The Two Covenants
By Eli Stutzman
September 1, 2012
The Old Covenant was established when the Law of Moses came down from Mount Sinai. The children of Israel had just been delivered from slavery in Egypt. They were now a nation with a promise, but without land. And the law they were about to receive would contain many of the regulations and guidelines on how Israel was to govern the coming land they were about to possess. As Israel stood around the foot of Mount Sinai and waited for the law to be given, they experienced sights and sounds that were very frightening to a group of slaves that had just been freed. What a trip! Just a few days ago they had been serving Pharaoh and his slave masters. Now they were in the presence of the God of all creation! Plus they were about to become a special people through whom the whole world would be blessed. God was about to make a special nation out of slaves.
Remember, our ancestors were Gentiles without any part in this promise. The law and promises did not apply to us. We were on the outside. The people on the inside were former slaves, freed on the night they applied blood on their door frames.
But now, the children of Israel looked on as their leader, Moses, went up the mountain to meet with God. And it was there that he was handed laws such as the world had never seen. The laws of the land were designed to keep God in the center of their activities so that they would never forget who had set them free. Those who obeyed were promised a blessing, and those who disobeyed received punishment.
Later, the law was confirmed when the covenant was established.
Exodus 24:6-8 says; And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.
The covenant was now confirmed with blood.
The Old Covenant included much more than Exodus 20-23. Hebrews 9:1 tells us that it also included directions for the tabernacle. Verse 7 says "he took the book of the covenant and read it." The response of the people was, "All that the LORD has said will we do" Now the children of Israel had become heirs of a promise.
As we read the history of Israel and their first 750 years, we see many, many failures. Was God surprised? Obviously not. He knew that the great majority of men would fail. That same failure still remains today, even among us Gentiles. The old covenant was unable to do the job because of man's weakness. Hebrews 8:7 says;
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
The Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7, points out a different kind of law, known as the spirit of the law. If anyone thought they were doing pretty good at obeying the law, Jesus' sermon quickly showed a failure in everyone who listened carefully. We needed a savior! We also needed a New Covenant desperately. Israel could not live up to the demands of the Old Covenant; neither can we. And God had already promised a New Covenant way back in the prophet Jeremiah's time. In Jeremiah 31:31-34, it says:
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;
After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity [sins], and I will remember their sin no more.
Let's take a closer look at the New Covenant. Hebrews 9:33b says: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." This, dear reader, is the core of the New Covenant. No more is the law inscribed on stone and enforced with hard unbending requirements. Now the law is put into our inward parts; that is, our minds and our hearts. This happens only when a person surrenders their life to Christ.
The trouble with the Old Covenant was that it saved no one. Not one person was able to fulfill the righteous demands of the law. Mankind was unable to reach that high demand. So it was necessary that the New Covenant address that problem. That is precisely what Jesus came to do. He fulfilled the law for us and extended salvation by His grace. As seen on Pentecost (Acts 2) and many other occasions, Jesus Christ-the Saviour of the world, gave us His spirit-to live inside us. This is how it works out for us to have the law of the Spirit written on our hearts and in our minds. We also have the awareness of sin put inside us. 1 John 1:9 says:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Fortunately, for us who are Gentiles, the New Covenant extends to all mankind. God had told Abraham that in his seed all nations would be blessed. Not just one or some nations, but all nations. There are about 6,900 languages on earth. Every language is represented in that great scene in Revelation 7:9, where it says: A great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne...
Will you be there?
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