Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent: Day 21

This week of Advent we have been looking that the covenants God made with man in the Old Testament (OT), and we have seen how they are related to one another since they are all under the one covenant of grace that Jesus fulfilled for us in His life, death, and resurrection. Remember, think of the covenant of grace as an umbrella that covers all of Scripture from the fall of Adam to the end of Revelation. The individual covenants of the OT build on each other as waves of ever-increasing revelation about the covenant of grace until they climax with Christ's fulfillment of the overarching covenant of grace. We have looked at the covenant God made with Adam and Eve after the fall, the Noahic covenant, the Abrahamic covenant (AC), the Mosaic covenant (MC), and the Davidic covenant (DC). We have seen how with each God's fellowship with man was increased and how each ultimately pointed to Jesus Himself.

Today we are going to look at the so-call "new covenant" (NC) from Jer. 31:31-34:
31 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares 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. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Does it fit into the unity of the previous covenants? It does. In fact, it represents the fulfillment of the earlier covenants. First and foremost, the covenantal refrain is clearly stated in Jer. 31:33, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people," connecting it to all the previous covenants. Furthermore, in Jer. 31:31-34 God promises the NC will be better than the MC but still connects the two. This NC will still have the law, but it will be written on the hearts of God's people. Just a few verses later, in Jer. 32:39-41, Jeremiah prophesies that in the NC God will "plant them in this land," clearly alluding to the promises of offspring and land in the AC and connecting the AC to the NC. In a parallel prophecy found in Eze. 37:24-26, the NC is overtly connected with the AC, the MC, and the DC in one statement:
24 My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd [DC connection]. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes [MC connection]. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived [AC connection]. They and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever [AC connection], and David my servant shall be their prince forever [DC connection]. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them [NC establishment]...
Here Ezekiel shows that in the NC all the promises of the God in the previous covenants find their fulfillment. So, the NC does not appear on the scene as something previously unknown to the people of God, but represents for them "the collation of all the old covenant promises in terms of a future expectation." (O. Palmer Robertson, Christ of the Covenants, p. 42) That future expectation was Jesus. Jesus Himself claimed this fulfillment when He instituted the Lord's Supper:
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." (Lk. 22:19-20, emphasis added)
It is through the NC that believers have an even greater fellowship with God. With the incarnation of Christ (what we celebrate at Christmas), God became flesh and dwelt, "tabernacled" (the literal translation) among man (Jn. 1:14). With Christ the very presence of God walked, dwelt, "tabernacled" among men. Yet, the greater fellowship of the NC does not stop there. Christ purchased salvation for the elect and through their union with Him, believers have received the Spirit of adoption as sons so that they might be able to cry out to God, "Abba! Father!" Such an intimacy and fellowship with God (calling Him the Hebrew equivalent of "daddy") would never have been imagined in the OT. Yet, the covenantal trajectory of ever-increasing fellowship and presence has another level still to come. The final stage of intimacy in the NC is yet to come. Soon Jesus will return again (in His second advent) to consummate the presence and fellowship He inaugurated in His first advent. Re. 21:1-3 describes God's presence at that time:
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God." (emphasis added)
God's covenant refrain finds is zenith in the NC. In the present age believers are adopted as sons (and daughters) of God through their union with Christ and can call God "Abba." In the new heavens and the new earth, the increasing trajectory of fellowship seen in all the previous covenants will climax when God renews all of creation and grants uninhibited, unmediated fellowship with "God Himself." He will walk and talk with His people just like He did with Adam before the fall.

This is what we celebrate at Christmas, and it is also that to which we look forward and pray for we know that the best is yet to come. When one considers God's work of redemption throughout the ages in His covenants and considers what He has done in Christ (the first advent) and will soon do in Christ (the second advent), the only proper response is praise. We should say like Paul in Ro. 11:33-36:
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?"
35 "Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?"
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

By His Grace,

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