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A weak man's covenant
- Jacob Ninan
God made a covenant through Moses, and then replaced it with a new covenant through Jesus (He.8:7,13). It was not an afterthought on God's part. He had not made a mistake with the first covenant and then tried to correct it with the new one. He had planned them both to come one after the other in phases, because there was something He wanted to teach us through these phases.
The first covenant was characterised by the ten commandments, with their "You shall" and "You shall not". God made the covenant saying that if Israel obeyed the commandments He would bless them, and if they disobeyed them they would be cursed (De.28:1,2,15). The history of the people of Israel shows that they failed miserably to keep their part of the covenant. In a sense, the purpose of this old covenant was to show Israel (and us) that no one is really able to find acceptance with God by trying to keep all of God's commandments (Ro.3:20). All come short.
The old covenant was an interim measure till the people were ready to receive the new. The Bible says that it served as a tutor till the heir became of age to receive his inheritance (Ga.3:24). Now God made the new covenant for people who had failed to keep the first covenant (He.8:8,9). It means that God made this covenant knowing fully well that people are not able to keep His commandments. In other words, if we recognise that we can't manage without God's help we are ready for this covenant! This is the lesson that God tried to teach through the failure of the old covenant. He takes it on Himself to equip us to keep His commandments. He will give us new hearts and write His laws upon them (v.10).
When Jesus made this covenant, He shed His blood for our sins. He suffered and died in our place. When we come to Him in repentance and faith, God washes away our sins and accepts us as 'righteous'. This does not mean, as some people imagine, that since Jesus has kept the commandments we don't have to keep them. That is not true. He has paid for our sins and taken away our judgment. But now He enables us to keep His commandments by giving us a new heart that loves His commandments and also strength to keep them, so that it would be no longer a burden for us to keep them (1Jn.5:3). Now we don't have to keep the commandments in order to find acceptance, but we keep them because we love God (Jn.14:21).
The good news of the new covenant is not only that God will be merciful to our sins (He.8:12), but also that He will write His laws on our hearts (v.10). Remember this is for those who have failed! We don't have to be handicapped by our past failures and think that we may as well give up! This is the covenant where God will work in us both to will and to do what pleases Him (Php.2:12,13). How much we will receive will depend on how much we want, how much we believe and how much we seek Him.