I want to know what ordinances are being referred to in Jeremiah 31:36. And what does it mean by Israel will cease from being a nation?
Jeremiah 31:36 (NKJV) “If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, [Then] the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever.”
To better understand a verse, we examine its context.
God declares that in the future He will "sow" Israel (that is, to scatter them) using men and beasts. He will watch over Israel as He destroys them and then He will watch over them as He rebuilds them.
" "Behold, 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 with the seed of beast. As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant," declares the LORD. "In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children' s teeth are set on edge. But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge" (Jeremiah 31:27-30).
God states that Israel will not be able to say that this destruction was the fault of their ancestors -- that they are bearing the brunt of God's wrath for the sins of their forefathers -- rather, God points out that the responsibility falls on their own shoulders because they have sinned. Ezekiel 18:1-20 carries the same message.
Because Israel failed to keep God's covenant, they would be destroyed and scattered. But because of the same covenant, God would bring some back and rebuild.
But another consequence of their failure to keep the covenant is that God would replace it with a different one.
" "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" " (Jeremiah 31:34).
The writer of the Book of Hebrews discusses this passage at length in Hebrews 8:6-10:18. Instead of people who enter a covenant simply because they were born of a certain lineage, the new covenant will be for people who have learned God's law and choose to enter the covenant. Thus, under this new covenant "Israel" would no longer be a physical lineage but a spiritual one. "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God" (Romans 2:28-29). "For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).
You might think that this change in covenant would imply that God is abandoning Israel, but He reassures them that this is not the case.
"Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: "If this fixed order departs from before Me," declares the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever." Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done," declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 31:35-37).
The "ordinance" or "fixed order" is the functioning of the universe. God is declaring that He will only allow the offspring (or seed) of Israel to cease from being a nation when this universe stops functioning or when people are able to fully measure the works of God in this universe -- in other words, not until this universe comes to an end.
However, notice that God said "the offspring of Israel" and not Israel itself. Israel remained as a nation through the establishment of the church. Soon after, Israel was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Christians who compose the church become citizens of God's nation. It is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10). God's nation was no longer of one physical lineage but is composed of all the people of the world who believe and obey His voice. "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:29).