Originally Israel had God’s laws written on tablets (sometimes called tables) of stone. These laws were externally imposed on the people. All parts of the law were written and prescribed by rules and physical actions that reminded them of the requirements and the blessings associated with their covenants with their God. The hope was that the day would come when, instead of being written on tables of stone, and imposed from the outside on the inward man, that Israel would internalize their covenants with their maker and take God’s laws and write it in their hearts.
To write God’s laws in our hearts means that we internalize the importance of those laws. We understand them, we believe them, we use them as the guiding principles of our lives, and we do so joyfully, not out of a sense of obligation or requirement. This is what the Lord always wanted the Law of Moses to produce, a people who had his law written upon the fleshy tablets of their hearts. The original stone tablets were only to act as a taskmaster to teach them of his ways. The prophets tried for many generations to teach the people to move past the outward requirements of the law and to get the people to internalize the principles the Lord wanted them to understand.
The Universal Failure
The work of every prophet to Israel was to convert them to the Lord. Almost without exception they failed to produce the desired effect with the people. There were always a few who caught the vision, but as a whole, Israel was a hardened lot. At the time of Jeremiah the northern kingdom had already been carried away by the Assyrians and scattered. Jeremiah was the prophet during the few short decades before the Babylonian captivity in 586 BCE. Through the reign of five kings he prophesied of Israel’s fall and punishment because of their wholesale rejection of the their covenants with God.
Much of Jeremiah’s prophesying was to tell Israel that they were to be carried off, that they would serve for seventy years in Babylon, and that at the end of that time, another kingdom would free them and let them come home again. Along with these prophecies he told them about the return of Israel in the last days when the Lord would send fishers and hunters into the world to find his people and bring them back in power to again inhabit their rightful place as God’s people.
This gathering of Israel, Jeremiah said, would be such a great work that it would rival the Lord’s miracles of leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. In Jeremiah 31:31-34 the Lord says that he will make a new covenant with his people. This time, instead of writing the law on tables of stone, he will inscribe his law directly into the hearts of the people.
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.
To have God’s law written in our hearts means that we have the Spirit of revelation with us. We have internalized the purpose of the commandments. We follow them willingly. We work directly with the Spirit of God to learn the will of the Lord for ourselves. All the blessings of obedience to God’s laws are available to such a people, because they stay close to God through obedience to the commandments they have been given. They have their own personal witness of the truthfulness of God’s ways.
Character Traits of the New Covenant
In Jeremiah 29:12-14 the Lord promises great things to Israel, but also describes what it will take for us to receive his blessings.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
14 And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
Look at the operative words used by the Lord in these three verses – call, pray, seek, and search. When we are willing to put in the effort to call upon his name in faith, pray in faith, seek in faith, and search him out, the promise is that we will find him. Once we have found him he will “turn away your captivity,” gather us back into the family of Israel, and restore all the privileges to his people that have been promised from the beginning.
This is part of the marvelous work and a wonder promised to take place in the latter days. God has restored his ancient covenants with his people and we are in the process of sending missionaries (members) throughout the world to hunt and fish for those who can hear the call of the Master and are willing to take upon themselves his covenants by listening to the Spirit and receiving the revelations of truth offered only to those who seek, pray, search, and call upon God in faith. These are they to whom God gives a testimony, His truth, written upon the fleshy tablets of our hearts.
The blessings available to the world today have always been available. There is nothing we have now that ancient Israel could not have shared in if they had been faithful. Look at Jeremiah 17:6-8.
7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
The Lord promises us that if we come to him and obey his commandments, we will be like a juniper tree planted by a river in a desert. No matter how hot or desperate things get around us, we will prosper, because we will be able to spread our roots out in the waters of life and drink deep. Even in the midst of affliction we will not fear, and the Lord will make us fruitful.
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