Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34; Hebrews 8:7 – 13.
The Prophet Jeremiah spoke of Yahweh’s prophetic new covenant with the Jewish nation that would transcend those He made earlier with the Patriarchs. The implications were that these legal commitments of the past between God and His people were continually broken by the Israelites, which necessitated Him renewing a new covenant with a future generation. The marital metaphor used by God (viz., ‘I was a husband to them’) indicated how seriously He regarded these intimate relationships despite Israel’s chronic unfaithfulness. Despite the unambiguous reality of God’s palpable presence with His people in those initial days in Egypt and their journey through the Sinai, and into the Promised land, the human capacity to faithfully nurture and sustain a faithful relationship in knowing God proved erratic and transitory (Jer 31:31-32). This begs the question, is it not presumptuous to claim that God is knowable? The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews interpreted the Jeremiah passage as being fulfilled in the New Testament era when the Gentiles are accepted into ‘the house of Israel’ (Heb 8:7-13; Rom 11:11-36; Eph 2:11-22). The critical difference is that God will no longer live in a tabernacle or temple created by human hands, but in human hearts, and everyone who has God ‘dwelling’ in them will know Him (Jer 31:33-34). This is synonymous with Paul’s assertion of our life in Christ (c.f., Eph 1:3-14; Matt 11:27; John 10:25-30). What are the titanic implications of God dwelling in human hearts?
The dynamics of any healthy human relationship are not that complex to gauge: quite apart from the presence of love, the depth of goodwill is unfathomable, and the reciprocity of self-motivated communication is energetic and enduring. Scripture is replete with similar interactions between Yahweh and His people, albeit through those whom He had chosen as a conduit representing the Israelites (e.g., the Patriarchs and Prophets) in the Old Testament days. But in the latter days, believers “will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them (Jer 31:34). In embracing the Gospel and being filled with His Holy Spirit, we will humbly and naturally desire to know Him deeply, as that aspiration is singularly conceived by His Spirit in us. The mutuality in this deepening relationship is unmistakable, as everything needed for this enriching eternal engagement has been made available to us in Christ (c.f., Phil 2:5-13; Col 1:9-14; Col 1:21-23). It then stands to reason that in any divine rapport, we develop a capacity to intently not only to listen to Him, especially when He is the Creator, but also in reverse, we know that we are being listened to, as we seek to learn the lessons that encompass obedience to Him that proliferate throughout life (c.f., Job). The communicative reciprocity is profoundly intimate and cathartic that will impact every sphere of our life.
A further factor in knowing God is to realise that He initiated the process for the forgiveness of our sins, demonstrating His love for us while we were still sinners (Jer 31:34; c.f., Rom 5:6-12). Hence, to be embraced by God’s love is to know that despite our fallible humanity, He is still committed to loving us. It then becomes transformative in our outlook in life, affecting our attitude and behaviour towards others and our responsibility in this world, as He established His law within us and writes them on our hearts (Jer 31:33; c.f., John 14:15). Biblical faith, a gift from God that comes from hearing the Word of Christ and trusting Him, therefore, empowers this existential eternal relationship (Rom 11:17; Eph 2:8). For without it, God says, it would be impossible to please Him (Heb 11:6). So, if we desire a relationship with God, faith is of the essence; it must be present.