Monday, May 5, 2014

"The Old Covenant … Thanking God today for the NEW one!"

Day #128:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - May 5th

Scripture Reading:  Exodus 21 - 24 …

Reading parts of the Old Testament can make you scratch your head and say, "WHAT?!  Did God really say these things?"  This is especially true when reading some of the laws God gave to the people as they came out of Egypt.  Some of the laws actually form the basis of case law in the United States and other countries to this day:  laws concerning accidental death and murder, laws regarding restitution and liability.  Other laws, such as those dealing with slaves and those who sacrifice to other gods were given to Israel as a people who now were being taught that they belonged to God.  They had been slaves in Egypt for several generations and God was bringing them into a new relationship with Him and with each other.  They had no government, no laws, no justice system and they were … sinners, in need of redemption.  Imagine a moving city of two million or more people - ALL of them homeless and traveling to a place where enemies would fight against them every step of the way.  Because of the hardness of their hearts God gave them laws to control their sinful natures and to guide their living together.

Chapters 21 and 22 explain some of these laws as God gave them to Moses and he told them to the people.  In Chapter 23 God reminds them of the importance of resting the seventh day and of allowing the land to be restored, to "rest," on the seventh year.  He also introduces the three annual feast days that He will give in more detail later.  These three feast days were the ones where every man was called to gather and to appear before God.  In all of this God was pointing ahead to Christ and His work of salvation, when He offered His body as the perfect sacrifice for sin and then God poured out His Spirit and began the gathering of His Church from every people, tribe, nation and tongue.  All pictures of a spiritual reality that God would accomplish centuries later through the "Seed of Abraham!"

God continually pointed them to the future, when He would lead them to the promised land, defeat all their enemies and dwell with them.  The last half of Chapter 23 and Chapter 24 are awesome pictures of God's promises for the future for all of His people … for all who believe in Him and who come to Him through faith in Jesus.  God says to Moses, "See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared" (23:20).  While this was uniquely true for Israel as God led them to the land of Canaan, it is also true for us.  Psalm 34:7 tells us that "the angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them."  In Hebrews 1:14 we read, "Are not all angels ministering spirits who are sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" What an incredible reality for those who know God.

And Chapter 24 takes it even one step further.  God told Moses to come up the mountain with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel.  Before they went up, Moses offered sacrifices and took the Book of the Covenant, the laws that God had given him so far, and he read the laws to the people and they responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey" (24:7).  Then Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people.  God was showing again that while the people said they would obey, their hearts were hardened by sin and they would break this covenant over and over and over again.  That's why a NEW covenant would be necessary.  Always remember when reading the Old Testament that all this is a picture of why we need a Savior!

God would speak through Jeremiah and say, "The time is coming 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" (Jeremiah 31:31-32).  How will the new covenant be different?  "'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.'" (Jeremiah 31:33).

God spoke of this new covenant through Ezekiel when the people were in captivity in Babylon.  God said, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put MY SPIRIT in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).  And in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, who had begun to be persuaded by some of the leaders of the Jews that they needed to go back to the Old Testament and keep all the laws of Moses … Paul explained, "Before faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  so the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law" (Galatians 3:23-25).

Through Jesus Christ the Law of God has been fulfilled and we now live under grace.  Is the Law still good?  Yes!  The ceremonies and sacrifices are no longer necessary and we live in a different age regarding the societal laws God gave to Israel to control their sinful natures.  The Spirit of God now uses His Word in the New Testament to teach us how to live together and the Spirit Himself produces in those who believe the desire to obey God.  It is no longer a law that is OUTSIDE of us, but God now dwells within us to move us to do His will.  Two passages immediately come to mind:

"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (II Corinthians 3:3).

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose" (Philippians 2:12-13).

We do not live under the Old Covenant, but by God's grace we can approach Him without fear, for through the blood of Christ sprinkled on us we have access to His very presence.  Would you like a picture of that?  Exodus 24:8-11!!  After Moses had sprinkled the blood on the people, "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and SAW the God of Israel!  Under His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.  But God did not raise His hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they SAW God and they ate and drank."  This is a glimpse of OUR future!!

Thank God today for His New Covenant, the promises of God fulfilled in the perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ.  It is HIS blood that gives us access to God, Who is now our Father in heaven.  Finally, Moses went up the mountain and the cloud covered the mountain.  "To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain" (24:17).  The writer of Hebrews again compares the Old Covenant to the New in Hebrews 12 and warns us not to refuse God's grace in Jesus, for He will once more shake all things and judgment will come on all those who are not covered by the blood of Christ.

But for those who believe, "Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire!'" (Hebrews 12:28-29; Deuteronomy 4:24).  Give thanks to the Lord and live with Him and for Him today, knowing that His angels encamp around you and His grace is sufficient for your every need!

"O LORD God Almighty, I bless Your Name, for You alone are worthy of my worship and my praise!  You are enthroned above the heavens and yet You have come to me by Your Word and Spirit and called me to come to YOU through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ.  O Lamb of God, I come!  I enter Your presence and bow humbly before Your throne in awe and worship.  To You, my God, be glory and honor and praise, now and forever, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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