A New and Improved Covenant

Jeremiah 33 & 34 and Hebrews 8

Following God and obeying His will does not mean that we will have a life free of problems as we can see from so many of the stories in the Bible. It does mean that God is with us as we go through the hard times. Sometimes life is harder for us when we tell others what God wants them to hear.  As we read Jeremiah 33 & 34, we see that this is true for Jeremiah. Jeremiah is still imprisoned by King Zedekiah and Jeremiah is still obeying and trusting in God and telling them what God has told him to say. In Jeremiah 33:2-3a it says “This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to create it, He whose name is the Lord: ‘Call to Me and I will answer you,‘” Isn’t it amazing that the God who created the universe wants us to call out to Him, and it’s equally amazing that He WILL answer. We all have hard times that we go through, but we can call out to our Father and He will walk with us through the hard times. But He wants us (and the Israelites & Judeans) to know that there is a bright future when all the hardships will be over and we will live in joy and peace.

It says in Jeremiah 33:11b “Give thanks to the Lord of armies, for the Lord is good, for His mercy is everlasting,” God is a good God and His mercies are everlasting, and He has a great future in store for His children. God reminds them that a day is coming when His word will be fulfilled. In Jeremiah 33:14-16 we have a prophecy about Jesus and it says; “Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch of David sprout; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety; and this is the name by which it will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’

In Chapter 34 God tells Jeremiah to tell King Zedekiah that Babylon will come in and take over and he will meet King Nebuchadnezzar face to face, but he says that the king would not die by the sword but that he would die in peace. As we learn in the rest of the chapter that is exactly what happened.

We have all seen commercials about something that is “New and Improved,” which means that something was not as good as it should have been or there would be no need for improvement. Hebrews 8 is all about a new covenant that has been established through Jesus, our sacrificial lamb, and now our high priest. The reason there had to be a new covenant was because the first one was not faultless, but the new covenant is. Hebrews 8:1 “Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, without fault.” Jesus was the perfect sacrificial lamb, without fault or blemish.  We have read some of these verses already because they were taken from Jeremiah 31:33. Anytime a verse is used in both the Old and New Testament, we should pay attention to what it says. Hebrews 8:10-11.  “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  And they will not teach, each one his fellow citizen, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.” God is constantly working in our lives because He is a God of love, He loves His children, and He wants to be our God, and for us to be His people.  

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 33-34 and Hebrews 8

Jesus is Greater : Priesthood, Covenant, Warnings

Hebrews 7-10


What is the theme of Hebrews? 


JESUS IS GREATER!

Today, we learn about two things that Jesus introduces that are greater than what came before.  In Hebrews 7, we are told that a greater priesthood is needed. It is impossible for people to be perfected through the Levitical Priesthood, the priesthood of the Old Testament. Something greater, a new priesthood, had to come to make all people perfect. Because Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice, his blood covers all those who come to God through him. Because Jesus lives forever, we need no other priest. Because Jesus has been raised and magnified, he is able to help us in our weakness. The priesthood of Jesus allows us to be made sinless.

 We can overcome sin through the power of Jesus. 
Because of this new priesthood, we can have a better covenant. This covenant is the way God interacts with his people. First, he gave commands to Noah, then to Abraham, then to Moses. He would say “I will bless you, watch over you, and save you, and you will do this for me” and give them rules for the best possible life. The covenant God gives to people in Jesus is the new and final covenant, the best way of any way to follow him, worship him, serve him, find salvation in him, and love others in him. We do not keep the Mosaic Law because the author of Hebrews tells us it has been superseded by the sacrifice of Jesus, a greater sacrifice. Jesus is the mediator of this new covenant. The sanctuary, the temple, the sacrifices are all perfected in Jesus, as he fulfills them through his death and resurrection to life. 


Because of all this, because Jesus is greater than Angels, Moses, and Joshua, because he institutes a better priesthood and covenant, in Hebrews 10:19-25, the author says “Let us, let us, let us”. The author is encouraging the readers to live out faith in response to the great message of Christ. 


This gets us into the last point I want to make today. Right after this encouragement, we read a warning in Hebrews 10:26-31 about willful sin. This isn’t the first warning. In Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7-19, and 5:11-6:12(20), 10:19-39 and 12:14-29 are all warnings. (You can go read them.) As you go back and focus on these, they may stand out as strange. But again, the main theme of Hebrews is JESUS IS GREATER. The warnings in Hebrews say “Don’t turn away from the one who is greater, from the one who perfects, from the plan of God for the ages. There will be a day when the world will be made right, and you know the one who will hold you close and allow you to be made perfect! DON’T TURN AWAY FROM JESUS!” 


My brothers and sisters, along with the author of Hebrews, don’t turn away from Jesus. Remain faithful to the one who is greater!

-Jacob Ballard

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Hebrews 7-10.

Tomorrow we finish the book of Hebrews (chapters 11-13).

No Longer a Slave to Fear

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 22a NIV

How often have you wanted to run away or turn away from God?  Perhaps it was shame, guilt, or maybe despair that was making you unable to even look at your own self in the mirror, let alone approach God.  Those feelings of regret, shame, fear, and a guilty conscience often make us want to crawl in a hole and hide. Fear is a powerful emotion and pushes us away from God.  But the words of Paul tell us that we no longer have to feel that way.  We no longer have any reason to run away or turn away from God.  We no longer have to hide in shame and disgust.  We no longer have to be fearful of who we are, or what we think we are.  Instead of running away from God, we can run to Him, and fall into His loving arms.  When we run to God into His loving arms we are entering the most holy place.  Paul calls it such in Hebrews 10:19.  That should take your breath away.  Just think about it.  No matter who you think you are, or what you are, you can enter the holy place, into the very presence of God Himself.  But Paul says one more thing that is almost too good to be true.  He does not say that we have to crawl into that holy place, hide behind someone else, or that we have to enter wearing sack cloth and ashes.  We don’t even have to sneak in the back door so no one sees us.  No, he says we can come into that holy place in God’s presence with CONFIDENCE.  Wow!  How often do we enter a classroom about to take a test, and go in feeling confident? But Paul says we can enter the presence of God feeling confident!

How is that possible?  Is this all just a dream or make believe?

No, it is real.  Very real.

Let Paul explain.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22a)

We no longer have any excuse for running away from God, turning away from God, or hiding in shame or despair.  Instead we can approach God and enter His presence without fear but rather with confidence.   Paul even tells us to come up close, draw near, maybe so close that we feel as if we are sitting in His lap just as we would sit comfortably in our dad’s lap as a child. Paul tells us in Romans 8:15  “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!”   We are no longer a slave to fear.  Instead, we have been adopted by God, and we are His children.  We call Him Father! We are surrounded by the arms of God our Father.    And all of this is possible because of the blood of Jesus.

Paul calls this a new and living way (Hebrews 10:20). Instead of fear and guilt we’ve been liberated from our bondage and shown a new way of living.  Our sin is washed away with pure water, and our guilty conscience is wiped clean (Hebrews 10:22).  That guilty conscience, which we often lug around in our heart, has been wiped clean.    The chains are broken, we’ve been redeemed.  I know, it is almost too hard to imagine or fathom.  We can hardly understand something so great and wonderful.  But it is real.   Now, without fear or guilt, we can fall into His loving arms because Jesus has opened the door for us.  His blood became the pathway into God’s presence!  No more sin and guilt!  We have been set free!

Luke Elwell

Are You Eagerly Waiting?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9 15

I asked you a question yesterday as we considered some passages in Hebrew 8.  That question was for you to decide what kind of heart you have.  The reason that is important is because the kind of heart that you have determines what other people see in you.  Do they see a person who loves God?  Do they see a person with a heart for serving Jesus and others?  Do people see a person who trusts God no matter what might happen in your life?  Or, are you like the Israelites?  Do people see a person overcome by sin?  A person impatient with God, who wants things right now?  Do they see a person who is willing to give up everything for all the wrong reasons?  What we learned was that God’s laws and commandments don’t change us unless we allow God to write them in our minds and write them on our hearts.

But allowing God to write on our hearts and in our minds is not easy.  Taking out our old heart of stone and replacing it with one of flesh, required a blood sacrifice.  It always had, but now we know that no more blood is required.  In the past the blood of goats and calves was used to obtain purification and forgiveness for people.  But this ritual had to be repeated regularly and often.  That is, until Christ.  Christ was the perfect sacrifice; He was the only sacrifice without blemish.  His sacrifice was able to totally purify our conscience (minds and hearts) from dead works in order to serve the living God!

Because of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, He was able to enter heaven itself in the presence of God Himself.  There, Christ, our high priest, continually intercedes on our behalf, to put away our sin.

End of story.  Right?

No.  Not the end of the story.  There is much more good news for us.

Take your Bible out.  Take your pen or highlighter and mark this verse: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with (your) sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.”  (Hebrews 9:28)

Today’s question:  Are you eagerly waiting for Him?

Luke Elwell

 

What Kind of Heart Do You Have?

Hebrews 8

Hebrews 8 10

The messes people get themselves into.  Moses had gone off to the top of the mountain to be with God.  Out of that mountain God called out to Moses and laid out a wonderful plan for his people.  God told Moses that He had done wonderful things for His people, Israel, and that His people had seen with their own eyes what He had done to those miserable Egyptians.  Through those terrible trials with the Egyptians, God had been like an eagle and had bore His people, Israel, on His wings and had brought His people to Himself.  They were safe.  They were free.  They had a wonderful future ahead of them.  He described those blessings to them.  Israel would be His very own treasured possession, they would be a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.  Oh, the life, safe in the arms of the God of the universe!  It was theirs.  All they had to do was…. if only…why couldn’t they have done what He asked?  Oh, the messes we get ourselves into (Exodus 19:3-6)!

It would have been simple.  Very simple.  If only.  Instead they decided to build that stupid calf.  Not only did they build a calf, but they used their own treasured possessions to build it.  They gave up their own treasured possessions of gold to build a calf which would cause them to lose their position as the most treasured possession of God Himself.

All they had to do was simply obey God’s voice.  Instead they decided to obey the voice of sin.  Aaron described them well.  He told Moses, “you know these people.  All they think about is evil.”  (Exodus 32:22).  All they had to do was simple…simply listen to the voice of God Who had delivered them out of the worse mess they had ever been in while they were in Egypt.  All they had to do was listen to the voice of Him who loved them the most and keep His commandments.

God’s anger burned hot against His people! Moses’ anger burned hot against the people!  Then things really turned crazy!  Moses came down that mountain with his hands full carrying the commandments of God, written by God Himself, on two stone tablets front and back (Ex. 32:15-19).  It doesn’t say, but I think Moses’ might have thought he could straighten out the people by showing them those stone tablets containing the commandments of God.  Instead, they became part of the carnage.  When Moses saw what the people were doing, dancing and singing and worshiping a stupid calf, he threw those tablets made of stone and they broke in a million pieces.  He then took that golden calf, burned it and ground it to powder, then scattered it on the water and made the people drink it!  Their precious golden calf made by their precious golden jewelry was gone forever!

But God was not through with them yet.  God sent a plague on the people because they (correction – Aaron) made the calf.  We reap what we sow.  (Exodus 32:35).

End of story, right?  Nope.  God was not through with them yet.

Let’s fast forward to Hebrews 8.  Amazingly God was not through with the house of Israel and the house of Judah yet.  Here, Paul tells us that God is establishing a new covenant with them and with us.  The first one, written on tablets of stone long ago, will be replaced with one written in our minds and on our hearts.  Until the commandments and promises of God are written on our hearts and become flesh, we cannot become new people.   We are simply stone people. This new covenant, of which Jesus is the high priest, will not be displayed on tablets of stone which can be broken into a million pieces, but will be in our hearts and minds. Our old heart of stone will be removed, and a new heart of flesh will be given to us (Ezekiel 11:19).  This new covenant will change our minds and hearts because Jesus, the new high priest, is able to save us to the uttermost (completely and at all times).

What kind of heart do you have?  One of stone which serves sin and will break in a million pieces when sin is exposed?  Or one of flesh which loves and serves God who considers us His most treasured possession?

Luke Elwell

Out with the Old, In with the New

2 Corinthians 3

2 Corinthians 3 9

This short chapter packs a punch while explaining the differences between the Old and New Covenants.  Any visual learners out there?  I like to SEE things; it helps me make connections better than just listening or reading. So here’s a little chart comparing the Old and New Covenants as taught by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3, verses 6-18.

Old Covenant

New Covenant

Verse

·      Of the letter (law)

·      Letter kills

·      Of the Spirit

·      Spirit gives life

Vs. 6
·      Brought death

·      Engraved in letters on stone

·      Came with glory

·      Israelites couldn’t look at the face of Moses (because he had been with God)

  Vs. 7
  ·      Even more glorious Vs. 8
·      Condemns men

·      Glorious

·      Much more glorious

·      Brings righteousness

Vs. 9
·      Was glorious

·      No glory now in comparison with (new) surpassing glory

  Vs. 10
·      Fading away

·      Came with glory

·      Much greater glory

·      Lasts

Vs. 11
  ·      We have hope

·      We are very bold

Vs. 12
·      Moses put a veil over his face to keep Israelites from gazing at it (radiance of being with God) ·      We are not like Moses Vs. 13
·      Their minds were made dull

·      Veil remains when old covenant read

·      Veil has not been removed

·      Only in Christ is veil taken away Vs. 14
·      Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.   (Don’t see Jesus)   Vs. 15
  ·      Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, veil is taken away Vs. 16
  ·      The Lord is the Spirit

·      Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom

Vs. 17
  ·      We have unveiled faces

·      All reflect the Lord’s glory

·      Being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit

Vs. 18

I am reminded of a great free theme week of devotions this year by Jay Laurent on the Presence of God from February 3-9, 2019 (the New Covenant comes on the scene on February 7 https://grow16biblereading.wordpress.com/2019/02/page/2/).  Throughout the week Jay showed how God was revealing a plan to bring His presence to the people.  And, his plan grew and grew in greatness and glory.  From the very beginning, with creation, his plan was good (and even “very good”).  But it didn’t stop there!  God gave the law – the Old Covenant – to show people what was required to draw close to Him.  Only trouble is, humanity couldn’t get it right.  Everyone was guilty as a lawbreaker and deserved death.  Problem – because in death they were not drawn to God, but they were dead.  Solution – something or someone to remove the sin and show the power of resurrection.   Enter – Jesus!   The New Covenant!  The opportunity for sins to be erased.  Righteousness was in reach – and with it restoration with the Father.  And, that’s not all – Jesus would also bring the opportunity for resurrection and eternal life with God in the Coming Kingdom.  This is the miracle of God’s plan of life with Him that just keeps growing more and more glorious!

 

Thankful for the New!  Looking forward to the Newest!
Marcia Railton

 

 

 

New and Improved!

Hebrews 8

Hebrews 8_10

Today we get to look at a short chapter that is pretty packed!  I really enjoy how this chapter is laid out; it makes it easy to pick out what is being said. As a college student, I love when authors give you a heads up by saying, “Here’s the main point!”.  It’s like they are pointing flashing arrows at key concepts that will be on the test later.  Not that there is necessarily going to be a written exam at the end of this book… but we are definitely expected to know what is going on here!  Verse 1 and 2 clues us in as to what the author is trying to get at.  We have a high priest sitting at the right hand of God serving in a heavenly sanctuary that wasn’t built by humans.  He’s there!

As we move on to verse 5 we see that the current tabernacle at that time was built specifically to mirror the one in heaven.  I found that tidbit really interesting!  I’m someone who tends to gloss over the verses that are just measurements and descriptions of structures… I find them pretty boring to be honest.  BUT, how cool is it that the tabernacle Moses was to build had all of those specific measurements for a real purpose, besides just structural stability?  It gave me a little bit of a boost to read through all of those seemingly unimportant building directions we find throughout Scripture!

Verse 6 and on is somewhat of a comparison and contrast between the old covenant and the new.  First, we see that the new covenant is made superior and is established on better promises (vs 6).  In verses 7 and 8 we see that a new covenant was deemed necessary by God because he found fault in the first and wanted to establish one between both the people of Israel and Judah.  The next verse I think would’ve been a little tough to swallow as an Israelite.  Here the author is writing about how the Israelites did not remain faithful to God’s first covenant and because of that, He turned away from them.  Thankfully the chapter doesn’t end there and continues on to describe how amazing the new covenant will be!

In the last few verses we are told that we will be God’s people, that all will know the LORD, and that we will be forgiven of our sins!  Verse 12 says that God will remember our sins no more and that our wickedness is forgiven.  Praise God for a second chance! (Truthfully more like third, fourth, fifth, one millionth….) To end the chapter verse 13 restates that the old covenant is done, gone, obsolete.  We are living under a new covenant that offers us a clean slate.

Today I encourage you to take advantage of your clean slate, let your sins of yesterday be dissolved and obsolete like the old covenant, and press forward with the reminder that your sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ.  What are you going to do today with that grace?

-Sarah Blanchard

 

 

Something NEW

Hebrews 8-10

heb-8-6-web-watermarked

Monday, July 10

Throughout the Bible, there have been many examples of priests and chief priests. However, out of all the priests that have lived, there is only one that is the most important: Lord Jesus Christ. Unlike the other priests and chief priests, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice by dying for everyone’s sins and shedding his own blood rather than using goat or bull’s blood as an offering. Jesus died so that a new covenant could come into play. According to Hebrews 8:10-12, the Lord declared: “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” This new covenant gives us the opportunity to know God through Jesus Christ if we believe that Jesus died for the payment of our sins and that he will come again to bring salvation to those waiting for him.

God wants us to be wholeheartedly obedient and devoted to him. He doesn’t want us to just be “half-time” Christians. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). This is done when Jesus takes away our sins, enters our lives, and redirects us toward God through baptism. He wants us to encourage each other by showing love and doing good deeds. God is pleased with us when we continue to gather together with other believers because we belong with those who have faith and are saved. Some of you are serving on the UP Project in Minnesota this week, others are working or going to school, and still others may be so excited for FUEL that they are packing a week early. Whatever you may be doing, do it for the glory of God. Hebrews 10:36 states: “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” That sounds like some pretty good advice to follow.

Today, I pray that you find the time to open your Bible and really study God’s Word. He is waiting to have a relationship with you and truly wants your undivided attention. Come to Jesus and God with a sincere heart and a strong faith and ask Him what He wants you to learn or do for Him. Make sure you assemble with other brothers and sisters in Christ and be an encouragement to them. I pray that you will be strong in your faith and share what you have learned with others. God bless you. Amen.

-Cynthia Fyfe

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/is-the-old-covenant-obsolete-2-2/)

 

Why So Many Rules? (Exodus 21-23)

Josiah - rules

In these three chapters we get a long list of dos and don’ts. There are so many specific situations mentioned in these chapters about how to pay back someone for a stolen ox or what to do if you beat a slave etc. What surprised me most about this section is the intense punishment for a lot of these rules! Did you know that if you strike one of your parents you should be put to death according to the Exodus law?!? That is crazy to me, thankfully though I can’t remember ever hitting my parents so I’m all clear on this rule.

Another topic mentioned a lot in these chapters is the, ‘no other gods’ theme. It is twice mentioned that there is only one God; I love how the entire Old Testament reinforces this idea of one God. This makes me think of Exodus 34:14 which says that God is a “jealous God”. Most people think that God being jealous is a bad thing but it is actually beautiful. This means that God values us and our praise so much that He only wants it for Himself. YHWH created us to worship Him and no one else but Him. In case you’re new to the whole Bible thing YHWH is the name of God. It brings me such joy to know that there is an all powerful God out that there that cares about me enough to be jealous for me and my praise. He could literally have anything He wanted but God gave us the choice and He fights for our praise.

This section reminds me of my appreciation for the new covenant, the one that we are all under as Christians. Reading all of these rules made me exhausted and I could hardly bear the idea of having to follow them all of the time. I was thinking of how glad I am that Jesus came to fulfill the law so that we are no longer made to keep any of these specific rules. However this doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want now; if anything Jesus raised the bar for Christians. Instead of the whole eye for an eye concept, we are to turn the other cheek. Instead of repaying an enemy for what we stole, we must love and pray for our enemies. Jesus on one hand has set us free from exact law keeping, but he has put on us a greater burden of true love. I encourage you to thank God for the sacrifice of giving His son for us and to thank Jesus for being willing to die for you and move you under the new covenant.

If I had to summarize these three chapters into one sentence it would be this. Long story short God had a lot of rules to follow and back then breaking one of them meant serious business. Until tomorrow and thank you for taking the time to read this!

 

— Josiah Cain

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