1st October 2023

From The Old to The New Covenant

Passage: Jeremiah 31:31
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

The title that I'd given myself to preach from was about the old covenant and the new covenant. And I think that this will be something I'll start this week and go on to next week to really effectively do. But we have, if we can put up on the screen, those Jeremiah verses, you'll see about the old covenant that it has an appearance that's quite real. I don't mean by appearance that it's not true, but there's an aspect of the old covenant which is very, very strict and paints a picture that is stark and often causing folk to reject religion and reject Christianity because of the wrath of God as seen in the Old Testament. That is, however, not the full picture that is fair to God and who he is because even in the old covenant, there is a graciousness that is represented.

We often talk about one of the words that talks about God's grace, chesed is the Hebrew word. And when people study about that word, they often discover that it has such a rich meaning about love and the very word grace in the Bible and the word love are closely connected. And in the Old Testament word of chesed, which sometimes just gets translated grace, other times it gets translated in our Bibles, loving kindness. And the reason is that there's more to grace than the side that sounds so hard and about God gives grace to this person and just wipes out grace, no grace available to that person. That's not the truth, nor was it in the Old Testament either in the whole purpose of the land of Israel having Jerusalem and the temple system. And the fact that that very temple system that was the opportunity for people to find forgiveness with the God of Israel, that there was a court for the Gentiles, those who are not Jews. And it was a part of the commission to the Jewish people to be in Jerusalem, have that temple, and to be inviting the nations to come and find the God of love that was the God of Israel. And the word chesed in the Hebrew has the idea of covenant keeping God. And how God showed his love in those times at first was the fact that he would set up or he did set up the covenant with Israel.

It was called the old covenant simply because there was later to be a new covenant. But the covenant introduced by Moses to the children of Israel was one where God was prepared to welcome sinners into covenant with him. And part of the meaning of the word chesed, although I have to say that amongst all the scholars, there's a lot of different slants and emphases that you'll discover. And that word grace is not a full interpretation of the word, it's really covenant keeping grace. And that once God allows a person by his mercy to come on in, the mercy being because they're helpless and they're never gonna get anywhere with God at all unless he has a mercy that they didn't deserve. But once by mercy he lets them into his covenant, then the chesed is that God will not let them be kicked out. He will come and bless them despite their sin. And the way that he looked after Israel while they kept his covenant was such a merciful way as to bless them and to help them and to be with them. And that's a part of the old covenant too. The trouble was that because of the sinfulness of human nature, they broke that old covenant. They broke it on their side. And God insisted on trying to own them nonetheless. He never stopped them being his people, though he did punish them with dispersion amongst the other nations. You might have heard the little phrase, the wandering Jew. It's about the fact that amongst the nations for somewhere like close to 2,000 years, maybe not quite that number but quite a lot of time, the Jewish people wandered amongst the nations with no place to be rested and without a homeland and out of temple that once was there.

But God intended always to keep his promises even though they didn't keep theirs. And the Bible has within it the structure of their being as Jeremiah, the Old Testament, Old Covenant prophet said, coming a moment when he was going to have a new covenant that let everybody in or not, didn't make them all come in but made available for people to come into his covenant nonetheless even though they're sinners. And talking about the Old Covenant and then the new, the most famous chapter is our chapter here, chapter 31 of Jeremiah. Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. First thing to notice, that both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant were made with Israel. Do you get that? Israel wasn't going to be cancelled out from being under the covenant of God eventually. They were going to be at the centre of the New Covenant. Read it again. The days coming says the Lord when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Israel was the northern part when they got into squabbles and Judah was the lower part with Jerusalem in it. And they're all going to be in the New Covenant. Not like the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. Moses was a leader of the Old Covenant because he's the one God used as a deliverer to let them escape from the bondage in Egypt.

My covenant that they broke, though I was their husband declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days declares the Lord that I'll put the law within their heart. Now the difference between the old and the new is the law was on stone. Moses given it, the top of the mountain. But there will come a day when God would write the New Covenant on people's hearts. So the law wasn't something exterior to them by which they have to make themselves obey. It wasn't similar to the Old Covenant days where your religion was outside of you, pressing you to be what you actually found very hard to be because sinfulness has always been our story ever since the fall of the human race. God knew that and knew that the law would serve a beautiful purpose as like a trainer of children, a tutor, who would tutor people that there's something difficult about their hearts. And though he had his good law, there's nothing wrong about the law, there's nothing incorrect of it. It's God's law, it will always be true. The ceremonial parts might change because of the move from the Old Covenant to the new, but God's 10 commandments, for example, are going to be ones that last forever because they're a reflection of his character. Only how to keep the Sabbath might be expressed differently but the very character of God and the law is something permanent because it's his character.

God's not changing who he is between the Old Covenant and the new, but he's changing how we can handle the sinfulness of heart that made all the Israelite people, though they had this wonderful covenant through Moses, they broke it and they broke it or they come back to God and he tried to reestablish them but they break it again and the whole story of the prophets of Israel is how a new prophet would come to tell them that they've broken the covenant and try and get them to come back and repent and be a little mini revival of them because they weep over their sins, but then they break it again. And what's more, the Old Covenant prophecies said that there'll one day come a Messiah and the Messiah would lead them and help them in all this. The Messiah, of course, was Jesus, but what did they do to him? He came to his own, John chapter one says, he came to his own, received him not. They turned him down. So there came that day when Jesus, in fulfilment of some of the Old Testament prophecies, I think in the Psalms it says that one day the Messiah would come riding on a donkey into Jerusalem. They had the original Palm Sunday where they ripped off palm branches and waved them around in front of the donkey and a great crowd followed Jesus, chanting from the Psalms as he rode in in fulfilment of the prophecy of how the coming Messiah would arrive to the capital city of Jerusalem with the expectation that he'd take over and lead them out of their problems. They all cheered for Jesus, but it was only a matter of a short amount of days and weeks where the same crowd were before Pilate and Jesus was presented as the King of the Jews, even put above his cross when they killed him. This is the King of the Jews.

But what did the crowd say? Crucify him, crucify him. And the very first Christian sermon was at the Day of Pentecost when Peter spoke to those same crowds and told them how by wicked hands, they're the Roman ones, the Roman hands, you have killed the Prince of Life, you've crucified him. And called on them to repent and change their verdict and be baptised into his name. Christianity began that day. It was a Jewish religion previously and it still would be the correct religion. It didn't stop being because this new covenant is what God was making with Israel and Judah as you're reading there. Now go to the end of that chapter 31, please, if you can just put down to the, okay, this verse 37, if you're looking up here, it says the Lord, the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below can be explored. When that happens, then I'll cast off the offspring of Israel. That's God saying it's never gonna happen. I'm never casting off Israel. If there's a time ever come when heavens can be measured, you know that heavens can't be measured. The foundations of the earth be explored. People know everything about how this globe of ours is built. We'll never come to that knowledge. That's the only time he'll cast off the offspring of Israel. That's my next point. God made it with Israel and Judah, the two parts, and it's never gonna stop being a covenant, the new covenant this is talking about. It's gonna be forever. And when we get to be converted to Christ, when we do what the Jews didn't do, they did not receive him, but the passage of the Bible, it talks about accepting the Messiah. That's John 1, as many as received him.

He gave the authority, the right to become the children of God, even to as many as believed in his name. And that's the beginning of the gospel of John. He came to the world who was his world. He came to the world of people which were his creation. He came to the nation that was his nation. They were his. He came to his own, but his own received him not, but to as many as did receive him. To them, and them alone, to them did he give the right to become the children of God, and the new covenant was the beginning of the church. In fact, as it is described in the New Testament, the word ekklesia, the Greek word we use for church, just means assembly. You're in assembly here, but the word takes on a technical meaning as those who are included in God's assembly. It was used as a word of the people of Israel in the Old Testament when they assembled the assembly of the Lord. That's often using the word. They had several words, but the word ekklesia in the Greek, if you translate the old Hebrew into Greek, there's the word ekklesia. It's our word for church in the Old Testament. But the ekklesia, it's redefined on the day of Pentecost when Peter points out how they've crucified the Messiah, and with wicked hands, the Romans, as I said, put him on the cross, but the Jews are the ones who engineered him to get there. These ones were called on to reverse their verdict, to repent, and to let him be their king, and let him be their saviour, and that's what it means to receive Christ is that you welcome him how God has sent him, and you let him be to you the saviour of your soul. You let him be to you the king of the people of God.

You receive him as yours. You don't do what the Jews did and say, no, we'll run our own show. We'll look after ourselves. We're not really that bad. This fellow's the troubler. He's the one who's doing it. No, but we are called on by the gospel to repent of the anger of heart human nature can have of itself. It doesn't need to have any other excuses, though other elements always come in to stir us up, but nonetheless, there's something in our hearts that wants to install ourselves as the people who are the kings, and we do that in the face of who Jesus is, and you'll repent of that depth of sin that is making another messiah, making yourself as God. Do you know that actually is the heart of evil and sin? And different people who are scholars and philosophers of religion try and work out what is the real crystal depth of what is sin? What is the worst sin, or what is the thing that is at the bottom of all sin? And the answer to that is often thought of to be pride, which is getting close. The pride that I am good enough to be that leader. The pride that says I'm not so bad as the Bible says. It says for all of sin, but there's a good reason why that applies to me, my excuse, or whatever it is. Yeah, pride gets close, but know that what's actually better that theologians come down on is that the heart of sin is displacement of God.

It's whatever you put in God's place. And instead of acknowledging that he's the one that created you, instead of acknowledging that he's the one to whom you naturally belong because you're his creature, instead of following his ideas as to what the world is, and you're inventing your own ideas, is when you change his laws, like Australia's doing from the laws of God, and we put in other things that says just the opposite, and put us poor preachers in a difficult spot, when the Bible says that man and woman was made from the beginning of creation. And when there's a marriage coming up, I've discovered that they won't let me use my old forms. Some of you know this, because I did your marriage and used an old form, and they got me to run in there and have to change it because there's new forms. The new forms don't say bride and groom. They say person one and person two. But the Bible says from the beginning, God made them male and female. You don't get a choice about how God made you. It's just the rebellion of the human heart, especially expressed in a corporate sense, where we think we can make our own laws. That's sin, displacement of God at a national level. But when it happens individually in the human heart, it's what blocks us out. It's what puts us in the road of the wrath of God. It's why Jesus came, because he knew there was to be no persons who'd ever get acceptable with the Father, when they were just rebellious and sinful.

And he came to pay that price, and on that cross, all the wrath of God fell on him. Why do you think he dreaded the thought in the Garden of Gethsemane? It wasn't because of any weakness in his part. He prayed, Lord, if it's just possible, if it's possible, let this cup pass from me, but not my will, yours be done. And he gave himself to go to the cross. And on that cross, the wrath of God fell on him. But what's good news for us, is that it was exhausted in him, and eventually he cries and says, it is finished! It's done! You have had your sins paid for. Tonight, my evening service is gonna talk about whether Jesus only died for the elect, or whether Jesus died that all persons could be forgiven with God knowing that some would not receive the forgiveness. It's called about the discussion about the extent of the atonement. How far did Jesus' death cover? I believe you'll hear my answer tonight, come at five o'clock. But Jesus exhausted the wrath of God for our sins, and made it possible for us to be accepted, and then we get under the cassette. We get under a mercy of God, because he lets us in in the first place, and then he keeps us in, and though we still have sinfulness to work with, and gradually get sanctified about, and many times fail, but because of his cassette, he keeps us, his covenant keeping loyalty, now that's a part of the new covenant. And that's such a fantastic thing. I'm gonna be talking about the difference between the old covenant and the new, but the point I wanted first of all this morning to make, is that it's made with Israel.

Now you say, do you mean we're gonna become Jews, to be a Christian, and the answer is no, not exactly that it's just a Jewish covenant, it's offered to the Jewish people, it's a new covenant with them, but the newness of it is, that it's not just based on the old covenant, not just based on keeping the laws of Moses, it's based on a new thing that's happened, because God has punished our sins in Christ, and the basis of it is the connection to Christ, the new covenant is all about Jesus, and that the person that's come to Jesus is acceptable. And the book of Ephesians, and we've been going through this, and you've heard me repeat this a lot, I know, the book of Ephesians says that God, what he's done is he's broken down the wall between the Jewish way of coming, having going to the temple, and having all the old covenant laws, has all been made come to an end, and there's a new body which is called the people of God, we still call it the Ecclesia, but it's now a new body, which is the Jews and the Gentiles, the Calathumpians and the Osh Magals.

I'm making up words, whoever comes to Christ gets in the door, for it's in Christ that your sins were paid for by the shedding of his blood, by the offering of his love, by his eventually taking the punishment, the cosmic punishment of all the world, in fact, that's why partly he had to be the God man, both God and man, in order for his infinitude, he could pay for everyone's sins, what's more, because of the person that he is, his shed blood, the God man, is so precious that it couldn't be limited to just a few sins, there are some people who think that Jesus got, somehow or God got a list of all the different things people have done, went through the history of the whole world, and careful, don't put more than you need to, but the punishment measures out exactly, they've got some idea that Jesus in his death is just each individual sin, got a whip from God or somehow, that's just not the picture, the picture is that he's the most precious person of all history, and when he suffered on the cross and he shed his blood, that was too precious a shedding that could ever be limited, Jesus died in a way that is over an abundance of payment for the sins of all the world that could ever be, no matter how long it lasted, because of who he is, there is no wrath of God that needs to be left, yet is still conditional upon our repentance, which means our change of verdict, and our accepting him as king of kings, so us dealing with that original sinfulness of wanting to make ourselves the boss, that displacement of God.

I'm asking you a question this morning, have you been putting something else in God's place, have you been allowing him, have you come back to say God, you are the only God, I'm sorry for my putting all these things more important than you, I'm sorry that I've had an attitude of putting me first, one of the ways you have to learn when you've become a Christian is now you've got Christ in your life, sometimes you find yourself having him sit over in the corner, it's a bit of an illustration some little tracks use on how to learn to be filled with the spirit, and they do a circle like this, and they do a whole lot of dots in there to represent your interests, and then they put a chair, but instead of Christ sitting on the chair, you have come and received him, but they put an E for ego, and they go across over on the side, and they call on you to let Jesus have central place in your heart, and that central place is just reversing the displacement of God as in the proper place of leader of your heart, of the ruler of your life, of the receiver of your worship, and sometimes there are little things which are stupid little things.

I know what used to be in my circle when I was a teenager, it was cars, I still love cars, but they're not on the centre anymore, and God had to do something to me to get me to let my heart have Jesus as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and that's the time, I already was a Christian, but that's the time I took off as a Christian, when I let Jesus be the centre of everything, to me to live is Christ, I've been developing extra sermons along the way, not because I have to, it's enough to have two each week, to have to get ready, but I keep, things keep coming to me, I've got a whole sermon, I've got it ready in my Bible, and it's, the title of it is For Me to Live is Christ, where did I get the title? From the Apostle Paul, For Me to Live is Christ, and all that's about really is recognizing that you let Jesus be at the centre of your life, and that's where sanctification takes off, it's what stops it, I've often wondered why you can meet people, when did you become a Christian? They say oh back in 1920, or sometime in the past, sorry some of you can't say my 1920, can you? Nor can I, but back sometime when you know, I let Jesus be in my life, but they haven't grown, why is it that some people, especially in churches, you meet some who've taken off like rockets, and become very strong, and you meet others who somehow have been weak, and backslidden, and you wonder why it is, it's because of that basic sinfulness, of displacement of God, and there are a lot of good things that can displace God.

I've met mothers who've told me that in the years of motherhood, having Bubba's, and the joy of being a mother, what made them, you know it was the entirety of their life, but even good things, you need to give like Hannah in the Old Testament, who gave Samuel, back to the Lord, we have a ceremony with child dedications, it's about that, it's not a baptism, it's just giving back to God, what could easily capture your heart, make what you have in the centre, anyway I'm getting off the track, but simply to say that this is what Christianity is about, it is when you put Christ in the first place in your life, that's when you take off, it's receiving him as your savior, it's when you begin, it's when you become a Christian, and the first occasion where people were called upon, beside from Jesus personally telling Nicodemus in John chapter three, but the first public occasion of the church, being defined as those who've come to Christ, is on the day of Pentecost, where Peter says repent, reverse your verdict, and he asked them all to be baptized in the name of Jesus, for the forgiveness of sins, and there were 3,000 who did that day, what nation do you think the 3,000 belong to, largely the Jewish nation, because it was a move from the old covenant, to the new covenant, that they were doing, I'll be expounding more on that next week in the morning, and tonight we'll use one of the verses, where there's a good example of that happening, to some people who had been good Jewish people, but they needed to find the Lord, and that'll be tonight.

Let's have a word of prayer. Heavenly father, Lord I know I've only just broached the topic, and there's an awful lot more to say, but Lord I'm aware of that covenant keeping love, that you have, that you want people to know, that there is love in the God of the Old Testament, and he's the one who when he got them into his covenant, he isn't going to let them go, and this passage here about the new covenant, is talking about how even the Jewish people, whose old covenant hasn't worked for them, that they're going to be invited into the new covenant, one day in their history, and that has happened, now we're post the new covenant time, we're in the offer of the new covenant, it's coming to us, and Lord if there's someone here, who's never really owned up, to the sinful centre of their life, like the rest of us are, that you help them to repent of that, to think again, the word repent means to have a new verdict, the old verdict that we have of quite naturally, is to ignore Christ, and not let him be the Messiah, and repentance means that we apologise, for leaving Christ out of our lives, and we ask him to take his central place, as savior of our heart, we thank you for that in Jesus name, amen.

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