Adding to the importance of this announcement is the fact that it appears in similar form in Ezekiel 36:23-28 Adding to the importance of this announcement is the fact that it appears in similar form in Ezekiel 36:23-28
23 I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28 Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Exekiel and Jeremiah were contemporaries but there is one great difference between them: Ezekiel was one of the first exiles taken to Babylon. His work was done entirely in the foreign land, yet his message was very much like that of Jeremiah back in Jerusalem, especially in his expectation that the Lord was not going to tighten the requirements of Torah but was going to transform the hearts of his people. We will be given a new heart and a new spirit. Notice that we will receive both a new spirit and new, more human heart. To be spiritual is to be more human, not less.
Lest we think the message had no effect on the Jews, notice that idolatry was no longer a temptation for them after the Exile.
Ponder with some care the observation that neither Jeremiah nor Ezekiel speaks of the end of Torah. Rather, Torah is to be written into our hearts and minds. The psychologist would say we are now internalizing the ways of God. We are not free of Torah but it is now the formative structure of our very being.
So, wherever we are in the story of the Exile, whether in the dreary, depressive remains of Jerusalem or the saddening alien land, the message is the same: We are being renewed by our Lord. It is not our doing but is a gift of the Spirit to us.
Now we jump ahead to the New Testament. In the Snyoptic Gospels explains the wine of the Last Supper as his blood of the covenant. And in Romans 11:27 Paul makes passing allusions to the New Covenant in Romans 11:27, I Corinthians 11:25, and II Corinthians 3:6.
Something remarkable happens in Hebrews, however: The passage from Jeremiah is quoted twice. It appears fully in 8:8-12 and partially in 10:16-17. In the New Testament, the word “covenant” is found 12 times, while in Hebrews we see it 19 times. Very clearly, the idea of covenant is critical to the author of Hebrews.
Why is this? I suspect it is because Hebrews is written to contrast Jesus Christ with the religious dimensions of Judaism, centered as they were around the Temple and its rituals. Paul tended to speak of the Gospel in relation to the ethical dimensions of Judaism, that is, Torah as a way to make us righteous. That’s why he clashed so much more with the Pharisees than the Sadduccees.
The external covenant encouraged an external religion while the New Covenant now established in Christ is internal and requires an internal response. The inner response, of course, is possible only in communion with Jesus Christ. It is the Spirit of Christ who writes the Torah on our hearts and the Spirit of Christ who empowers us to live by our new reality.