Monday, January 20, 2003

What is really different in the New Covenant - Part 2 -- Diagnosis and Cure

What should be apparent, from the last posting, is that the Old Covenant, although good and right, was doomed to fail. In the days of Jeremiah, all that remained of the Covenant was the execution of the curses against the inhabitants of Judah. Through Jeremiah, the Lord diagnoses the condition of the people and gives His prognosis of the outcome, "Moreover, the Lord says to the people of Zion,'Your injuries are incurable; your wounds are severe. There is no one to plead your cause. There are no remedies for your hurts.There is no healing for you.'" (Jeremiah 30:12-13). The disease is terminal. There seems to be no hope. The children of Israel must be, it seems, no more.

But like a cancer patient who is told that there is no hope, but only certain death, so it is with God’s people. We can always turn and seek the power and mercy of God. Some people diagnosed with a fatal injury or sicknesses are healed. I do not know of a single believer who will not pray for the healing of someone he or she loves. And so, even though the prognosis for Jerusalem and Judah is not good, we find that the Lord revealed to Jeremiah His plans to heal and restore His people, "Yes, I will restore you to health. I will heal your wounds. I, the Lord, affirm it.That is because you have been called an outcast, Zion, whom no one cares for.” (Jeremiah 30:17) Again the Lord tells Jeremiah, “But I will most surely heal the hurts of this city and restore it and its people to health. I will show them abundant peace and security." (Jeremiah 33:6)

A different path to righteousness is needed to accomplish this healing, however. The Covenant of Law could not bring righteousness, but perhaps there could be another way. Through Jeremiah, the Lord says, "Under his rule Judah will enjoy safety and Jerusalem will live in security. At that time Jerusalem will be called 'The Lord has provided us with justice.'” (Jeremiah 33:16) The Net Bible is a bit off in its translation for "The Lord has provided us with justice" is a translation of YHWH TZIDKENU or "The Lord is our righteousness." Here is a recognition that the deceitful heart of man could never stand in its own righteousness, but that perhaps the Lord, Himself, could supply or be the required righteousness.

It is the heart of man that pre-empts the blessings intended by Old Covenant Law. That is why the Law convicts of sin. For the Lord to bring healing, something fundamental must happen to the heart. It is not surprising, then, when Jeremiah writes down the words of the New Covenant to come, that it involves the heart: “'Indeed, a time is coming,' says the Lord, 'when I will make a new agreement with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the old agreement that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. For they violated that agreement, even though I was a faithful husband to them,' says the Lord. 'But I will make a new agreement with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,' says the Lord. 'I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. And I will be their God and they will be my people. People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. That is because all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,' says the Lord. 'All of this is based on the fact that I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.'” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Tuesday: The New Covenant

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