Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sign me up!

Some years ago I saw a book titled New Covenant in the Old Testament. I saw it; I didn't read it. But today's reading from Jeremiah 31 reminded me of the title.
"The time is coming," declares the Lord,"
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,"
declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 31.31-32
He goes on to explain the new covenant: He's going to put his law in our minds and write it on our hearts. (Perhaps I should say "their" because it's the houses of Israel and Judah, whereas I'm a Gentile.) And it's not going to be breakable; the thing that makes this covenant different from the previous one is, well, let me see...

First, the old one was breakable and broken. I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that the new one won't be breakable - at least not in the same way.

Second, as noted above, he's going to put his law into the hearts and minds of his people (rather than on clay tablets).

Third, as it says in verse 34, they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. In the old covenant, only Moses spoke with God, or after the time of Moses, it was only the high priest who went into the Most Holy Place in the temple...

And finally, still in verse 34, For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

Is this good news or what? It's also somewhat of a puzzle, because if you look in Leviticus (clearly part of the Old Covenant "which I made with their fathers"), the phrase "will be forgiven" or "will forgive" appears more times there than any other book of the Bible.

The author of Hebrews unravels his puzzle, and we'll get there in a few weeks. But meanwhile, even with the puzzling part, I think this new covenant deal is terrific news. Although I often get distracted or confused, it is a great thing to know that God wants to tell me his will (that's how I take the part about putting his law into our hearts/minds). The thing now is to listen and cooperate.

So help me Lord. Amen.

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