Jeremiah 31:31-34 Jeremiah foresees a different kind of covenant entirely, a covenant of heart rather than statute.
Psalm 51:1-13 Selfishness and independence is inherited from mankind’s fallenness, but the mercy of God’s unfailing love and His Holy Spirit can create a new heart.
John 12:20-33 As the ‘prince of this world’ hears the announcement of his judgment, Jesus foretells that His death will draw all kinds of people to Him.
Hebrews 5:5-10 The new covenant is explained to Jewish Christians in terms of the new, enduring and entirely different level of priesthood now held by Christ Jesus.
FRIDAY, MARCH 16
New covenant, new way
The transition from obeying to partnering
Our Father God wants His children to know Him personally, to share in His values – such as drawing everyone to Himself – and to partner with Him in bringing transformation to this world.
That wasn’t always how it worked. In the desert, then in the Promised Land, with the influence of prophets, priests and kings, a people that would obey and stick to Moses’ Sinai covenant was what brought His favour. That is, when they did obey – when the ‘marriage’ was working. But more and more, the relationship began to fail.
Just as expectations in the partnership of marriage have changed, as the roles and relationships of men and women have changed, the whole basis for relating to God went through a ‘sea change’. Everything changed in Jesus. The Messiah was the True Light who fulfilled the Law – a huge change. His giving of the Holy Spirit, empowering and bringing revelation, inspiring the gospels and other NT teaching was an even more profound change. The Old Covenant was about doing what was right, doing good works and doing ‘good religion’. The New Covenant, which Jeremiah foresaw, was about being those redeemed by Jesus as the unique High Priest, with hearts changed by the Holy Spirit, resulting in good works and partnership in the mission of God.
In the workplace, it is common to start a new role with an induction to learn the new ways things are done. Have we fully caught on to the new way God is working – or still trying to do things the old way, to His consternation?
Melchizedek, acting as a priest, brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram, who in turn gives him a tenth of everything.
Blessing comes from a deep desire to walk closely with the Lord as a partner in life.
The first miracle of Jesus, turning water to wine at the wedding in Cana, Galilee relied on the willing participation of others.
The sound of heaven: the cry of an immense gathering praising God for the ultimate partnership, the wedding on the Lamb of God and His prepared and presentable Bride, the Church.
The message that emerges – God’s provision but also partnership
Partnership with God, provision of land for Abram
Abram, or Abraham as he became, was a man who heard from God and had a close walk with God. He lived his life in partnership with God, trusting God to be ahead of whatever situation he faced; when he and Lot needed to diverge, to give their livestock and herdsmen more room, he gave Lot first choice and trusted God for his own provision. Lot’s own choice took him to Sodom and Gomorrah where he encountered problems.
Abraham simply trusted God who brought him to Mamre, near Hebron, a better place altogether.
In the short passage for this week, we see how Abraham initiated two life principles which we do well to emulate. When he experienced success and victory, he gave God the glory for that. He also honoured God by giving Him the first part of everything. This practice, giving back to God the tithe (or tenth) endures as part of Christian worship today and is seen as God’s provision for His church based on our faith and trust. Abraham’s trust of God and willingness to give God the first part didn’t leave him impoverished. His faith made him the wealthiest man of his time as well the founder of a nation. As we give God the glory due to Him, and honour Him with the first part of all that He gives us, He trusts us with more.
Partnership with God in a close walk, Psalm 128
Psalm 128:1 sets out the blessings of the kind of close walk that Abraham practised and defines the “fear the Lord” phrase for us: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him.” These blessings cover every area of life: family, health, work and provision in a prosperity that is rooted in the “blessing from Zion”, the sense of keeping the focus on the Lord in the place of worship.
In Judaism, there is the concept of earning salvation, and of sanctions (sacrifices) for sin, both known and assumed. Christianity turns this on its head at the Cross. Guilt and shame and struck out. So is merit and entitlement. Grace, the undeserved favour of God, is what we find for us at the Cross, where the price was paid. However, our response to this is surely to revere God, want to walk with God and follow His ways. Perhaps the best way to understand this is the transformation that takes place when we give ourselves to Jesus, and the greater facility to be like Jesus that comes from our willingness to be continually filled again with His Spirit, and experience His love. At this point, we will be motivated and guided to walk a close walk – who would not want to walk closely to such love – and to do what is right in God’s sight – releasing His blessings into our lives.
Partnership in the miracle of provision, John 2
It was shameful, not just an embarrassment, for a wedding host to run out of the only drink available, after preparing for a week-long event. For Jesus, ministering to shame and every other emotional need is as important as other dimensions of healing, deliverance and salvation.
The miracle of water turned into fine wine at the wedding celebration teaches us how faith works in our willing participation in what then becomes a miracle. Here the servants went about an unnecessary task, filling the jars with water, and then they served out what they knew was water when it went in – as they did so, the water became wine. Later, in the feeding of the five thousand gathered on the hill, it was as the bread and fish was shared out, not by Jesus, but by the disciples, that the multiplication took place. The servants at Cana didn’t have much choice – they were doing what the Master told them. What about us, as the Master tells us something? For us this is usually a prompt from the Holy Spirit. We have a choice to hear and act on what we have sensed or glimpsed or caught uncertainly, or to do nothing. As we move out tentatively in our little bit of faith, so God moves in with blessing.
Partnership with God’s eternal purpose: Jesus’ return for His bride, the Church
The “wedding of the Lamb” and “His bride… made… ready” can seem a remote and future concept to us – hardly at the top of today’s priorities. However, heaven’s purpose and practice is intentional and ongoing. Everything is directed towards this end, when Jesus will return in glory and take hold of His church.