Refuting Popular Misconceptions | Jeremiah 31:31-34 | The Mosaic Covenant | Knowing the LORD in the Old & New Covenants
At the fullness of time (Gen. 15:13-16), and in response to the sighing, crying, and groaning of a penitent remnant of Israel (Ex. 2:23-25, Deut. 26:7-8), the LORD descended from Heaven to deliver the people from Egypt (Ex. 3:7-10). Even though the vast majority of Israelites were in bed with the gods of Egypt (Ezek. 20:5-8), and only a small remnant was sighing and crying to God in truth, the LORD sovereignly chose Israel (Ps. 105:26-45). Then, at the arrival of Moses to Egypt in private communion with the Elders, there was a glimmer of hope that Israel as a whole would suddenly turn to God in faith and repentance (Ex. 4:29-31). However, whatever faith the Elders demonstrated in the beginning proved to be superficial when tested with adversity (Ex. 5:20-21, John 8:30-34). This is because Israel did not yet know the LORD (Ezek. 16:1-6, Deut. 26:7-8, Acts 7:6-7; John 17:3, 25).
However, that said, many people argue that this perfectly represents the storyline in the Old Testament. They believe that all the hardships that the Exodus Generation went through were because only a small remnant of Israel actually knew the LORD while the vast majority were unregenerate for lack of true conversion. They would argue that this explains why the Old Covenant(s) failed, as described in Jeremiah 31:31-34; and, contrastingly, this is why the New Covenant storyline is completely different.
“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: 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: 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. 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.” – Jer. 31:31-34
At first glance, Jeremiah 31:31-34 seems to settle the argument. It appears to plainly declare the fundamental difference between the Old Covenant & the New Covenant, namely that not everyone in Israel knew the LORD by virtue of true conversion, but in the New Covenant everyone shall know the LORD from the least to the greatest. However, the fine details matter. Things are not always as they appear. Howbeit, the fine details are sure to be unrealized if THE STORYLINE of the Old Testament is ignored by the interpreter. As an exemplification of this, consider the Doctrine of the Trinity.
One could argue against the Trinity based upon of Deuteronomy 6:4, even though THE STORYLINE of the Old and New Testaments do teach and support the Doctrine of the Trinity. Face value assumptions are born through ignorance (Prov. 15:28). That's why only a lawyer can be trusted to interpret the fine details of law documents. The fine details matter. Words matter in the natural and much more in the spiritual. Lawyers are hired because their knowledge is needed to assuredly know the bounds and parameters of the law (Hos. 4:6); and only a fool would suppose he can decipher complicated law documents with good success. Meanwhile, Christians endeavor the interpretation of Jeremiah 31:31-34 without an in-depth recollection of the Old Testament abiding in their souls! This is dangerous.
The fact that “all” of Israel didn’t know the LORD from generation to generation isn’t the issue. This is indisputable. Rather, the question is if “all” of Israel was required by law to know the LORD according to the Old Testament. Then, if the answer proves to be yes, we must search the Scriptures to see if this biblical ideal has ever been realized in Biblical Church History and / or if it ever will be realized according to Biblical Prophecy at some point in the future.
Every individual in Israel was required to know the LORD, and that is exactly why the Jews were teaching every man his neighbor, saying, “Know the LORD” (Jer. 31:34). Every individual in the Assemblies or Congregations of the Israelite People, in any place or for any purpose within the Land of Israel, or anywhere in the Kingdom of God, especially within the City of Jerusalem & upon Mount Zion, or anywhere of closer proximity to the Temple of God, were required by law to be entirely populated by righteous and godly persons.
The only controversy is that this requirement was hard to keep. Therefore, the plot of redemptive history gravitates around this requirement of the law. Definitively, it all began with the Exodus Generation. This reference point is clearly in the mind of God in Jeremiah 31:31-34, when the LORD spoke of “the Covenant that [Jehovah] made with their fathers in the day that [the LORD] took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt” (Jer. 31:32). Therefore, we should begin our investigation at the formation of the Mosaic Covenant.
The LORD was determined to bring this nation to birth (Gen. 33:20; Ps. 135:4, 33:12). Therefore, with unwavering commitment as a Father, the LORD pled the cause of redemption (Ex. 4:22, Hos. 11:1). Through a total of 8 Severance Miracles the LORD won the heart of the Jewish People in saving faith and repentance. The love of Jehovah for the Jews became utterly undeniable amidst the onslaught of flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and death. In being separated from the Egyptians through a miraculous shield of divine favor amidst the plagues, the LORD won the trust of the fatigued and downtrodden people. Hereby, they came to know the LORD in truth (Ex. 8:22-23 [#1], 9:4-6 [#2], 11 [#3], 25-26 [#4], 10:13-18 [#5], 21-23 [#6], 11:6-7 [#7], 14:22-23 [#8]).
Chiefly, in the Passover, they were justified by faith in the blood of atonement (Ex. 12:23-28, Heb. 11:28, 1 Cor. 5:7).
Secondarily, in the Red Sea, they were baptized by faith (Ex. 14:30-31, 15:1-2, Ps. 106:8-12, 1 Cor. 10:1-2, Heb. 11:29).
However, the popular interpretation of Jeremiah 31:31-34 would argue that the inward and spiritual work of redemption was exclusive to only a small remnant of Israel (Rom. 2:28-29), while the vast majority remained unconverted even though they were physically liberated from Egypt.
Yet, this ignores the fact that it was illegal for impenitent or presumptuous sinners to participate in and observe the Passover by offering a sacrifice for an atonement (Ex. 12:15, Lev. 16:33, 23:29; Num. 15:30-31, Heb. 10:28). Therefore, this interpretation promotes lawlessness. Furthermore, it’s obvious that God countenanced all the sacrifices of Israel in the Exodus rather than abhorring them (Prov. 21:27, 15:8, 28:9, 15:26) and hereby the LORD shielded the Jews from the destroying angel (Ex. 12:13, 23). Therefore, this interpretation calls into question the moral purity of God as the Judge of all the Earth (Gen. 18:25, Deut. 32:4). Of course, neither God nor the destroying angel would have regarded the blood if the sacrificial atonement in the Passover was outwardly observed in mere form and heartless pretense by wicked Israelites, but because the blood was indeed respected this means that Jehovah legitimately forgave the Israelites through an atonement (Num. 14:19, 15:25, 28; Gen. 4:4-5, Lev. 26:9, Num. 16:15)! Moreover (let the reader understand), this divine act of real forgiveness is impossible without God legitimately applying the virtue of the blood of Jesus through divine foresight (Rom. 3:25, Heb. 9:15, 10:4)! Therefore, this interpretation questions the efficacy of the blood of Jesus.
This erroneous understanding of Judaism allows for the presence of faithless ceremonial formalism and rampant hypocrisy (2 Tim. 3:5), all of which was forbidden by the Law, decried by the Prophets, renounced by Jesus Christ, and refuted by Paul. Popular interpreters look back on the scene of the first Passover and imagine rampant insincerity and overwhelming impurity among the people, while the inspired writers look back on the very same scene and see an allegory of Church Purity (1 Cor. 5:5-13). Popular interpreters suppose the Passover was open to depraved and unregenerate sinners, or unconverted Israelites, even while they close the Lord's Supper and forbid unbelievers from partaking of the holy ordinance for fear of profaning it (forgetting that the Lord's Supper was patterned after the Passover Feast). Also, further redemptive applications of the Passover Feast can be discerned in Paul's description of the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:26, where the participants thereof must show a readiness to depart from this world like Israel suddenly departed from Egypt (Ex. 12:10-11, 13:19); even as Peter emphasized in 2 Peter 3:12, describing the general conversation of Christian believers in daily life following the instructions of Exodus 12:11.
Meanwhile, being ignorant of the fine details, men continue to argue that the whole point of the New Covenant is clearly stated in Jeremiah 31:34, in the declaration, “for they all shall know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD:”. Precise emphasis is put on the word “all” in Jeremiah 31:34. I only wish that equal emphasis is put upon such words every time they are found written in Holy Scripture.
According to Paul, “all” of the Israelites who passed through the Red Sea were “baptized” unto Moses as legitimate believers (1 Cor. 10:1-2), which would make sense because the Egyptians assayed the baptism and drowned because of their unbelief (Heb. 11:29).
Emphatically, and repeatedly, Paul described the spirituality of these unique individuals while sojourning in the Wilderness, saying, “all” ate “the same spiritual meat” and “all” drank “the same spiritual drink”, hereby affirming that they walked in spiritual communion with the pre-incarnate Christ (1 Cor. 10:3-4).
The spiritual communion being described was the commonwealth of Israel wrought through faith in the Gospel, as it was communicated through the Manna that came from Heaven and the Water that came from the Rock (Manna: Ex. 16:1-36, Jn. 6:32-33, 35, 1 Cor. 10:3, Neh. 9:15, 20, Ps. 105:40, Deut. 8:2-3, 14-16 [Matt. 4:4, Lk. 4:4], Rev. 2:17; Water: Ex. 17:1-7, 1 Cor. 10:4, Jn. 4:10, 13-14, Ps. 78:15-16, 105:41, 114:8, Hab. 3:9, Neh. 9:15, Jer. 2:13, Deut. 6:16, 8:15 [1 Cor. 10:11, Ps. 107:32-43, Isa. 41:18, 48:21, Rev. 21:6]). Nevertheless, 21st Century Christianity has argued that they weren’t “all” in saving communion with Christ, even though this is precisely their point of argument in Jeremiah 31:34. Overlooking the hypocrisy in this, they argue that the vast majority of Israelites were lying when they triumphantly sang the Song of Salvation amidst the crystal walls of the Red Sea in Exodus 14:30-31, 15:1-2, & 13, and, when they vowed in commitment to the Mosaic Covenant at the base of Sinai in Exodus 24:3-8.
Yet, according to Isaiah, the only reason the LORD ultimately acted in real time to save the Israelite people is because He saw in them a sincere and truthful faith in Jehovah (Isa. 63:8). That's why David and Asaph, looking back, saw a righteous company of redeemed souls celebrating in gladness as the flock of Jehovah (Ps. 66:6, 68:3-4, Ex. 15:2; Ps. 77:14-20, 78:13, 52-53); or, that's why Hosea foretold the end goal of Church Purity being restored through the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities with this celebration in mind (Hos. 2:15). Therefore, in praying for the revival of these divine exploits, the Prophets called upon God for the revival of favor, mercy, and grace according to the promises of God in salvation (Ps. 77:7-9, Hab. 3:2, Isa. 63:7-9, 11-15; Rev. 15:1-4). So, what do you see when you look upon the freshly baptized Israelite people going into the Wilderness? At this momentous occasion of glory (Ex. 14:29-15:22; Isa. 63:14), do you see a people plagued with insincerity for want of true conversion with hardly a remnant escaping? Do you believe the majority of Israel is still encumbered with the idolatry of Egypt in the secret of their own tents as they were at the beginning in the Land of Egypt (Ezek. 20:5-8)?
Remember, God sees not as man sees (1 Sam. 16:7, Jn. 7:24). All that matters is what the LORD saw when He looked upon Israel going out into the Wilderness; and, speaking of this, lo and behold:
A Bride in the love of her Espousal pursuing her Husband (Jer. 2:2, 31:32).
A People that are “holiness unto the LORD” with “no strange god” among them (Jer. 2:3, Deut. 32:7-14; The Vanquishing of Idolatry: Ex. 12:12, 30, Num. 33:3-4, Ex. 18:11, Isa. 2:18-21, 19:1, 21:9, Rev. 1:7).
A Church of made up of “all” Holy Ones (Saints) sitting before Sinai; which means that “every one” was receiving the word of God (Acts 7:38, Ex. 19:17, Ex. 19:4-5, Deut. 33:3).
A Vineyard planted and flourishing because of a “wholly right seed” (Ps. 80:8-11, Jer. 2:21).
The LORD celebrated Israel and showered upon her the goodness and mercy of divine rejoicing (Isa. 63:7-9, Deut. 28:63, 33:3; Ps. 68:1-20); something He would never do over a company of mostly liars (Prov. 11:20, 12:22). The LORD would only think, feel, and speak thus to a company of redeemed saints that are truly holiness unto the LORD (Jer. 2:2). Remember, holiness means separation – a separation from sin and sinners in a salvific consecration to God; even as God commanded Joshua, saying, “Up, sanctify the people” (Josh. 7:13), when the holiness of Israel was compromised by the presence of one sinner in the ranks (Josh. 7:25-26, Deut. 23:12-14).
Evidently, this is why Abraham separated from Terah, Isaac separated from Ishmael, Jacob separated from Esau, and Israel separated from Egypt. Holiness! The divine calling of the Gospel always separates men from sin and consecrates them to God. For, the LORD is perfectly pure and completely unable to countenance immorality and wickedness (Hab. 1:13, Isa. 66:1-2, Deut. 23:12-14). Therefore, the spiritual and moral status of every individual in Israel was of utmost importance to everyone (Josh. 22:16-20). If in fact Israel was a general assembly of sinners who are falsely converted with only a small remnant of true believers among them, the plot surrounding these outbreaks of wrath wouldn’t resound in confirmation that every Israelite man’s personal holiness mattered to God!
Moses and Aaron wouldn’t have cried out in intercession, saying, “…shall one man sin, and wilt Thou be wroth with all the congregation?” (Num. 16:22), amidst the endangerment and death of around 14,950 souls.
Phinehas wouldn’t have been so commended by God (Num. 25:11-13) and credited for stopping the ongoing outbreak of wrath for his act of judgment against one man; when, amidst the slaughtering of 24,000 souls, Phinehas fastened his eyes upon “one of the children of Israel” in the act of sin, and, “he went after the man of Israel into the tent” and slew him (Num. 25:6, 7-9).
Joshua, acting to recover the holiness of Israel after the occasioned death of 36 men, wouldn’t have said to Achan, “Why hast thou troubled us?” (Josh. 7:25).
This kind of behavior would be outrageous and uncalled-for, if indeed Israel was a general assembly of sinners who are falsely converted with only a small remnant of true believers walking in holiness before God. For, what could possibly be so aggravating to God about the presence of one sinner, if there are an abundance of sinners in the Church of the Wilderness at enmity with God (Acts 7:38, Rom. 8:7-8)? A diligent reader of the Old Testament would know that these courageous men were acting in obedience to the plainly stated laws of holiness authored to regulate the people of God (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). These laws targeted one unholy person from among the people of Israel with the intent of mortifying the sin or executing the sinner to keep the spiritual environment of the people clean and pure.
Put Away: Deut. 13:5, 17:7, 12, 19:19, 21:21, 22:22, 24; Judges 20:13, Lev. 20:14
Cut Off: Ex. 31:14, Lev. 7:20, 21, 25, 27, 17:4, 9, 10, 18:29, 19:8, 20:3, 5, 6, 17, 18, 23:29, Num. 9:13, 15:30, 19:20
New Testament: 1 Cor. 5:2, 13, Eph. 5:3, 1 Thess. 2:10, 1 John 2:19).
How hardly could such regulations be comprehended by true believers if Israel in the Exodus Generation was crawling with at least 600,000 falsely converted sinners! Truly. The popular understanding of Old Testament Judaism utterly confounds the storyline of redemptive history. It’s no wonder that nominal Christians today don’t have even a basic understanding of the narrative of redemption in Biblical Church History. Also, it’s no surprise that modern-day Preachers point the people to Extra-Biblical Church History instead. For, everywhere you go in the Bible, and everywhere you read, the plot of redemption continues with the same resounding testimony:
The congregation of Israel must be holy because they are “the congregation[s] of God” (Neh. 13:1-3). Therefore, they were bound by one supreme “ordinance” (Deut. 33:4-5, Num. 15:15) which necessitated that every individual in the congregation was holy (Num. 16:3, Lev. 19:2), “righteous” (Ps. 1:5), saintly (Ps. 89:5, 149:1), and belonging to God (Ps. 68:10, 74:2); hence, this congregated people was separated from all the accursed things and people who bring contempt upon the congregation (Josh. 7:13, Ezra 10:11-14). When God said that such and such a person “shall not enter into the congregation” (Deut. 23:1-8), He meant it. All those whom God spoke of and named for expulsion in various ways throughout Scripture can form a list, which includes: “the adversary”, “the heathen” (Lam. 1:10), “the ungodly”, “sinners” (Ps. 1:5, Num. 15:30-31), “evil doers” (Ps. 26:5), “the dead” (Prov. 21:16), “vain persons”, “dissemblers”, and “the wicked” (Ps. 26:4-8, 12).
Even so, according to Doctrinal Rule, the people who populated The Land of Israel & Judah were exclusively: “the upright”, “the perfect” (Prov. 2:21), those who put their “trust” in the LORD (Isa. 57:13), “the faithful”, “he that walketh in a perfect way” (Ps. 101:4-8), and those who were “clean” (Isa. 52:11). The people who were eradicated from the Land of Israel & Judah via the Death Penalty were: false prophets (Ezek. 13:9), rebellious Israelites (Hos. 9:3), “the wicked” (Nah. 1:5, Ps. 101:8), “the transgressors” (Prov. 2:22), “the rebels” (Ezek. 20:38-40), unconverted and forbidden “strangers” (Hos. 7:8-9, Isa. 1:7), “a froward heart”, “whoso privily slandereth his neighbor”, “him that hath an high look and a proud heart”, “he that worketh deceit”, “he that telleth lies”, “wicked doers” (Ps. 101:4-8), “the uncircumcised”, and “the unclean” (Isa. 52:1).
Most people feel they simply cannot believe that the Exodus Generation as a whole was truly converted. They feel that these people so often exemplified what shouldn’t be done rather than what should be done. However, it should be noted that this sentiment is not unbiblical. This is exactly how the Apostles of the New Testament employed their testimony. They warned all believers to beware of acting in the same way as the Exodus Generation (1 Cor. 9:27-10:13; Heb. 2:1-4, 3:1-4:11, 10:26-29, 12:18-29; Jude 1:5). However, in speaking of the Exodus Generation, they were warning believers about what they shouldn’t do rather than what they couldn’t do. They were warning believers about the real consequences of backsliding.