 22:20; compare 1 Corinthians 11:25). In this sense, covenant and testament are the same idea. We could call the New Testament the new covenant and the Old Testament the old covenant with no change in meaning.

 

   God’s firmly established intention to make a new covenant is seen in the verse before us in the “I will” statement, the first of six in the lesson text.

 

What Do You Think?

   Which Scripture do you find most useful in helping you maintain covenant faithfulness to Jesus? Why?

 

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   1 Corinthians 11:25; Galatians 3:13, 14; Ephesians 5:8; Hebrews 10:26-29

   Revelation 19:7; 21:2, 9, Other

 

 

New Covenant Described: Jeremiah 31:33-34

2. How does Jeremiah describe the new covenant? (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

 

   Jeremiah returns to his discussion of God’s covenant to come. In so doing, he shifts to an image of the future by telling the reader that he is passing along something that will be realized after those days. In that regard, he reveals the second of the Lord’s “I will” promises: I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.

   The prophet intends us to understand the phrases on either side of the word and to be parallel or equivalent in picturing God’s law being internalized. It was as if He were inscribing the moral code on their hearts and minds (Jer. 31:33). This is a vivid contrast with the old law, which is written on stones and parchment (Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 4:13; etc.). Jeremiah is the only Old Testament prophet who spoke specifically about the new covenant that Jesus inaugurated (Matt. 26:28).

 

   Perhaps one of the most precious truths contained in the new covenant is the promise that the Lord “will be their God, and they will be His people” (Jer. 31:33), the third “I will” statement. This pledge is reiterated in Revelation 21:3-4. 

 

   The new covenant represented a sacred relationship, while the old one was more of a legal document. The old one was written on tablets of stone, while the new one would be written on human hearts (2 Cor. 3:3). Once the law of God could be implanted within the inmost being of people, their relationship with God could be permanent.

 

   What will personal relationships be like in the new-covenant situation? A critical aspect of this new relationship between God and His people hinged on the forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31:34). God’s law could not be written on hearts stained by iniquity. The people’s hearts required cleansing so they could be changed. Once the Lord had forgiven them, He would deliberately forget their sins, the fourth and fifth “I will” statements. Consequently, interpersonal relationships would be transformed by the reality of God’s forgiveness. His refusal to recall the sins committed by His people would enable them to relate to one another with forgiveness, patience, and love. Sin remains the insurmountable human problem. No matter how hard people try, they can do nothing to defeat sin. Hope rests entirely on God’s love and forgiveness. Thankfully, the Father sent His Son to die for our sins (and rise again) so that we might be forgiven and enjoy the benefits of the new covenant. On the basis of the Son’s atoning sacrifice, the Father declares to us, “Your sins are forgiven.” That is the wonderful news of the Gospel!

 

What Do You Think?

   What wrongs against you do you find particularly difficult to forgive? What will you do to overcome this problem?

 

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   Broken promises | Betrayal | Character attacks | Other

 

 

God’s Assurance of Israel’s Existence: Jeremiah 31:35-37

3. How does the use of the sun, moon, stars and sea describe the permanence of the new covenant? (Jeremiah 31:35, 36)

 

   Having contrasted the old and new covenants to explain how people will relate to God, Jeremiah now begins describing the new covenant’s permanence. Its permanence is based on the fact that the maker of the covenant is none other than the Creator of the universe. “The Lord of hosts” is more literally rendered “Yahweh of armies” and depicts Him as a divine warrior who maintains absolute control over everything and everyone in the world.

To reflect on the creation of sun, moon, stars, and sea is to reflect on the eternal nature of God as Creator. Jeremiah also underlines the continuing orderliness of God’s creation. In predictable ways, the sun lights the day, while the moon and stars light the night. The moon’s ordinances are its regular waxing and waning. The waves of the sea continue to be measured and controlled by the Lord of creation. Just as God would never undermine the fixed ordering of the cosmos, so too He would never allow Israel to cease to exist.

4. How does God illustrate that Israel will never cease being His people? (Jeremiah 31:37)

The Lord’s commitment to Israel is now illustrated in another way. God promises that the day when humans are able to measure heaven above and search out the foundations of the earth is when He will renege on His covenant relationship with the seed of Israel. We may think that such measurements are possible in our scientific, technological age. But if science has taught us anything, it is that the universe is impossible to measure and its size is beyond human comprehension. It seems that the more we learn about the cosmos, the more we realize the limitations of our knowledge!

The same is true of our knowledge of the earth itself. For the original hearer of Jeremiah’s oracle, the idea of exploring the depths of the oceans is unthinkable. But even as we use various submersibles to explore those depths today, every increase in knowledge brings with it a realization that there is so much more that we do not know. God’s commitment to the seed of Israel is as certain as our inability to know everything about His creation. God rhetorically speaking, if the infinite could be measured or the unfathomable could be investigated, only then would there be any possibility that God would reject His people.

 

The Certainty of God’s Promises

   Jeremiah’s audience would have been astounded at what we know about God’s creation. Think of Mount Everest towering 29,000 feet above sea level, its height more than matched by the depth of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. How surprised they would have been to learn that the universe is populated by as many as 70 sextillion stars—that’s 7 followed by 22 zeros!

 

   In essence, God said through Jeremiah, “If the time ever comes when you can accurately measure the scope of the creation, that will be the day when I will no longer keep my promises to you.” We have discovered various facts about the world and the universe, but even the “fact” of 70 sextillion stars is just a rough order of magnitude estimate. It will undoubtedly change as scientific instruments and methods improve.

It’s safe to say that we will never in this life know all the facts about the heavens above and the earth beneath. God’s promises are just as certain.—C. R. B.

 

POINTS TO PONDER 

1.God has established a new covenant with His people through the sacrifice of Jesus, unlike the old. (Jeremiah 31:31, 32)

2.The new covenant writes God’s law on believers’ hearts instead of tablets of stone. (v. 33)

3.Through Christ, every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and has direct access to God. (v. 34)

4.The permanence of the new covenant is ensured by God’s faithfulness. (vs. 35-36)

5.People from every nation can be a part of the new covenant that God has established. (v. 37)

 

 

CONCLUSION

Old and New Covenants Together

   We should remember that speaking of an Old Testament and a New Testament does not imply a “bad” covenant and a “good” covenant. The New Testament depends on the foundation of the Old Testament to make its claims. It is the sacrificial system of the old covenant that allows us to understand the atoning, sacrificial death of Jesus—a central doctrine of the Christian faith. The Scripture of the earliest church was the Old Testament, and the New Testament authors quote from it hundreds of times. We are people of the new covenant, but the old covenant is still of inestimable value (see Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11).

   When we put Jeremiah 31:31-37 alongside Romans 4:16 and 9:6-8, we see the old covenant with Israel being replaced by a new covenant that is not based on law and biological descent, but on faith. This expands the covenant people to include the possibility of every person regardless of tribe or nation.

   When we read the new covenant promises in light of the eternity of God, the Lord Almighty, we have the complete picture of an eternal people of God. They accept His offer to write His laws on their hearts; they accept His promise of forgiveness of sins through Jesus. There will never again be a need to send God’s people into exile to punish them and cure them of sinful idolatry. The new covenant is the final covenant, and this is the covenant Christians embrace today.

 

PRAYER

   Mighty God, please keep shaping our hearts. Keep forgetting our sin. Keep accepting us as Your people. We pray this in the name of the one who made the new covenant come to life, Jesus our Savior; amen.

 

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

   The greatest blessing of all is to be part of the new covenant!

 

ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON

   Next week's lesson is “Anticipation of a New Future”and declares that even when life seems bleak, God does not give up on us. Study Jeremiah 32:1-44.

 

WORKS CITED            

Holman Bible Dictionary, Holman Bible Publishers. 

Life Application Bible—New Revised Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. 

Scofield, C.I., ed.  The New Scofield Study Bible—King James Version. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright  by permission of Standard Publishing. 

The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books.

The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc.

 

Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Cook

 

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Mustard Seed (Children) Lesson Summary for September 14, 2014

 “A New Promise”

Lesson Text:  Jeremiah 31:31-37

Background Scripture: Jeremiah 31

Memory Verse:“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

 

Jeremiah 31:31-37 (KJV)

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

35 Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name:

36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.

37 Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.

 

KEY CONCEPT

God said that He would make a new covenant (or promise) with His people.  He will write His law on people’s hearts.

 

 

 

MESSAGE TO CHILDREN

1. In God’s new promise, the Holy Spirit lives within each believer.

2. The Holy Spirit will lead, guide and teach believers.

3. The Holy Spirit lets us know what is right or wrong.

   For Today’s Story Lesson, you will need your Bible and pictures to represent the Prophet Jeremiah, Moses, stone tablets (for the Ten Commandments), a heart, and the sun, moon and stars.

For Helping Hands, you will need red construction paper, pens, markers, safety scissors (age-appropriate), glitter glue, and other items on hand for decorating.

 

WORDS TO KNOW AND EXPLAIN

Covenant – a promise or agreement

Forgive – to stop feeling angry toward someone who has done something wrong

Future – time that has not happened yet

Hope – to look for or expect something good to happen

Prophet – a person sent by God with a message; a messenger

Sin – bad or evil things that a person does

 

TEACHER’S NOTES

Time: 587 B.C.

Place: Jerusalem

 

   The first mention of covenant in the Bible is in reference to promises the Lord made to Noah (Genesis 6:18; 9:8-17). This is followed by other God-to-human covenants: with Abram (Abraham) and his descendants Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 15:18; Exodus 2:24; 6:5), with the people of Israel after their departure from Egypt (Exodus 19:3-6), and with King David (Psalm 89:3). The covenants after Noah reflect the progress of the people of God from a family group headed by Abraham to a developed nation with a king, land, capital city, and temple.

   There is a big picture to keep in mind: the God of Israel was known as the one who kept His covenant (Deuteronomy 7:9; Nehemiah 1:5; compare Daniel 9:4). God promised sure blessings in exchange for faithful obedience to the clearly established terms of the covenant. To obey God’s commandments was to keep the covenant. Unfortunately, His people frequently disobeyed, thereby violating the terms of the covenant and eventually turned away from God.

   Any plan for the betterment of human society that ignores the sin problem is destined to failure. It isn't enough to change the environment, for the heart of every problem is the problem of the heart. God must change the hearts of people so that they want to love Him and do His will. That's why He announced a New Covenant to replace the Old Covenant under which the Jews had lived since the days of Moses.

 

TODAY’S STORY LESSON

(Show Jeremiah.) The Prophet Jeremiah wrote of a time coming when God would make a new covenant (promise) with His people.

This new promise would not be like the old one.  In the old promise, God had given Moses laws for the people.  (Show Moses.)  The most familiar of these laws are called the Ten Commandments and were written on stones. (Show stone tablets.)

The people had a very hard time obeying God’s laws.  They even turned from God and began worshipping false gods.  Because of their disobedience, the people were punished and were even taken as prisoners to another land.

Jeremiah had warned the people to return to God.  But when they did not listen, Jeremiah also gave them messages of hope.  He encouraged the people about the future.  He told them that it had been hard for them to keep the laws written on stones.  (Show stone tablets.)

So God would make a new covenant (promise) with them.  He would write His laws on their hearts instead of stones.  (Show heart.) How can God write laws on our hearts?

God promised that His Spirit would come to live inside of each believer (you and me).  This is how God’s laws are written on our hearts.  The Holy Spirit helps each us to know what is right or wrong.  The Holy Spirit teaches and guides every believer to follow God.

(Show Jeremiah.) Jeremiah also told the people that they would have a special relationship with God.  He would be their God, and they would be His people.  God would forgive them and not remember their sins.

Jeremiah then told the people that God would always keep His promises.  (Show sun, moon, stars.)  Just as we can count on the sun to give light during the day and the moon and stars to give light at night, we can also count on God!  If God promises something, He will keep His Word.

 

TELLING HOW TO LIVE

God’s new promise and relationship with His people (us) has been established through Jesus Christ.  Jesus came into the world and died on the cross for everyone’s sins.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross, our sins are forgiven when we accept Him as our Savior.

God’s Spirit lives inside those who have accepted Christ.  This is how God writes His laws on our hearts.  We should allow the Holy Spirit to teach us, remind us of God’s Word, and help us to make right choices!

 

HELPING HANDS

This activity will serve as a reminder that God now writes His laws on the heart of each person who accepts Christ as their Savior.

Take a sheet of red construction paper.  Draw a large heart to cover the full page.  Cut out the heart.  Write the following on the cut-out:  God will write His law in my heart.  Decorate the heart with glitter glue or other items as desired.

EXPLAINING THE MEMORY VERSE

   “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

 

God gave Jeremiah a message of hope for the people.  God would make a new covenant (or promise) with His people.  Instead of writing His laws on stone tablets as He did with Moses, God would write His Word on the hearts of His people.  God would have a special relationship with the people.  He promised to be their God, and they would be His people. 

 

CONCLUSION

Because of Jesus dying for the sins of the world, believers have a very special relationship with God.  God’s Spirit lives in us to teach and help us to make right choices.  God will always keep His promises and will always take care of us.

 

PRAYER

   Dear God and heavenly Father, thank You for Your wonderful promises.  Help us to follow Your Spirit and make good and right choices, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON

Next week's lesson is “A New Start for God’s People” and tells us that God had not forgotten (or given up on) His people and gave them a new beginning.  Study Jeremiah 32:1-44.

 

 

WORD SEARCH PUZZLE

“A New Promise”(Jeremiah 31:31-37)

 

 

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Find the following keywords from Today’s Story Lesson:

 

BELIEVERS

FORGIVE

FUTURE

HEART

HOPE

JEREMIAH

LAW

MOON

NEW

PEOPLE

PROMISE

PROPHET

RELATIONSHIP

SIN

SPIRIT

STARS

SUN