Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hebrews 8 -- New vs. Old

When the New International Version of the bible describes what happens to the old covenant of God with the people the word choice fascinates me. Hebrews 8:13, "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." For centuries this has caused more controversy and challenge than realized. The tendency is to try and make the new just like the old.

The place this challenge is most easily seen is in our clothes. Say your favorite pair of jeans gets to the point where there is no hope of continuing to wear them. When the search for a new pair of jeans commences we look for jeans that look and feel just like the old favorite ones. There is one problem, this is an impossible task, the old ones are obsolete and soon will disappear. The need for new is often clear and not debated. The great debate begins when we try to ensure the new is just like the old.

For centuries God had a covenant with the people. This covenant was based in the law given to Moses. The covenant through Moses was actually initiated in the covenant with Abraham. Nonetheless, the covenant of God called people to live their lives according to the laws. If the laws were kept, righteousness would be found. The old covenant didn't work. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, if the old covenant would have worked there would be no need for a new one, however, the old did accomplish the goal of God, so a new one was established.

The new covenant is not law based, rather it is grace based. Founded in Jesus Christ, the new covenant offers righteousness. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we find the offer of grace for life. There is still a call to holy living, and there are still standards by which the followers of Jesus are to live, only in the new covenant there is grace. the old covenant is still important, we must learn all we can from the former things. We cannot however, live in the former things we must live into the new.

Whether it is clothing or our covenant with God, the old cannot be held onto for dear life. God is doing a new thing do we not perceive it? (Isaiah 43). The new is among us, may we embrace it, and remember there is always a new, to our old.

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