March 18, 2018-A New Testament for and Old Covenant

His bond is his word and a handshake was a sure as an unbreakable contract.

 What was always interesting to me is that it was never the handshake or even the words that they would use…no it was who they were…

 …the person…they had proven faithful over the years, so much so that just the words of their mouth and a handshake was more than enough for people to trust them completely.

Marcy had a funny experience like that this past week where her spoken word was enough.

 Micah is moving into an apartment for the fall semester and he put down Marcy as the guarantor of the rental agreement.

 Seeing her name only on the contract Marcy only provided her annual income which was not enough to serve as an approved guarantor.

 No big deal, we just had to provide our total household income and that more than sufficed.

The funny part comes in how they took the information.  They didn’t ask for a pay stub or a letter from human resources at church or even our income tax statement for proof.

 Get this…Marcy just told them over the phone what our income was together…and they approved her signature as guarantor.

 You heard me right…no proof at all was provided accept what Marcy said over a phone from thousands of miles away.  Needless to say we were shocked!

 Now maybe they are ripe for a scam, or more likely they simply never had any problems with people coming through with the rent checks, and thereby never needed any objective accountability.

 In other words, our word was enough.

 I think we can all agree, these days this is rare, especially in any situation where substantial amounts of money is committed to in a relationship between two parties.

 Nobody guarantees any goods or services with-out money down.

And hardly anybody promises any long term working relationship with-out a legally binding contract to guarantee what was agreed upon.

 Interestingly enough this is actually ancient biblical practice going back to almost 2000 years before Christ!

 In those days, all the way up to the Prophet Jeremiah’s day, they were called covenants and 3 basic examples demonstrated the covenants most often used.

 First there was the Royal Grant Covenant; which bequeathed land or privilege for loyal service and was generally given unconditionally.

 Second, was the Parity Covenant, which bound two parties to friendship and mutual respect governing their mutual sphere of existence.

 Finally there was the Suzerain-vassal Covenant which is just a fancy way of saying a powerful King had other weaker Kings under him as absolute servants.

 Pretty much any movie or TV show you have seen in the last 50 years about the medieval period routinely uses this as the background for their stories.

 Now in the biblical record we see seven of these covenants leading up to Jeremiah’s Day including 1 for Noah, 2 for Abraham, one for King David, and one for Phineas the High Priest, in Numbers 25 (Concordia Study Bible; p.18, Genesis Chapter 9)

 Today the Covenant of Jeremiah is very similar to these Old Covenants, but there is a New Testament aspect that Jeremiah’s listeners would have found very intriguing.

 First of all it is an Unconditional Royal Grant, just ordinary to Jeremiah’s listeners for all intents and purposes.

 Yahweh was their eternal king and by the mouth of his faithful prophet he is laying out another decree.

 There was no questioning it, there was no denying it.  It was God’s Decree!

 Yahweh always dealt with Israel in the North and Judah in the South, and how they lived out those covenants resulted in how well off they tended to be.

 Israel did not do so well up to this point, and were already in captivity to the Assyrians, because they broke their covenants with God.

 Judah was not much better, and truth be told even God’s people today don’t have much to brag about…pastors included!

 So the results were usually covenants broken by the same people the covenants were established to protect. 

 More than half the time they couldn’t keep the covenant, and even if one generation did, the next generation usually did not.

 So even if this was a New Covenant, it sounded very much like the others until it demonstrated a definitive difference

 First it shows almighty God husbanding His people.  Not a king relationship, not a Master or even a Lord, but a head of household husbanding all His people at once.

 Even more than that…they would not leave their families and enter into a covenant with Him, rather He would leave His Holy and Heavenly Family and make His dwelling with them.

 Now that wasn’t even the craziest part, the most insane part of this is no one had to tell anyone about it, no one would make an oath of fealty to it, and no contract would bind it, Jeremiah said everyone…would simply…know it.

 But how?  (We ask ourselves)  Indeed how…is it magic?  Is it Mysticism?  Is it secret knowledge?

 Let me ask you, if you are a husband or a wife in a good marriage…does anyone know your spouse better than you do, most of the time no.

 Now if Jesus is the Bridegroom, and the church altogether is His bride, does anyone who isn’t in Christ know Jesus like we do?  And does anyone know us like Jesus does?; even our wonderful spouses?  Indeed no!

 When Jeremiah’s people heard these words and they knew how bad their record was, what peace this promise must have brought them in their day.

 Just imagine their sins, God husbanded them, and they ran off to find another husband who promised them everything they wanted and made them everything they hated.

 They ran off to their neighbor’s Gods, because everybody loved those Gods; and they discovered that everyone was also being socially and spiritually destroyed by those Gods.

 They wandered into the courts of the flashy and the popular religions, thinking it was something new and innovative and realized it was just the same old false teachings wrapped in new robes and using new names.

 So God established from the Covenants of Old a New Testament of Christ Himself, no longer dependent on their adherence.

 This time who they were and what they did no longer mattered.

 He remembered their sins no more and those sins would no longer bind them unto death, at least not their death.

 Instead death would free them, but not their death rather the death of Jesus himself.

Even this New Covenant could not be broken by man.

 For this Covenant of Christ broke the very chain of sin that held us unto death.

 And if you can defeat death, you can conquer anything and that’s just what Jesus did.

 Sure there were Old Covenants, but only Christ could write this Testament.

 And it’s never tempting, it’s rarely flashy, and, thankfully, it’s not fashionable; is just true…

 …A New Testament that saves us from all our failures to the Old Covenants.  AMEN.