33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
This has always been God’s desire: that he should be our God, and we should be his people. God hungers for those lost days when he walked through the garden in perfect fellowship with our first parents, those days before we turned away and ended up hiding in the bushes. God hungers to be the one in whom we trust. God hungers to be the one to whom we look for all good. God hungers to be the one to whom we pray and whose hearts vibrate with his heart. The metaphor of soul mates, is not far off. The prophet uses the image of husband and wife – an intimate relationship, a partnership, a covenant created by promises spoken and trusted.
I will be your God, and you shall be my people.
It was the message spoken to Abraham and his descendants. It was the message brought by Moses to the people in Egypt. It is the substance of the first commandment and foundation of all the commands and promises of the Torah. Leviticus 26:12 calls us to that Edenic fellowship: “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”
“I will be your God, and you shall be my people” echoes through the psalms, this God who is our shepherd, who leads us beside still waters; this God who knits us together in our mother’s womb; this God who’s steadfast love is better than life.
God declares this desire and promise through the prophets: “Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And, of course, this is the passion of Jesus: “I am the vine; you are the branches… Abide in me as I abide in you.”
God yearns to know and be known, to be the father whose hand a child holds crossing the street, to be the parent in the stands for whom the athlete searches in victory, to be our embrace in sorrow and our encouragement in challenge, to be the moral example for our lives.
The covenant between God and Israel that was the pattern and example of God’s tie with all the earth was betrayed by Israel. The covenant was shattered, broken not just once but into thousands of pieces. But God will create a new covenant, not fashioned with an external law but by God’s will written on the heart, by a Holy Spirit breathed into us, by a birth from above, a dying and rising, a spiritual transformation, a new creation.
The broken covenant lies behind; a new covenant in our hands as bread and wine, a living presence, a promise to come. Already a new Spirit is given. Already God is inscribing upon our hearts. And what we know now in part we shall one day see fully, face to face: every knee bowing, every heart made new, lambs lying down with lions, and the wedding feast that has no end.