This last week I’ve been at a conference where I’ve seen quite a few old friends – which has been lovely and reminded me how important and precious relationships are to us.
At the same time – it reminded me of the difficulties we can get into.
I saw one friend - who a little while ago - I offended by being selfish. Now they’ve said they forgive me – but I wonder – are they still mindful of my wrong. Do they think less of me? You know that sense you have a black mark against you. Problem of guilt.
I think of another friend – who – well I have a strong sense he wants me to be a certain way with him – there’s an expectation of what I should be like – but that’s not really me. You know what I mean – you feel you ought to play a certain role – but you’re not being yourself. It’s the issue of expected change.
Then of course there’s a sense of insecurity. There were lots of people there – see groups of friends chatting – easy to feel left out. We can all feel that – why wasn’t I invited to the party - do they like that person more than me? We feel insecure or second tier.
Now what about our relationship with God – if we’re Christians – how do we feel about knowing God? I think it can easily be similar.
Guilt - we say we’re forgiven but can have a sense God is disappointed in me – thinks less of me because of what I did last week.
Expected change – well we know he wants us to live in a certain way - but can feel that means not being really me. He’s forcing into a mould that doesn’t fit.
Insecurity - we can certainly feel God likes others more than me. That’s an easy one – some people are really in with him – whereas I’m on the edge.
Do you ever feel those sorts of things? Should we feel those things? What sort of relationship does a Christian have with God?
I ask that because here our writer describes the relationship with God we’ve been given in Jesus – and we’re going to see it’s very very different to what I’ve just said.
However, before we get to that he tells us about Jesus as our priest. Because a priest was the one who gave you a relationship with God – and he wants us to see
Jesus is the true priest serving in the true temple
The tabernacle or the sanctuary - was the place the priests did their job of sorting people out with God – they offered sacrifices – presented the blood to God. Later in Jerusalem the tabernacle was replaced by the temple.
The people first reading this were Jews who had become Christians – knew all about the temple and it’s sanctuary – it was a enormous building – it had wonderful rituals and music. The priests had special clothes and ceremonies. It was very impressive - and so it was very tempting for them – to want to go back to those priests and that temple.
But v2 Jesus is in heaven and READ.
He’s saying – there is a true sanctuary in heaven. Made by God. That is where Jesus is serving now.
In fact the priests – v5 READ.
So the temple in Jerusalem – that is copy of the one in heaven. That’s why when Moses was told to build it – he was shown a pattern to follow – so it would be a model of the heavenly one.
I live close to the Emirates stadium where Arsenal play. A while ago Jacob my son was given this model of the Emirates. It’s not quite finished but I’ve run out of energy.
Anyway a few months ago at the end of the season Jacob was invited to go and watch Arsenal play.
Imagine if I said – don’t go – look we’ve got a really great model here – we could make some players and move them around – and score goals and cheer.
Well Jacob’s favourite phrase at the moment – if you say something stupid is - are you lost? I think I’d get a ‘are you lost’ – or worse.
Why would he play with this – when he can go to the stadium and watch the game.
Well these Jewish Christians are tempted to go back to the temple – so tangible and impressive – but our writer is saying – you’ve got to realise – that’s the model. The temple in Jerusalem is this thing. The true temple – is in heaven. And that is where Jesus serves.
And so having Jesus means – you’ve got the real thing. He’s the true priest in the true temple.
And that means Jesus really does what the priest was meant to do. The priest was meant to sort you out with God – he enables you to relate to God. Well Jesus really does that. Jesus gives us a true relationship with God. That’s the main thing we’re going to think about.
Jesus gives us a true relationship with God
A covenant is basically a relationship. There was the old covenant through Moses. And then there is this superior covenant Jesus brought about – it’s called the new covenant – and it was promised in this OT passage that is quoted - Jeremiah 31.
We’re going to think about three aspects of this new covenant relationship. But in all of them I want us to see something that is very simple – but very profound. And it’s this – this relationship is true. Said it was simple. By true I mean – both that it is real and genuine. But also true in the sense of ultimate – it’s the relationship we always wanted. It’s the true relationship we’ve always longed for. It is the true relationship.
First of all in this relationship there is true forgiveness.
V12 – various things are true in this relationship – because or ‘for’ - READ. This relationship is founded on forgiveness.
I want to think about that phrase he will ‘remember their sins no more’. Because initially that sounds odd – does that mean God will actually forget our sin – so he doesn’t know what we’ve done wrong.
We in the Bible God remembering something means acting on the basis of it. So at start of the OT God promised Abraham he’d give his descendants a land. They end up as slaves in Egypt – and then we read “God remembered his promise with Abraham”. That doesn’t mean he’d forgotten it – and then saw the post it note – “I knew I’d promised something”. Rather remembering the promise means now is the time he is now going to act - to fulfil that promise. Bring it about.
And that means ‘not remembering’ doesn’t mean he’s forgotten and doesn’t know about it – it means he won’t act on the basis of something. Not remembering our sin – means he won’t act on the basis of our sin - he won’t give us what our sins deserve.
A while ago I heard about two family members who had a argument – one said something stupid and hurtful. Time went by. Then they had another argument and one harked back to the stupid thing that was said. The other one said - ‘I knew you’d bring that up again’.
That’s how it often is – you can hear it can’t you - you always do that – that’s just what you’re like. Past failures and mistakes are brought up.
Well in this new relationship - God will never do that. He will never say – do you remember that thing you did – he’ll never bring it up.
To give a contrasting example – a few months ago I offended someone in a meeting. I was trying to be funny – it wasn’t. It was rude and out of order. We had an email exchange – I apologized – he forgave me. Then I saw him about a week later – chatting away happily – and I said – thanks for the emails I’m sorry – he’s said – oh – hadn’t even thought of it.
It had been forgotten – he knew about it – but he wasn’t conscious of it – it wasn’t impacting our relationship.
That’s what we’re talking about here – our sin doesn’t impact our relationship with God. He knows about our sin – but as far as our relating goes – it’s been forgotten.
Now isn’t this what we want in our relationships?
A careless word, thoughtless action, sensitivities, pride, selfishness - we hurt each other – and the only way to keep the relationship is forgiveness. But sometimes that isn’t easy. The memory lingers. We can’t forget what someone has done to us – it eats us up. Or we can’t forget what we have done wrong – it plays on our mind and eats away at us. And the bigger the wrong – the more it eats.
Do you find yourself wondering – if only I hadn’t done that – if only it could be as though it never happened. Well in this relationship “if only” – can happen. Because of Jesus true priest – true temple – brings about true forgiveness where God has forgets our sin – it’s as though it never happened - that means we can forget and move on too. It’s true forgiveness.
Secondly, this new relationship is a relationship of true change.
Now God’s law - the 10 commandments etc – expresses God’s character – his law shows you what he’s like – what he loves, what he hates.
But in the OT the law was on stone tablets – and if you held up the law to a sinner – it actually showed you how much you failed. This is what you should be like – but you’re not. It was like holding up a mirror to a person covered in mud – you see how dirty you were.
But in this new covenant God promises to put his law in a different place. God will put his law inside us - in our minds and on our hearts.
Now the law expresses God’s character – so this means his nature – what he loves and hates - will be in us. Elsewhere we’re told that’s because God himself - by his Spirit – will come into us and change us so we will then we live out his character and be like him.
Now this change won’t be complete until heaven or the new creation – that’s when we are actually like God completely.
But if you’re a Christian it does start now– God gives us his Spirit – and starts to change us. We still have sin in us too – so it’s very mixed and messy – but we start to change and become like God.
And becoming like him – is what we were made to be. We were made to be his image – like him – and that is what he’s working at in us – making us like him. So this change is – becoming the true us.
Again – isn’t this the sort of relationship we want. The best relationships we have are ones which help us be our true selves – they teach us and model things to us – there’s something in the dynamic which helps us to be the best version of ourselves. It brings out the best in us.
Well that’s what this is and much more. Being like God is who we were made to be. And in this relationship God comes into us to make us like him – so he’s changing us into who we were meant to be – that change is hard and messy – it can feel unnatural to us sometimes – but actually he’s changing us into the true us – the best version of us. It won’t be finished until heaven of course – but it starts now – true change.
Thirdly it’s a relationship of true knowledge. Half way through v10 READ.
That phrase ‘I will be their God and they will be my people’ comes throughout the Bible –describing being in relationship with God – but it keeps collapsing and failing because of sin.
But in this new relationship – where God forgets our sin. And where we no longer sin because God is in us. Then we will know God fully and perfectly.
Again this is completely fulfilled in the new creation. Rev 21 – ‘now the dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’
But that relationship starts now as through Jesus our priest - we know come to know God.
Then we get slightly odd phrase – v34 READ.
At first that sounds like you don’t need – shouldn’t have – teachers. Which calls into question what I’m doing now.
There are two senses in which we don’t need teachers.
The first is that in the future – in heaven - we won’t need a sermon – because God will be there in front of us.
But secondly there is a sense this is true now. In 1John 2 we’re told ‘the anointing you received remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you’. The anointing refers to the Holy Spirit. So because you have the Spirit – you don’t need anyone to teach you to know the Lord. Because you know him for yourself.
Under the old covenant you couldn’t access God directly yourself - your relationship with God always went via someone else. A priest offered a sacrifice to God for you. A prophet brought God’s word to you.
But in this new covenant relationship – because of Jesus and the Spirit in you - you will know God personally and directly. You have the privilege of an unmediated relationship with God – you know him directly, intimately, personally.
That doesn’t mean there is no role for teachers. God gives us teachers – so we can know him better. But it’s knowing God better – for ourselves.
Particularly notice Jeremiah says – all of God’s people will know him – ‘from the least of them to the greatest.’ This is quite a thing – this means – if you’re a Christian – no one knows God better that you.
It’s easy to think some Christians do know God better – Giles – someone at the front – your parents maybe. They know God more than me.
And it’s true – some people more about God, know the Bible better. It’s true, some people appreciate God more, enjoy him more, have a more vital relationship with him.
But no one knows God more than you – in the sense of – no one is any more accepted by God. No one has more direct access.
It’s like a child who has just been adopted into a family. In some ways they don’t know their new dad as well as his other children, they don’t know his jokes or how he likes his coffee. But they can run to him and sit on his lap as much as any child in the family. They have direct access to their father – accepted and loved - as much as any other child in the family.
Same with us and God – some people know more about him – some live that out more – but we are equally accepted.
Again isn’t this what we want in a relationship. Feeling insecure in relationships is horrible. Sensing a friend likes others more than me. Thinking others are in the inner circle. But I’m left out.
It’s not like that in this new covenant relationship - there is no queue to God - with some at the front and some at the back. There’s no inner circle. If you like - there is no one more ‘in’ with God – than you. Because you are completely accepted - it’s true knowledge of God.
So what’s our relationship with God to be like? Human relationships – we need them, they are precious – yet easily affected by guilt, expectation to change, insecurity. What about God?
Well our writer wants us to open our eyes to Jesus – and to what he’s given us. Jesus is the true priest in the true sanctuary – he’s brought about a true relationship – it’s the most wonderful wonderful relationship.
We are truly forgiven. There is no guilt – your sin has been forgotten.
We are truly changing – no forcing into a mould that doesn’t fit - God is making us into the true us.
We truly know him – there’s no insecurity – we know him directly, personally, intimately.