“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:33)
The external covenant at Mount Sinai was etched in stone – an ark was built to tight specifications to carry this covenant, sacrifices were spelled out in great detail – but now it will be engraved within the human heart.
In this context the word from which we translate ‘law’ can also mean ‘teaching’ or ‘instruction’ – it actually carries with it a sense of grace encouraging people, through this teaching to live in stability and harmony.
Augustine suggested that the law teaches us how to love. As the psalmist says: “”the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” However, just like Jeremiah seems to sense, there is something in the idea of law that we tend to resist.
By writing this teaching on our hearts it is as if God is bypassing that resistance – it is like feeling the law of God, goodness and love of God deep within us.
We should, therefore, no longer need to look to external standards for realising how much we love God – for in this new covenant we, as it were, know truly how much we love God – or otherwise.
Do read the whole sermon that Rev Eddie Sykes preached on Jeremiah 31:31–34 at our Joint Covenant Service on 27 January 2019 at this link.
The image used is adapted from one at a Pax Christi blog.