Covenant Renewal and the Testimony of Jesus – part 2

This issue of The Golden Candlestick is the continuation of No. 215. It is the transcription of a series of meetings with the title “Jeremiah — a Child over the Nations”. T. Austin-Sparks reflects on Jeremiah’s twofold ministry to expose Israel’s idolatry and unfold God’s plan of universal restoration in Christ. The two aspects are strongly connected. Israel was God’s elected vessel to bring about the cradle of the Saviour of mankind. It was the prophet’s task to call God’s people to return to His covenant with them. The burden of the conference was that a similar ministry is needed again in our days, now with regard to the church as God’s chosen vessel to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Jeremiah and the Remnant
Was God’s plan of salvation through His Messiah frustrated by the failure of His people? Not at all. Israel’s mission had to fail so that it would become obvious how utterly miserable humanity is and that the whole of mankind needs the Saviour. And yet, Jesus was born in the city of David and crucified and risen in Jerusalem. This is the wisdom of God Paul is trying to point out in his letter to the Romans and for which he can only bow in worship and wonder (Rom. 11:33-36). God acts on the basis of one universal law, the law of grace.
With Jeremiah’s prophecies it becomes more and more clear how God is both faithful and just when He chooses to continue His plan of salvation with a part of the people of Israel, a remnant, and how this remnant, together with believers from all nations, will form His inheritance. This is what Paul elaborates on in Romans 9 to 11, laying the foundation for a harmonious, holy church life that will leave an impression of Christ on this world and which is “reasonable service” to God (chapter 12). This call to service is “by the mercies of God”. We cannot choose to become like Jeremiah or Paul — God sovereignly chose them to be His mouthpiece, even from the time that they were still in their mother’s womb — but we can obey their call and in that way we join them in their ministry.

Covenant Renewal
In this issue, chapters 3, 4 and 5, T. Austin-Sparks focuses on the reinstallation of the Passover feast by Josiah. He argues that Jeremiah was not happy about it, and looked at it with reservation, because it was merely observed as an external rite without the understanding of the real spiritual meaning of the Passover, which finds its source in redemption by sacrifice — the blood of the Lamb. We cannot be sure if this was really the case. God gives other reasons for His continuing anger in spite of Josiah’s reform. In 2 Chronicles 34:22-28 we read that the Lord had made up His mind to bring disaster on Judah and would only postpone His judgement because of Josiah’s penitent heart. The point of no return had already been reached during Manasseh’s reign (Jer. 15:4, 2 Kings 23:25). What T. Austin-Sparks wants to do here is preach against superficial Christianity and he uses this instance of Josiah’s reform as a springboard for his message. The fact remains: we do need to be reminded again and again of the deep significance of the blood of Christ; covenant renewal on a daily basis.

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August 2021
On behalf of The Golden Candlestick team,
Hugo de Jong