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The New Covenant that Changes Everything

Maundy Thursday

The New Covenant that Changes Everything

Text: Hebrews 10:15-25

613.  Jewish tradition teaches that there are 613 commandments in the laws of Moses.  Could you even imagine keeping straight 613 commandments?  Most people I’ve met don’t even know all 10 Commandments.  How could you keep straight 613?  There were laws about cleanliness, laws about family, laws about civil justice, laws about worship and festivals and sacrifices.  613 laws to obey.

These laws served as a sort of hedge for the people of Israel.  They set them apart as being “different” than all the other people of the world.  They were cleaner.  They were more pure.  They were more sanctified in their living.  They were more dedicated to their God.  Thus, God told them that if they obeyed he would be their God and they would be his people.  If they obeyed, that is.

When they didn’t obey, that’s what the system of sacrifices was for.  If you committed this sin, then this sacrifice was required.  And if you committed that sin, then that sacrifice was required.  The message was loud and clear: God is holy.  If there is sin, there must be death and bloodshed to pay for it. Read the rest of this entry

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God Fulfilled His New Covenant Promise

Maundy Thursday

God Fulfilled His New Covenant Promise

Text: Hebrews 10:15-25

Intro

If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands . . . I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people . . . But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant . . . I will bring on you sudden terror . . . I will set my face against you . . . I will punish you for your sins.”

It couldn’t be more simple than that.  God established a very clear covenant with his people.  A covenant is a contract agreement between two parties.  This was the simple covenant God established with his people at Mt. Sinai:  If you obey me and my commands, I will bless you and be with you.  If you do not obey, I will turn from you and punish you for your sins.

God didn’t use hidden codes or secret passwords or confusing words.  He laid out the covenant ground rules in clear and easy to understand language.  You would think that they would have listened and kept the simple terms to this covenant.  After all, with such great promises of blessing from God, why wouldn’t they want to keep the covenant?

We tend to think that way often.  We tell our children not to play with the fine china and not to sass back and not to fight with each other.  Why wouldn’t they want to listen?  Don’t they want special privileges and treats from their parents?  Do they really want to spend the whole day in their rooms with no friends, no toys, and no electronics?

We think the same way in our school.  We tell students to be on time, to wear their uniforms to school, to do their homework, to be respectful to each other and to teachers.  Wouldn’t they want to listen?  Don’t they want good grades on tests and report cards?  Don’t they want special privileges and extra recess time?  Do they really want tardies, detentions, suspensions, or expulsion?

The covenant contract seemed to be so simple and easy.  But the evil sinful nature knows better and wants otherwise.  And Satan knows better and wants otherwise. Read the rest of this entry

Daily Devotion on Jeremiah 31:31-34

Text:  Jeremiah 31:31-34

Contracts are binding agreements. Once you enter into a contract, you are bound to abide by its rules.

God established a contract, or covenant, with the people of Israel. Read through all the laws that God gave to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai sometime. There are a lot!

This was a two-sided covenant. God told the people that if they obeyed his laws and kept their side of the covenant, then he would be their God and they would be his people. But if they did not obey, then he would punish them and leave them.

The Israelites didn’t fare so well with this covenant. Actually, they failed miserably, just as all of us sinners do with keeping the laws of God.

As Jeremiah was on the scene in the midst of the downfall of Jerusalem (a punishment from God for their sins), he proclaimed to the people that the LORD is still a faithful and gracious God. He would establish a new covenant with the people.

This new covenant would be a one-sided contract. The only one doing anything would be God. He would be forgiving sins, saving his people from death, and creating in them a new spirit that would know and obey his laws.

Give thanks to God for his grace and mercy in Jesus our Savior! By his Son he has saved us from sure and eternal punishment. By his Son he has established a new covenant of forgiveness and salvation. Thanks be to God!

Prayer:  Lord God, I know that I fall short of your every command and decree. Yet in your grace, you have established a new covenant by the blood of Jesus, your only Son. Lead me to live in peace and joy of the forgiveness that only you can give. Amen.

Daily Devotion on Psalm 89

Devotion Text: Psalm 89

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.’”

Throughout time, the writer of Psalm 89 (Ethan the Ezrahite) echos the Christmas promise. This covenant was first spoken to Eve in the garden of Eden, then to Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Judah would receive the Messianic promise from his father. David and the other psalmists wrote about this promise numerous times. Eventually, that promise would come to a Hebrew maiden named Elizabeth and to her cousin Mary.

The Old Testament church knew a lot about covenants. After the Israelites left Egypt, they stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, trembling in fear as God made a covenant with them–follow everything I command, and I will bless you.

Yet, the Israelites could not keep everything God had commanded them. They followed idols and chased after worldly security and the perversions of the people around them. In response to their sin, God handed them over to their enemies–the Midianites, the Edomites, the Babylonians and Persians, and the Assyrians. Because of their sin, the Israelites did not receive the full measure of God’s blessing, but tasted pain and death.

This is not the covenant of Psalm 89. The covenant here is a “new” covenant–old as the garden of Eden, but just as fresh and relevant today. This covenant is not two-sided, but one-sided. In this promise, God says, “no matter what you do, I have loved you and will continue to bless you. This covenant is the promise fulfilled in the Christ-child at Christmas and at the cross and the empty tomb. This covenant makes us co-heirs of all of God’s blessings to his people. So in response to this covenant:

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

and

Praise be to the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen.

Prayer: Lord, thank you so much for all of the promises you keep day after day. You protect me and you bless me–giving me more than I could ever earn. Most of all, you have given me salvation in Christ. I can never thank you enough for that gift, but let me live a life of thanks to you and declare your love to all those around me. Amen.

Bible in a Year, Week 7: 1-2 Corinthians

This is the seventh weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. It should only take about 12 minutes a day, or about 3-4 chapters a day to complete the assignment.

Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read 1 & 2 Corinthians.

Background: Corinth was a city much like many modern metropolises in the United States. Today that is not the case. But back in Paul’s time, it had an estimated 200,000 residents. It had a booming economy. And the residents surely enjoyed “worldly” living. We might imagine that living in Corinth back then was akin to a Christian living in New York City, Miami, or San Francisco today.

Paul founded the Corinthian congregation on his second missionary journey. He went to Corinth after his stop in Athens. From there he went to Ephesus. While in Ephesus he learned of troubles in the congregation. It appears from the context that 1 Corinthians is actually the second letter that he wrote to the congregation. Much of it is very pointed, addressing certain issues specifically and directly.

Shortly after Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia, perhaps around 56 A.D. From this third letter it appears that the second letter had affect and the congregation was changing. We can only pray that God works in our hearts through the wonderful message of these two letters in such a powerful way!

1 Corinthians 1: Paul begins this letter in the typical format for his letters. There are three parts to this opening: 1) Author, 2) Audience/Recipients, 3) Greeting. Though Paul has some harsh words for the Corinthians coming in the following chapters, he begins by thanking God for them and for their faith. But then he gets right into it. Immediately he appeals to these fellow Christians to be perfectly united in mind and thought. What a travesty it is in our churches when we experience what the Corinthians did–rifts, factions, fights, and quarrels! Read the rest of this entry