A conversation on the old and new covenants
Today we are continuing our conversation through some of the key principles found in the Book of Hebrews. The foundation of this book that we see over and over and over again is that Jesus is greater. Greater than angels, greater than Moses. Greater than you and I. And this is the heart of Hebrews and what I need to hear again today: Jesus is greater.
We started off the series with an overview of that concept and ended with the processing of moving from being told to actually processing Jesus’ greatness. And today we jump into a conversation about the old testament covenant and the new covenant through Jesus.
The simple dictionary definition of Covenant is an agreement. Think about these things in regards to scripture.
What was the old agreement with God?
What is the new agreement with God?
Do you and I have an agreement with God?
Think about how different people in your world see God. Not real. Or real but unknowable. Or uncaring. Hateful. Manipulative. Or caring and loving. An infinite number of views.
What qualifies us to be in relationship with God?
What qualifies you to be in relationship with people?
What qualifies you?
What makes you good enough?
What makes you worthy?
This question can bring insecurities to the surface.
Am I qualified?
Think about insecurity for a moment. There are some common sources of insecurity. Recent failure or rejection. Lack of confidence due to social anxiety. Driven by perfectionism. All of these can complicate relationship with God.
So what qualifies me to be in relationship with God?
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
What qualifies you to have relationship with God?
All of the old covenant moments were times where God promised to be faithful even though He knew humans wouldn’t be. The old covenants were systems God initiated that invited people to partnership. That God promised some things to them, and that they would be responsible to do a few key things to keep their end of the deal so to speak. These were the ways through which people would be qualified to have relationship with God.
Last week we talked about the old and new temples.
The new temple was God’s way of laying foundation to do everything he could for a relationship with us.
The new covenant is how the relationship works.
The old covenant had all kinds of stipulations on how God would care for Israel and how Israel would follow God and do the things He wanted them to do. God promised to be with Israel and lead them on their journey. God promised to protect his people and provide for and bless them. The Israelites were required to have exclusive love for God and allegiance to Him only and to keep His commands.
But let’s talk about covenants for a moment. What is a covenant? What does it represent? How does it work? What is your understanding of a covenant?
What is a covenant? What is its purpose?
We encourage you to take a look at the covenants God made with people throughout the old testament.
God made a covenant with Adam and Eve, telling them to be fruitful and multiply and to take care of the earth. And that they must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
He made a covenant with Noah that He would never destroy all life by a flood again, and that Noah and His family would need to not eat live animals or shed the blood of other people.
Abraham came along and God established a very deep covenant with him. God told him to go to a land that He would be shown and that God would make him into a great nation. That he would bless all peoples on earth through Abraham. God’s requirement was that they would have to make sacrifices, and God told Abraham that four hundred years of slavery was to come, but that afterwards Abraham’s descendents would come back.
Israel then grows into a powerful community and God invites them into covenant after they leave their slavery from Egypt. This was the covenant of Moses which was given in the wilderness. This encompasses the entire law. We can’t read every bit of this covenant, but it consists of all of the old testament law. The purposes of this covenant are summed up well in Deuteronomy 7.
Israel after this becomes an even greater nation led by David and God asks David to partner with him. He tells David that he would make his name great, and that through David’s offspring God’s kingdom would be established forever.
What do these covenants say about who God is? What do they say about the purpose of humanity?
Hebrews 8 shows that the old was never the permanent solution. The New Covenant has made the Old one obsolete. Not wiped it from memory, but the new has fulfilled the old and taken its place. The old covenant, because of the imperfection of people, showed that there was no one who could be fully qualified for relationship with God. There always had to be extra things added to the deal for it to take place. God always had to reach through and make up for peoples’ shortcomings.
The last supper - Jesus demonstrating that the new covenant would be through his blood and sacrifice. Many ancient covenants were confirmed or sealed by a sacrifice followed by a covenant meal between the parties. Jesus and the disciples shared a meal together on the night before he went to his death to signify the sealing of the new covenant.
What is the new covenant? Friendship? Parent/child relationship? Teacher/student relationship?
It's a partnership. God deciding he’s going to invite us into working alongside him to accomplish work together.
The reality is none of these older covenants are specifically what God invites us into today. When we see the gospel and scripture as a whole, there’s this new covenant of sorts we are invited into.
But when we read about these older covenants, they seem to be pretty set in place. Yet they never fully last. Why didn’t God just give one covenant at the beginning of time and just have that one be set forever? Why are these old covenants not the things we’re called to fulfill? Why weren’t the older covenants “enough?”
Why weren’t any of these old covenants “enough?”
Only a few special people received the Spirit in the Old Covenant -- prophets, some kings, some elders. But the average person wasn't included. Under the New Covenant it's different. EVERYONE is invited.
It can be tempting to just throw away the old covenants, because we have the new one. But the power of the new covenant can only truly be understood within the context of the old. The Hebrews would have had this understanding of the old covenant. They would have lived life according to their precepts. Understanding “covenant” is the path to understanding the identity of God, and the purpose of humanity.
Covenants in the ancient middle eastern involved 3 components - spilling of blood (many covenants were breakable only by death), the terms themselves, and the sign.
While these Covenants in the old testament were a process for humanity to move closer in relationship with God, they were incomplete.
New covenant law is found in the person of Jesus and established at the last supper. The new covenant means direct access to God. No more need for priests. The new covenant means direct access to God. No need for additional sacrifices,
So then, what was the point of all those old covenants? Paul has a pretty good answer in Galatians.
Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.
But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.
The old covenants were a safety net. Created to help humanity progress and mature. Created as stepping stones on the path to direct access and relationship with God.
While the old covenant is no longer needed, the things the old covenant teaches us are still needed.
The transition from old to new covenant is found in the person of Jesus.
From a part of Israel to relationship with Jesus.
From a promised land to a restoration of all of creation.
From a temple of stone to a gathering of Christ with humanity.
From regular sacrifice of bulls and goats to the final sacrifice of Christ.
The old covenant didn't get replaced because it was bad. It was replaced because humanity couldn't live up to it.
What does the New Covenant say about who God is?
What does it say about the purpose of humanity?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read Hebrews 9:11-28
What have you gone through once but have since vowed to never do again?
The author used Old Testament analogies to explain the meaning of Christ’s death to religious Jews. What analogies might clarify with non-religious people today?
What is the Old Covenant?
What is the New Covenant?
What are your personal challenges in walking away from the Old Covenant and fully embracing the New Covenant?
Bible Reading Plan
We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!