Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. Someone has wryly observed, “You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube.” What does that mean to you?
2. Think of a time when someone said, “Can we just wipe the slate clean?” or “Can you forget I said that?” What makes it difficult to have a relationship “do-over?”
Read Jeremiah 31:27-34. Imagine Jeremiah having a conversation with one of his countrymen about the political captivity of God’s people.
1. The question, “Where is God in all of this?” would certainly come up. How would Jeremiah answer? (See vv. 27, 28.)
2. Jeremiah’s friend answered with a popular proverb of the day. What did he mean, and how did Jeremiah respond? (See vv. 29, 30.)
3. Jeremiah asserted that God was going to make a new covenant, a new deal with his people. What were the terms of the old covenant? (See Deuteronomy 5, especially vv. 32, 33.)
4. Jeremiah used marriage terms to describe the relationship of God and his people (Jeremiah 31:31, 32). How would that make Israel’s breaking of the covenant more personal to the person to whom Jeremiah spoke? What feelings might he have had when thinking about an unfaithful spouse?
5. Jeremiah did not say, “God is going to give you another chance to keep the old covenant.” Why not? Why do you think a deal of a totally different kind was necessary?
6. The first covenant was written on stone. On what was the new covenant to be written? (vv. 33, 34) Think about how radical that idea is. How could a contract like that ever be written?
Reflect on the image of God having access to your heart and mind to write his agreement with you there.
7. The new covenant makes our relationship with God an “inside job.” How does that allow God to “put toothpaste back in the tube”—that is, to restore our relationship with him to the extent that would otherwise not be possible?
8. Is God’s covenant agreement written on your heart? What does this say about the access to your innermost feelings and thoughts you have given to God?