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Law

In today’s Bible reading from Hebrews 8, the writer refers back to a prophecy delivered by Jeremiah.

“Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt—my covenant that they broke even though I am their master”—the Lord’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 4No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin. Jeremiah 31:31–34 (CSB)

In this, the writer of Hebrews says the new covenant is better than the old covenant. The old covenant was an external law, written on stone while the new covenant is written in the hearts of God’s people. Motivation for obedience changes from being influenced from an outside source to being influenced from an inside source.

Under the old covenant, God’s people obeyed in order to get God’s favor (which was really unachievable). Under the new covenant, God’s people obey because they have already obtained God’s favor.

Application

How do you relate to God? Seriously, do you relate to God under an old covenant model — hoping to obtain God’s favor because of your behavior? Or do you relate to God under a new covenant model — behaving because you already have God’s favor?

Perhaps the best way to see if you understand this is to answer this question: Do you think you can make God any happier with you because of something you do (or don’t do)? If you think God will be happier with you if you ____ (fill in the blank with some behavioral change), then you probably relate to God under an old covenant model.

Prayerfully consider your answer.

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I’m sure that when Jewish believers read what the writer of Hebrews said in today’s Bible reading, they were not a little bit shocked, and possibly offended.

In a parenthetical statement in Hebrews 7:19, he says, “for the law perfected nothing”. Why would he say such a thing? Take a look at the immediate context: “So the previous command is annulled because it was weak and unprofitable (for the law perfected nothing), but a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.”

OK, that sounds even more offensive to the ears of a traditional First Century Jew! The law was weak and unprofitable?!

Look at what Paul had to say about the purpose of the Law:

Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:23-25 CSB)

The King James Version says that the Law was our schoolmaster and the New Revised Standard Version says that the Law was our disciplinarian. I think that now, we’re beginning to understand what Paul and the writer of the Hebrews is trying to get us to know. Paul says in Galatians 3:21 “Is the law therefore contrary to God’s promises? Absolutely not! For if the law had been granted with the ability to give life, then righteousness would certainly be on the basis of the law.

Going way back to Genesis 3, Adam and Eve broke God’s command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He had warned them that the day that they ate that tree’s fruit they would truly die. They did, yet not in the way we expect. They continued to live long enough to have children. But they died that day in relation to having a relationship with God. So God gave their descendants the Law so that they would know what God desired in order to reestablish the relationship: Complete obedience.

Centuries of living under the Law could not restore that broken relationship, regardless of how hard they might try to obey. Why? Because the Law’s purpose was to show how we don’t — and can’t — measure up to God’s perfect standard.

We needed something else. Something else outside of ourselves. Mankind was dead and the Law was incapable of giving life.

But Jesus is!

Application

Believer, you have access to a restored relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus raised Himself from the dead and you were given a new life at conversion as you put your faith in Him!

Keeping the Law couldn’t restore that broken relationship with God, because dead people can’t accomplish spiritual requirements. God gave the Law to show how we were completely lost and totally hopeless.

And then Jesus showed up.

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