Introduction: A “covenant” is a contract, an agreement between two
parties in which both agree to do something on behalf of the other.
Some Christians think that God had a series of poor covenants that He
made with humans. I’m exaggerating, but the theory goes that God kept
suggesting covenants until He got one that would actually work. Our
study this week looks at several covenants. Are they a series of
improved versions, much like improved software? Some suggest that God
has had only one basic covenant with humans. Perhaps the truth is
somewhere in between. One of the interesting discoveries about
Jeremiah is that God has a very important covenant discussion with
him. Let’s dig into our study and learn more about what the Bible
says on the issue of covenants!

  1. Jeremiah and the Covenant

    1. Read Jeremiah 31:31. How many covenants does this suggest?
      (At least two. A current covenant and a future covenant.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 31:32. What is the first covenant referred
      to in this verse? (The covenant made with God’s people who
      left Egyptian slavery.)

      1. What was wrong with the “leaving Egypt covenant?”
        (The people did not keep their side of the

    3. Read Jeremiah 31:33. Is this a covenant with different
      language? What is different about it? (It is a covenant
      written on human hearts and minds. It does not say that it
      is a different agreement.)

      1. What do you think it means to have an agreement
        written “in their minds” and “on their hearts?”
        (Compare being told to obey with being told that
        Jesus died on your behalf to pay the penalty for your
        sins. One motivates you to rebel (Romans 7), while
        the other motivates obedience through gratitude.)

    4. Read Jeremiah 31:34. When will all people know God so that
      no teaching about God is necessary? (When the righteous
      are in heaven? Those who are saved and living in heaven
      will be able to talk to God face to face.)

      1. On the other hand, when Jesus died for our sins, did
        this give us a much better knowledge of God?

    5. Read Jeremiah 31:35-36. What is God promising here? (God
      says that He controls the heavens and the seas. When He
      stops having days and nights for those who live on the
      earth, then Israel will cease to be a nation. It seems
      that God promises His people, who are facing destruction
      by Babylon, that God will preserve Israel as long as the
      earth exists.)

    6. Read Revelation 21:22-24. Does this describe the end of
      the day/night cycle? (Yes.)

      1. Where is this? (Heaven.)

  2. Covenant at Sinai

    1. Read Exodus 19:3-6. What does God offer to the
      “descendants of Jacob?” (They would be His treasured

    2. Read Exodus 19:7-8. What do the people agree to do?
      (“Everything the Lord has said.”)

      1. Is this a covenant? (Absolutely.)

      2. More specifically, what have the people agreed to do?
        (Re-read Exodus 19:5. Obey God.)

      3. Read Exodus 24:3-4 and Exodus 24:7-8. How was this
        covenant ratified? (With blood.)

  3. The Covenant with Abraham

    1. Read Genesis 12:1-3. Does this sound like a covenant to

      1. What obligation is Abram undertaking? What obligation
        is God undertaking? (The mutual exchange of promises
        is that Abram agrees to leave his home and go to a
        place God will later disclose. God agrees that he
        will bless Abram and make both his name great and his
        descendants a great nation.)

      2. Notice especially Genesis 12:3. What is God promising
        here? (That other people on earth will be blessed (or
        not) depending on how they treat Abram’s descendants.
        In addition, everyone is blessed “through” Abram.)

    2. As you think about this covenant, is it a covenant with
      all people on earth? (No. All people are affected by it in
      some way, but it is not an agreement potentially open to

  4. The Covenant with Noah

    1. Read Genesis 9:7-11. Is this a covenant? (Yes.)

      1. Who are the parties to this agreement? (God, Noah and
        Noah’s descendants.)

        1. Who are the descendants of Noah? (Every person
          alive. In addition, God includes the animals as
          parties to the agreement.)

          1. Can animals enter into an agreement?

      2. What are the mutual promises? (Humans and animals
        will increase in number. God will not drown all of
        them at some time in the future.)

    2. Read Genesis 9:12-13. How does God state the parties to
      the agreement? (“[T]he covenant between Me and the earth.”
      Obviously, the earth cannot agree to anything. Thus, when
      God says that He is entering into a covenant with animals
      and the earth, what He really means is that the agreement
      is with humans, but it affects everything.)

  5. Covenant Comparison

    1. Let’s step back and consider the first two covenants that
      we considered: the one with Jeremiah and the covenant at
      Sinai. How would you compare them? (They seem to be the
      same – at least the first covenant referred to by Jeremiah
      ( Jeremiah 31:32) is the one entered into after God’s
      people left Egypt. This is the same as the covenant at
      Sinai. Thus, the first covenant is identical.)

    2. If the first Jeremiah covenant and the Exodus (Sinai)
      covenants are the same, how do they compare to the
      covenants with Noah and Abram? (The Noah and Abram
      covenants are more specific and more narrow. They deal
      with protection and blessings. They both have a universal
      aspect: no more world-wide floods, and all will be blessed
      through Abram. But, they do not broadly speak of obeying

  6. Hunting for the “New” Covenant

    1. Read Hebrews 8:6-7. What does this say about the existence
      of a “new covenant?” (It exists.)

      1. What does the new covenant have? (“Better promises.”
        Recall that a covenant is an exchange of promises.)

    2. Read Hebrews 8:8-12. Wait, isn’t this the exact same thing
      discussed in Jeremiah 31:31-35? (Yes.)

    3. Read Hebrews 8:13. The old covenant is “obsolete.” That
      does sound like a software upgrade, doesn’t it? What do
      you think is meant by saying the Sinai Covenant was
      “obsolete?” (Read Hebrews 9:1 and Hebrews 9:11-14. Notice
      the parallel with the Old Testament sanctuary system. The
      people said, “We will obey,” but they did not and the
      remedy for that was to sacrifice an animal. Indeed, the
      entire sanctuary system was the remedy for sin. Now, Jesus
      (as symbolized by the sacrificed animal) has died once on
      behalf of all humans. This is truly an “upgrade” to an
      obsolete system.)

      1. Are the principles the same in both systems, both
        covenants? We just have a great upgrade?

    4. Read Galatians 3:6-8. Does this sound familiar? (Yes, it
      is the last part of the covenant promise made to Abram
      ( Genesis 12:3). This shows that the “upgrade” to the Sinai
      Covenant was part of the original promise to Abram that
      applied to all humans.)

    5. Read Galatians 3:9. Who are the parties who get to take
      advantage of the covenant with Abraham? (The humans who
      rely on faith.)

    6. Read Galatians 3:10-12. Is this consistent with the
      covenant given at Sinai? (Yes, it involved obedience.
      Thus, if you did not obey you breached the contract.)

    7. Read Galatians 3:13-14. Is this a change in the first
      covenant referred to by Jeremiah and the covenant at
      Sinai? (God has fulfilled both sides of the agreement, He
      has done what humans said they would do.)

    8. Would you call this a “new covenant?” (The basic terms are
      the same, the difference is that God has done it all and
      humans can take advantage of the agreement through faith
      in what God has done.)

    9. Friend, this is the deal of the ages! Why not repent of
      your sins right now, and accept by faith what Jesus has
      done on your behalf?

  7. Next week: Back to Egypt.