Tag Archives: Old Covenant

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Mediator of the New Covenant

In the New Covenant, Yeshua acts as priest, sacrifice, and mediator. Installment 36 in the Beth Immanuel Hebrews series finishes Hebrews 9 with a discussion on Hebrews 9:15-28 and the Messiah’s role as a mediator between Israel and God.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Thirty-Six: Mediator of the New Covenant
Originally presented on December 28, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match,
Find me a find,
catch me a catch”

-from “Matchmaker” by Jerry Bock
from the play and film “Fiddler on the Roof”

Lancaster started off his sermon on a different note than usual this week, stating that he’d been reading a book called A Jewish Response to Missionaries produced by Jews for Judaism, which is an “anti-missionary” organization. According to something in the book, Lancaster said that Judaism has a prohibition against mediators since a mediator between a person and God violates the second commandment not to have any god before Hashem.

Except that’s not true.

Sure, we can pray as individuals, and in any event, God knows our every thought, so it’s not like we need someone to help us communicate to God what we’re thinking and feeling. On the other hand, if the Jewish people didn’t need a mediator, why was there a priesthood? Why were there sacrifices? Why was there a Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle? And why was there Moses?

Actually, Chasidic Judaism very much believes in mediators and relies on a tzaddik, their Rebbe, to act as mediator.

So the Jewish prohibition against mediators seems to only apply when combating Christianity, as Lancaster says.

Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

Galatians 3:19-20 (NASB)

The Jewish PaulPaul himself said that the Torah was delivered to the Israelites through a mediator and would remain in effect until such time as “the seed” would come, meaning Messiah. This isn’t to say that the Old Covenant and the Torah are not in effect today. They still are. But we are still living in Old (Sinai) Covenant times. The New Covenant won’t fully arrive until the resurrection and return of Messiah (but I’m getting ahead of myself), but even then, the Torah remains as the conditions of the New Covenant, too.

What is a mediator? Someone who negotiates an arrangement between two parties. Paul said “God is only one,” so the other party to the Sinai Covenant must be Israel. Lancaster says that the midrash likens Moses to the friend of the bridegroom (God) so to speak, like a matchmaker arranging a “match” between a man and woman for marriage (think Fiddler on the Roof, which is what the image at the very top of the blog post references).

Picture Moses going up and down the mountain carrying messages between Israel and God and between God and Israel, like a friend carrying love notes between a man and a woman who are courting. And in Exodus 24 Moses even performs the ceremony as such. Oaths are exchanged, blood is splashed, and afterward, everybody gets together in the presence of the bride and groom for a covenant meal, like a wedding reception.

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Matthew 26:26-29

Lancaster says that the Last Supper, or Last Seder if you will, also functions like a covenant meal in the presence of both parties, with the Master in the role of the mediator, representing the groom (God the Father), and the Apostles representing Israel, just as the elders of the tribes at the first covenant meal represented Israel.

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Timothy 2:5-6

Seems like a pretty pointblank statement to me. Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant between man and God.

However, there’s a part of these verses that has always hung me up and I think Lancaster solves my problem.

For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood.

Hebrews 9:15-18

testamentDepending on the translation you have, you either see the word “covenant” being used or “testament” as in “last will and testament.” Except a covenant and a testament are not the same thing at all. It’s pretty confusing in English. But apparently, “covenant” and “testament” are the same word in Biblical Greek and Paul was using a bit of word play. It makes sense in Greek but is useless in English.

However, it’s really just a simple point as Lancaster says.

Just as a last will and testament doesn’t come into effect until a person dies, a covenant doesn’t come into effect until there’s been a sacrifice and shedding of blood.

That’s all the writer of the Book of Hebrews is saying here. Don’t get hung up on any deeper symbolism or meaning. It doesn’t exist except in the thoughts of theologians, scholars, or sometimes people who like to find what isn’t there.

Verses 19-22 describe the events of Exodus 24 with some minor variations, and then Lancaster goes on to compare Moses and Jesus, whereby Moses made the Sinai Covenant come into effect by splashing the blood of the sacrifice, Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant with his blood.

Lancaster was very careful to say that Jesus didn’t literally enter the Heavenly Holy of Holies carrying a bowl of his own blood, this is symbolic language and imagery. He entered the Most Holy Place in Heaven on the merit of his righteousness and sacrifice as the greatest tzaddik of his or any other generation, not because he was a literal human sacrifice.

Verses 24 and 25 use the illustration of the Aaronic High Priest who every Yom Kippur, enters the Holy of Holies with blood to offer atonement for the people of Israel. He offers the blood of the sacrifice and he prays for the people. According to midrash, he was told not to pray too long because while the High Priest may be basking in the Holiness of God, the people outside, since no one can go in with the High Priest, are “freaking out” wondering what happened to him and if the act and prayers of atonement were successful.

So too are we waiting for our High Priest to return so that we know, so to speak, that his atonement for us was also successful (though we know it was and is). Yeshua, our High Priest, is tarrying in his prayers of atonement on our behalf. This is still a “virtual” Yom Kippur. He will emerge from the Heavenly Holy of Holies upon his return to us and then we will know.

Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Hebrews 9:26

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

John 14:6

Jesus as our High Priest, our sacrifice, and our mediator, is the way into the New Covenant through our faith in what his work accomplished, and that faith and acknowledgement of him as mediator is required for us to participate in the blessings of the New Covenant.

Verse 28 speaks of those who eagerly await Messiah’s return. That applies to us as we eagerly await him, await the resurrection, await the terrible and awesome days of the Lord, and await the establishment of his Kingdom and the life of the world to come.

What Did I Learn?

Just about all of this was an eye opener. I had some vague notion of Jesus being the New Covenant mediator as Moses mediated the Sinai Covenant, but Lancaster added a great deal of detail, putting flesh on the mere skeleton of information I possessed as far as Hebrews 9 is concerned.

high_priestI especially appreciated the comparison between the Aaronic High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur and Yeshua as the High Priest in the Heavenly Holy of Holies, which represents the Messianic Age to come, a place, like the earthly High Priest, where only he can go, and we can only anxiously wait for him on the outside, wondering what’s happening in there and how long it is going to be before he comes back for us. How long, Moshiach? How long?

Lancaster has a talent for taking what seems to be very mysterious portions of scripture and removing the disguise, so to speak, to give the words and passages a plain and understandable meaning. Reading all this before, I don’t know what I thought about it, but now it makes a lot more sense.

Only four more chapters to go in Hebrews, which will take nine more sermons, nine more weeks for me to review. I didn’t cover everything Lancaster taught in today’s sermon, so you might want to listen to it yourself. This one is fairly brief at just barely 29 minutes. You can find the link above.

Advertisements

Chol HaMo’ed Pesach: Writing on Flesh

When Moses descended, he carried the Word of God—not the Word made flesh, but the word made stone upon the two tablets of the covenant.

“The Word from Heaven Was Broken”
Commentary on Chol HaMo’ed Pesach
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

The obvious image those words should invoke is this:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John1:14 (NASB)

The Old Covenant was established with the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai and the conditions of that covenant, the Torah, were given on stone tablets.

The mediator of the New Covenant entered our world as “the Word made flesh” and the conditions of that covenant were in every spoken word and action of that “Word,” in the person of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, HaMaschiach (the Messiah). But of course, the conditions previously established didn’t change, and everything taught by the Rav from Nazareth was Torah.

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Matthew 5:17-18 (NASB)

The conditions of the Old Covenant were written on stone tablets. Exodus 32:16 says the finger of God wrote on the first set of tablets before the sin of the Golden Calf, before Moses broke them.

The FFOZ commentary tells us that according to midrash, the tablets that descended from Mount Sinai can be compared to a human body, and when Moses broke that “body,” because of the sin of Israel, the letters on the tablets flew off the stone and returned to their Source in Heaven.

When Messiah Yeshua’s body was broken due to the sin of Israel, his spirit left him and returned to its Source.

letters-on-stoneAfter the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses returned to the mountain and to God to plead for Israel and to renew the covenant (Exodus 34). This began a long and cyclical pattern of sin and repentance for Israel.

After the death of the Master, he was resurrected three days later and thus was completed the inauguration or the very starting of the New Covenant, a process that will not reach fruition until the Master’s return, for he ascended to Heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father, our High Priest in the Heavenly Court, who makes final atonement for the sins of humanity, who is the mediator of better promises. But get this:

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (emph. mine)

Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NASB)

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (emph. mine)

Jeremiah 31:33-34 (NASB)

The conditions of the Old Covenant were written on stone tablets and on scrolls, objects that are inanimate and external to human beings. If we want to know about God and if we want to “know God,” we must study and practice, and yet Biblical and human history is all too clear that even the best of us fail, no matter how great our desire to serve God.

praying_at_masadaYeshua came as the “Word made flesh,” the living embodiment of the Torah, the walking, talking, flesh and blood, human expression of the will and wonder of God, all contained within a human body. He was the perfect image of what we strive for, the Word written on flesh.

There’s a difference. John’s Gospel says that Yeshua was the Word made flesh, while we get from Ezekiel and Jeremiah that the Word will be written on our fleshy hearts. We don’t literally become the Word as a human being, we “merely” have it wholly integrated into our being.

But here’s the result.

Amen, I say to you, none among those born of a woman has arisen greater than Yochanan the Immerser; yet the smallest in the kingdom of Heaven will be greater than he.

Matthew 11:11 (DHE Gospels)

I mentioned above the concepts of knowing about God vs. knowing God. I don’t doubt that there are people today, great tzaddikim or saints who know God, at least to the current extent of human ability, but the Bible records that Moses spoke with God “face to face” (Exodus 33:11). That’s pretty hard for me to imagine, especially since God is considered Spirit and without physical form (the third of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith).

But the Master prophesied that when the New Covenant is fully enacted, then the finger of God will have finished writing His Word on our hearts of flesh and, like Moses and the Prophets of Old, including John the Baptizer, we will all know God, God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17), and everyone, from the least to the greatest, will have a full knowledge and intimate relationship with God. We won’t just know about Him, we will know Him.

Jesus, when the Spirit was poured out on him at his immersion (Matthew 3:16) became the forerunner, the first fruits of New Covenant human beings. He was still fully human, but with the Spirit poured out on him as it will be someday in the Messianic Era, a human being who could be tempted but still not sin. He’s the living promise that we will be perfected even as he was perfected.

It’s exciting to watch God’s plan open up in the pages of the Bible. The progression from the tablets and scrolls to the first fruits of the New Covenant, Messiah, coming as the “Word made flesh,” and then anticipating the day when that Word will be written on our flesh as well.

Right now, we experience just the leading edge of that New Covenant as we continue to live in the Old Covenant era, the Spirit was given as a pledge and a promise of what is yet to come (2 Corinthians 1:22). We aren’t there yet, but God has given His Spirit to us as His bond that what He has promised will indeed occur.

But there’s a catch.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NASB)

PrayingThis doesn’t just happen.

Yes, God promised it and it will happen, but it won’t just happen to us without an effort on our part. It isn’t just an intellectual and emotional acceptance we make that Jesus is Lord and then suddenly we’re in. As we see from Paul’s example, we only get to the finish line after running the race, after exerting ourselves, after keeping the faith and holding fast to our confession (Hebrews 4:11, 14).

Recently, I wrote of some of this as applied to me personally in For Redemption is Not Yet Complete and next week’s review of D. Thomas Lancaster’s Epistle to the Hebrews sermon The Source of Eternal Salvation will speak strongly to who we are in Messiah and our role in the process of repentance and salvation.

Each day, we struggle to reaffirm our faith. Each day we must repent anew, plead for the forgiveness of our sins, and turn to Yeshua as our atonement. The finger of God is moving and writing, but only if we are willing participants in allowing our stony heart to be transformed, only if we surrender ourselves as the material upon which (upon whom) God may write His Torah.

And we do that only by recognizing the one who came from God and who returned to God and who will come again. The one who arrived as a flesh and blood man and who was (and is) also the Word. For only through him can we find the Word within us as we are within Him.

Review of “What About the New Covenant,” Part 4

Session Four: Better Promises

But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises.

Hebrews 8:6 (NRSV)

I have a feeling I’m going to encounter this material again when I listen to and review the relevant presentations in D. Thomas Lancaster’s Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series. However, the Hebrews material has been folded into a different context, one contrasting and comparing the Old and New Covenants in First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) latest teaching lectures What’s New About the New Covenant.

On disc four, Lancaster starts with a brief summary of the previous lectures. We learned that Old Covenant doesn’t mean Old Testament, and it doesn’t even mean the Torah. It is an agreement God made with Israel (and only Israel) at Sinai stating that He would be Israel’s God and they would be His people as long as they obeyed His commandments (the conditions recorded in the Torah), and should Israel disobey, God would punish them and exile them (but not forever reject them).

We also learned that the New Covenant doesn’t mean the New Testament and it doesn’t mean the Church. It also doesn’t mean “renewed” Covenant because it indeed is something new. The New Covenant is also an agreement made between God and the Houses of Judah and Israel (and only the Houses of Judah and Israel) and that, according to the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the New Covenant is made of “better promises” and Jesus is the mediator of that New Covenant.

But what are the better promises and how can they be better if between the Old and New Covenants, God does not change even a single condition or requirement for Israel (the Torah mitzvot) but does change the hearts of all Jewish people, making it possible for them to correctly perform all of the mitzvot?

To answer that question, Lancaster takes us through a study of a few of the chapters in the book of Jeremiah. This is why I like reading large portions of the Bible in one setting. I can get the full message of God to Israel in its complete context rather than parsing bits and pieces and verses together artificially to form a picture that might not be correct.

Better Promises in the Messianic Future

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

Jeremiah 31:31

“The days are surely coming” indicates the end of days, the final redemption, the future Messianic Era. For those Christians who believe that the New Covenant has already replaced the Old Covenant, this statement makes that particular doctrine impossible because the New Covenant hasn’t been enacted or completed yet. The death and resurrection of Jesus only got the ball rolling, so to speak. We’re still in the Old Covenant age. The Torah is still in effect as it always has been since Sinai.

Good News for Israel and Judah

Simchat TorahNotice (and I’ve mentioned this before) that the addressees of the New Covenant are “the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” This is only with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Period. It’s an exclusive relationship between God and the Jewish people, just as the Old Covenant defined an exclusive relationship between God and the Jewish people. The New Covenant (pay attention please, this is important) has nothing to do with the nations, with Gentiles, or with anything called “Christianity” or “the Church.” The New Covenant does not create a stand-alone covenant relationship between the Church and God. The only covenant that all the people of the earth can claim for their (our) very own is the Noahide Covenant (Genesis 9:1-17).

The Transformation of the Jewish Heart

It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 32-33

The next “better promise” is that God will make it possible for the Jewish people to obey His righteous standards and not sin by writing those standards on the Jewish heart.

Husband and Wife

Lancaster says an oath the groom would recite at the wedding ceremony in the ancient near east was to declare, “I will be your husband and you will be my wife.” God declared “I will be a God to you and you will be a people to me,” but that was contingent upon Israel not disobeying God and worshiping idols. Idol worship was considered as adultery by God, a wife going astray with other lovers (gods). Under the Old Covenant, Israel went astray, but under the better promises of the New Covenant, since the Torah will be written on their hearts and not just on tablets and scrolls, Israel will never again “cheat” on God, so to speak, and will always remain faithful.

Intimate Knowledge of God

No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:34

Master and disciplesUnder the Old Covenant, many times the people of Israel, including the Priests and Prophets knew about God, but they didn’t know Him in the sense of an intimate knowledge that led to obedience. This is often true of Jews and Christians today. It’s easy to study the Bible and learn about God but not so easy to live a life that is consistently, day-by-day, hour-by-hour pleasing to God. Under the New Covenant, there will be a universal revelation of God to the whole world. It will be natural for everyone to obey God.

I know I said the New Covenant is an agreement just between God and the Jewish people, and I, or rather Lancaster, will get to the issue of Gentiles by the by.

Forgiving All of Israel’s Sins Forever

So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

Romans 11:25-27

Lancaster didn’t cite Paul or Romans 11 but I felt it an appropriate addition. Lately, I’ve been hearing some bad opinions about Paul and his so-called anti-Torah, anti-Judaism, and anti-Jewish people letters, and I thought this would be a good time to clear some of that up, since Paul is preaching to the Romans New Covenant doctrine that is highly favorable to the Jewish people and to Israel.

Jeremiah, according to Lancaster, is saying one of the “better promises” of the New Covenant mediated by Messiah, is that God will forget all of Israel’s sins which is what makes it possible for Paul to literally mean that “all Israel will be saved” rather than some tiny remnant who, according to the Church, must leave Judaism and convert and assimilate into (Gentile) Christianity. God doesn’t change the Torah. The Torah is unchangeable at its core. God does change the Jewish people so that they naturally will be faithful to God and God, for His part, will forgive all of Israel’s sins, from the Golden Calf forward throughout all of history and into the Messianic Age.

That’s very good news, a wonderful gospel for the Jews.

Israel Will Always Be a Nation Before God

Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name:
If this fixed order were ever to cease
from my presence, says the Lord,
then also the offspring of Israel would cease
to be a nation before me forever.
Thus says the Lord:
If the heavens above can be measured,
and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,
then I will reject all the offspring of Israel
because of all they have done,
says the Lord.

Jeremiah 31:35-37

Moon and StarsI suppose this could be two “better promises.” Israel will be a distinct nation and the Jewish people will be a distinct and identifiable people as long as there is a sun, a moon, stars, and a sea, which is to say, as long as the earth, our solar system, and the universe exists. It is also a promise that God will never reject Israel and the Jewish people and they will remain a people and a nation until the heavens can be measured and the foundations of the earth can be explored. These conditions, by the way, are rhetorical language meaning “always.” Israel will always be a nation before God and God will never reject the Jewish people. Ever.

This flies in the face of the various churches who still adhere to some form of Replacement Theology because for them, the New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant, and they interpret that to mean that God rejected Israel permanently because Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah. God then replaced Israel with the (Gentile) Church which accepted Jesus. Now, the only way God will accept a Jew is for the Jew to reject Judaism and convert to (Gentile) Christianity. However, examining the New Covenant language reveals that Replacement Theology is hopelessly unBiblical.

Jerusalem the Eternal City

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Wadi Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall never again be uprooted or overthrown.

Jeremiah 31:38-39

Who can count the number of times Jerusalem has been conquered and destroyed? OK, probably someone has, but the point is that historically, whenever Israel sins, the Temple is destroyed and Jerusalem is left in ruins. This “better promise” for the Jewish people states that Jerusalem will be rebuilt and expanded and it will never again be destroyed because the Jewish people will never again sin against God or other people.

Some of the really exciting “better promises.”

Jeremiah 32:1-15 tells of God commanding Jeremiah to buy a field in Judah during Nebuchadrezzar’s siege against Jerusalem, a command Jeremiah couldn’t understand. It would have been crazy to do so, but God had something in mind: more “better promises.”

MessiahI don’t really want to reveal all of the better promises since if I do, you might not be as inclined to listen to the full lecture. In brief, the other promises include the regathering of the Jewish people to their Land, giving the Jewish people all one heart, and one way (in my opinion, “the Way”) so that there will be no division among Jews, that the New Covenant will be everlasting, that God will rejoice over doing good for Israel, that a “righteous branch” meaning the Messiah, will rise from the line of David. In addition to a return of the Davidic dynasty on the throne of Israel, the line of Aaron and the Levitical priests will return, which means there must be a Temple for them to offer sacrifices in.

God even says that He will only break His covenant with David and with Aaron if someone can break God’s covenant with day and night. More rhetorical language meaning “never.”

But there is something more about Lancaster’s sermon I do want to reveal since it contains a dire warning.

Those Who Say God Rejected Israel

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Have you not observed how these people say, “The two families that the Lord chose have been rejected by him,” and how they hold my people in such contempt that they no longer regard them as a nation? Thus says the Lord: Only if I had not established my covenant with day and night and the ordinances of heaven and earth, would I reject the offspring of Jacob and of my servant David and not choose any of his descendants as rulers over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes, and will have mercy upon them.

Jeremiah 33:23-26

ChurchHistorically, who has held Israel in contempt and said that God no longer regards the Jewish people as a nation? OK, just about everybody, but that “everybody” includes the Christian church. Even today, many churches continue to adhere to some form of Replacement or Fulfillment Theology, and any Christian who does espouse such a theology is who God, through Jeremiah, said “hold my people in such contempt” (emph. mine). Really, do you want to be on God’s “wrong side” by holding Israel in contempt, or even in the slightest degree, believe that God has rejected Israel and replaced her with the Church?

In addition to their being more “better promises” and “good news” for the Jewish people in these chapters of Jeremiah, Lancaster mentioned that there are still more better promises littered about the various books of the Prophets including Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and Joel. That’s really a lot of better promises and good news for Jewish people.

But What About the Gentiles?

Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

Acts 15:1, 5

Remember what I (citing Lancaster) said above about the New Covenant being made only with the House of Israel and the House of Judah? No mention of Gentiles at all. So do we even figure in? There’s a lot of language in the Apostolic Scriptures that says “yes” but we have to dig for it.

However, from the point of view of the various Jewish sects in the late second temple period, including believing Jews in “the Way,” recalling the New Covenant language, the only way they could see how Gentiles could be included in these “better promises” was to convert to Judaism.

In Acts 15:1-2 and 15:24, Now with what Satanically-inspired and dogmatic false teaching did these “certain men from Judaea” try to infect the church at Antioch, and why according to Galatians 2:4-5? (emph. mine)

That quote is from the study notes for the Sunday school class I attend when they were teaching on Acts 15 last September (here’s the link to the relevant blog post). What they couldn’t see was that the Jewish people asking these questions were not “Satanically-inspired” but rather, asking a legitimate question based on the Jeremiah 31 text.

Paul knew that the Gentiles didn’t have to convert to Judaism in order to be included in better promises (hence his letter to the Galatians), and Peter witnessed this first hand as recorded in Acts 10:44-48, but no formal decision had been rendered by the Council of Apostles and Elders defining Gentile legal identity within the Jewish community. Acts 15:6-29 records a summary of the legal hearing, including the testimony of various witnesses, and the conclusion and ruling of the Council that Gentiles could be granted honorary status within the commonwealth of Israel, grafted into the nation (see Romans 11:11-24), but only because of their association with Israel through faith in King Messiah.

Apostle Paul preachingThat’s an incredibly vital point to get, because without the New Covenant “better promises” being applied exclusively to the House of Israel and the House of Judah, if God really did reject Israel and the Jewish people in perpetuity, then we Gentiles would have absolutely, positively no hope of salvation at all! Israel is central in God’s plan to redeem the people of all the nations of the earth.

When King Messiah returns, he will be King of Israel, King of the Jews, and he will conquer all of the other nations and be their King. He will annex all of the other countries and Israel will be at the head of the nations, and all of the other nations will be vassal servants to Israel. As citizens of these vassal nations, we too will be annexed subjects of Israel and her King. The good news for the Gentiles is if we swear allegiance to King Messiah now, even before his return, we become his subjects and the New Covenant blessings become ours.

No, we don’t become Jews because we are citizens of a nation annexed by Israel and not citizens of Israel itself. We are granted an honorary status in the commonwealth of Israel. We’re grafted in.

As I’ve mentioned about a million times elsewhere, we don’t come under “One Law” in terms of being commanded to wear tzitzit, lay tefillin, and such, but we do become people who are called by His Name, and partisans or freedom fighters, so to speak, who are defending our King and his people until he returns and ascends his throne in Jerusalem, much as Robin Hood and his Merry Men of legend fought against the tyranny of Prince John and protected the innocent until King Richard’s return.

And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Isaiah 2:3

New CovenantIf you are not a Jew and if you call yourself a Christian or any other name that indicates an allegiance to the King of the Jews, to Jesus Christ, then this is your hope in the New Covenant through national Israel, the Messianic Kingdom, and through the Messianic King. The Master said, Salvation comes from the Jews,” (John 4:22) and according to Lancaster, he was talking about the New Covenant and everything that was presented in this lecture ”Better Promises.”

If you want to be part of those “better promises” then please carefully consider everything you’ve read here today. It really wouldn’t hurt and might do a great deal of good if you got a hold of the five-disc set of What’s New About the New Covenant and listened to all of the content, since it really applies to who we are as Christians and what God expects of us and of how we treat His people Israel. Our salvation comes from Israel and her firstborn son Yeshua of Nazareth, the Messiah, the King…not the other way around.

Review of “What About the New Covenant,” Part 2

Session Two: The Breit Chadashah

D. Thomas Lancaster started this second lecture in the series by taking me more than a few years back into my own history in the Hebrew Roots movement. He said that when he first became involved in Messianic Judaism, even though most people in his group didn’t know Hebrew, there were a few “Hebrewisms” that everyone was expected to observe.

Never say “Jesus”. Always say “Yeshua”. Say “Messiah” instead of “Christ”. Say “Torah” instead of “Law”. Really remember to say “Rav Shaul” rather than “Paul.” Also, say “Breit Chadashah” instead of “New Testament.”

Although some of my readers are scrupulous to use these “Hebrewisms” when emailing me or commenting, even though they may not be well-versed in Hebrew (though a few are quite proficient), some of them probably feel they have to follow this sort of “Messianic Political Correctness speak” in order to be acceptable or perhaps they feel they’re correcting past wrongs and, after all, Messianic Gentiles and Hebrew Roots Christians don’t want to sound too “church-y”.

But there’s a fundamental misunderstanding that most people in the Church and many in the Hebrew Roots and Messianic movements have, that the “New Testament,” that is the books in our Bibles that start with Matthew and end with Revelation, is the same thing as the “New Covenant.”

It’s not.

But to understand that point, we have to understand what the Old Covenant is and that the Old Covenant is not the same as the Torah or what Christians call “the Law.”

I covered some of this territory in last week’s review but Lancaster adds more detail in today’s sermon.

Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.

Exodus 19:5-8 (NRSV)

This is the Old Covenant in a nutshell. It’s an agreement and a rather simple one at that. God says, if you, Israel, obey me, then I, God, will make you a ”priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” More simply put, God agrees that if Israel obeys Him ”Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God.” (Exodus 6:7)

Once the people agreed to the Covenant, then Moses initiated it.

Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, “See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Exodus 24:3-8 (NRSV)

Moses at NeboThis formally sealed the Covenant relationship between Israel and God. If you look at verses 9 through 11, you’ll see representatives of Israel having a meal in the presence of God since, in last week’s lecture, Lancaster said it was traditional behavior among two human parties, such as a great King and a vassal nation, to share a meal after a treaty had been settled.

The actual Covenant was the agreement between God and Israel, and Israel, for their part, were responsible to obey God in order to hold up their end of the bargain. But how? That’s where the Torah comes in. It defines the specific conditions and stipulations that Israel must obey.

However, there’s a problem. Israel’s obedience was rather poor. In fact, the first time they disobeyed was very soon after their initial agreement by building the Golden Calf (see Exodus 32). After that, the Covenant had to be renewed and it was renewed many times. But Israel, sadly, fell into a pattern of disobedience and sin. As part of the Covenant conditions, if the people obeyed, then God would be their God and they would be His people, but when they disobeyed, He ceased to be their God and they ceased to be His people. Then God sent an army and great destruction usually happened, sometimes with the people going into exile. Once they cried out to God and repented, God would send a rescuer, defeat Israel’s enemies, and restore the people to their Land.

And this happened over and over again. The Book of Judges is a good chronicle of this but the pattern is recorded in much of the Tanakh (Old Testament).

I mentioned that a lot of New Covenant language is found in Jeremiah 31 and Lancaster said that we need to understand the context of Jeremiah to get this.

In Jeremiah 3:1-5 we see Israel depicted as an unfaithful wife, and in spite of many calls to repentance, such as in verses 6 though 25, Israel remains uncaring and God sends the armies of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem.

But amid this tragic tale, Jeremiah introduces hope in the form of a future redemption, but one like Israel had never seen before.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NRSV)

Now remember, the conditions of the Covenant are not the Covenant itself. The conditions of the Old Covenant are the Torah, but Jeremiah isn’t saying that the conditions are what’s new, it’s the Covenant that’s new.

Sofer-Sefer-TorahWhat’s so new in the New Covenant?

In the Old Covenant, God spoke the words of the Covenant to Moses who spoke them to Israel. Israel agreed and everything was written down on scrolls or tablets and the people were to refer to those conditions to, first understand what they had agreed to, and then to actually do what they’d agreed to do by performing the mitzvot.

In the New Covenant, instead of doing all that, God writes the conditions of the Covenant on the hearts and puts them in the minds of the people of Israel and then it becomes second nature for them to obey. The Torah conditions are internalized rather than being externally referenced.

The Old Covenant was written on scrolls and the New Covenant will be, or is in the process of being, written on human hearts and human natures.

But the conditions are the same.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking if Gentiles are also benefiting to the New Covenant through faith in Jesus (Yeshua), then are those same conditions being written on our hearts as well?

Yes and no.

In the Torah is there a condition for Gentiles to circumcise their males on the eighth day of life? No, that requirement is only for the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Gentiles are exempt. I’ve said before that the Acts 15 decision formally spelled out the conditions that Gentiles are responsible for carrying out, and it’s only through the blessings of one part of the Abrahamic covenant that the nations are attached to the New Covenant at all. Jews already knew the conditions that applied to them because they were the same ones established by the Sinai (Old) Covenant and they never changed.

But what about this?

But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.

God finds fault with them when he says: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…

Hebrews 8:6-8 (NRSV)

Torah at SinaiIt’s scriptures such as this that Christians use to prove that the Old Covenant was replaced by the New, but look at what the writer of Hebrews is actually saying. As he is about to quote from Jeremiah 31, he says, ”God finds fault with them (emph. mine)…” He doesn’t say God found fault with it, that is, the Old Covenant, but with them, with Israel, with the people, because they didn’t obey the conditions of the Covenant because of sin.

The solution wasn’t to change the Covenant but instead, to change the people, so it would be possible to fulfill the conditions of the Old Covenant originally spelled out at Sinai. The New Covenant (and not renewed) is a new method of delivery and institution so Israel will be obedient by design.

So how did we get into the mess we’re in as Christians today? How did this get screwed up?

According to Lancaster, the Church Fathers in the second and third centuries CE knew that they didn’t have to keep the conditions of the Old Covenant as did the Jews but they didn’t know why. The Apostles taught that Gentiles had a different (and somewhat overlapping) set of conditions but once the last of the Apostles died, the Gentiles made a few assumptions (or perhaps a few deliberate errors to serve a specific purpose, but that’s my opinion). Lancaster said these Gentile Christians assumed that everyone, Jew and Gentile in Jesus, kept the Gentile standards of obedience, and the Gentile Christians actually criticized (and later persecuted) Jews for not abandoning the “Old Covenant” conditions.

The other shocker for some Christians is that we aren’t really living in New Covenant times right now. Sure, the death and resurrection of Jesus started a process by which the New Covenant era began to arrive but it’s not fully with us yet. Otherwise, we wouldn’t sin. Otherwise the conditions of the New Covenant would be written on our hearts rather than in the Bible and we would all just naturally obey God.

Sadly, I must confess that I do not naturally obey God. I have to struggle with obedience. Chances are, you do, too. It will only be when the New Covenant Era fully arrives that we really will be “new creatures” and “new creations”. We aren’t there yet. We’re a work in progress.

That doesn’t stop you and me from repenting now. Why wait? Messiah is coming.

If my reviews are piquing your interest, you can find the complete, five-disc set of Lancaster’s New Covenant lectures at First Fruits of Zion. I’ll review the third lecture next week.

For more on this topic and how historical and modern Christianity has misunderstood the New Covenant, see my blog post The Two-Thousand Year Old Christian Mistake.