I want to focus on a section of the new covenant prophecy that many breeze over. Jeremiah’s Covenant Revelation consists of three major sections. Jeremiah 30-31 ~ The New Covenant, Jeremiah 32 ~ The Everlasting Covenant, Jeremiah 33 ~ The Davidic Covenant. Toward the end of Jeremiah 30-31, we have the direct revelation of the new covenant. It begins with the phrase “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will…” But just before this, there is another section that begins exactly the same way. Here it is:
27 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. 28 And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the LORD. 29 In those days they shall no longer say:
"’The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
All throughout Israel’s history, the nation had responded corporately to God in some way or another. Individuals existed within the nation, but the nation as a whole cried out to the LORD, Exodus 14:10, Judges 3:15, 4:3, 6:6; committed idolatry, Numbers 25:3, Judges 3:7, 10:6; complained against God, Numbers 11:1; doubted God, Numbers 14:11; vowed vows to the LORD, Numbers 21:2, Joshua 24:16-18, 21, 24; did evil, Judges 2:11, 4:1; confessed their sins, Judges 10:10, I Samuel 7:6, 12:19. When we enter the time of the kings, the king acts as the head of the nation. He leads the nation into sin, II Kings 13:11, or sometimes in following the LORD, II Chronicles 14:2-4. These two examples clearly spell out the relationship between the king and the nation. The nation was viewed as one entity in the eyes of the LORD, so much so that the prophets would address the nation as one person, see Ezekiel 16 and Hosea.
God acted toward the nation of Israel as if He were acting toward one entity. Certainly He addressed individuals at many points within the nation of Israel, but He acted as if Israel were His chosen possession to be loved, chastised, corrected, and restored. In interacting with the life of the nation as a whole, it seemed to individuals within the nation that they were suffering for things that they had nothing to do with. For instance, the 70 year captivity was a delayed judgment from the days of Manasseh, Jeremiah 15:4. Manasseh had defiled the temple as no other king had, II Chronicles 33:7. Judgment was certainly coming but Josiah’s reforms delayed it until a later generation, II Chronicles 34:26-28.
So a young teenager living during wicked King Zedekiah’s reign might very well say that he was going to be punished for another generation’s sins. This bred the saying that the fathers had eaten sour grapes, and now the children’s teeth were set on edge. The idea is something to the effect of “my father took a bit of a sour lemon, and I’m the one with a sour taste in my mouth and puckered up lips.” “I’m suffering for something that isn’t my fault.” This led to many people feeling that God’s ways were unjust. Ezekiel also addresses this in Ezekiel 18. The very same proverb is brought to light at the beginning of the chapter (vs. 1-4) with the accusation that God is not just in vs. 25.
Jeremiah’s prophecy here shows that God is moving the nation from a corporate accountability to an individual accountability. In contrast to the nation having one voice, God would hear the voices of the individuals within the nation and treat Israel on this basis. However, this does not mean that God would cease to treat the nation of Israel as a nation and then as individual people only; Israel would still be viewed as one entity by God. This is a step forward in God’s covenant plan which does not negate the past, but includes His future plan. That future plan of course is the New Covenant to be revealed in the verses which immediately follow.
When we read of God’s intention to initiate the New Covenant with the nation of Israel, we need to remember that He has also just revealed that there will be an individual accountability within the nation of Israel. When the nation of Israel enters into that new covenant relationship with the LORD, it will not be because the majority of the nation of Israel decided to repent and the non-repentant got to be included in the new covenant blessings. When the nation of Israel enters into that new covenant relationship, it will be because each individual within the nation has repented. That’s why the new covenant contains this phrase, “No longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Each individual within the nation of Israel will be included in this new covenant arrangement.
Should it catch us by surprise when, after the new covenant is cut in Messiah’s blood, only a remnant of Israelites enter into that new covenant arrangement? The sour grapes teach us that God would deal with each Israelite on an individual basis. Throughout the law and prophets God had dealt with a remnant within the nation of Israel who were truly His people. When the new covenant was confirmed in the presence of the believing remnant of Israelites, they were proven to be the true Israel since they had repented, they had believed in Messiah, and they received the promised Holy Spirit. Everyone else was left on the outside of the true nation of Israel being only Israelites after the flesh.
Since the promises of the new covenant ensure the continuation of the nation of Israel as they enter into the new covenant, and because the apostle Paul affirmed this would occur in the future at the close of this present dispensation (Romans 11), we can safely say that the nation of Israel will enter that new covenant relationship with the LORD exactly as Jeremiah 31:31-37 has prophesied. But we need to remember that each individual will repent and believe since now, beginning with the prophecy of sour grapes here and in Ezekiel 18, individual accountability within the nation of Israel is demanded from the LORD. There is no salvation obtained based on Israelite preference.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman