Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Although some would disagree, I sometimes find it difficult to fault the Jews for not recognizing their Messiah in Jesus Christ. After all, whtwhat we now consider obvious scripture referencing a saving/suffering Messiah – as opposed to a politically successful, militarily triumphant one – are spread throughout the Old Testament rather disconnectedly.
Some have shown themselves to have dual applications, pertaining to circumstances pre-Christ; with hindsight, applicable to Jesus as well, possibly reaching into our futures. The normal, everyday Jew however, was steeped in the repeated expectations of a Savior who would indeed address the spiritual condition of his people by re-establisingestablishing their national sovereignitysovereignty, promoting their religious culture, and returning them to theirpreemientposition their preeminent position in God’s plan for the world. (The term Anointed One – Christ in Greek, Messiah in Hebrew – having been used for centuries to designate a temporal King. See 1 Samuel 10:21 & 16:12,13 & Psalm 2:2)
And then there’s Jeremiah’s recording of God’s declaration that, “The time is coming, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and …Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers,… because they broke my covenant,…”; by prostituting themselves with other “gods.” Jeremiah 31:31,32
That certainly implies that God is going to do new and different things regarding his relationship with his people, while not being explicit regarding the details. But we must remember that God’s stated intention from the very beginning of creation, whether instructing and saving, disciplingdisciplining and redeeming; was to establish – or re-establshestablish personal relationships of commitment and love with his “people.” God has always sought to forge a people who would relate to him as their beneficent father. Working with the growing masses of humanity, he provided, rebuked and corrected them (Gen. 6 & 11), eventually narrowing his work to individual patriarchs, the progenitors of the nation Israel; with whom he entered into a corporate covenant relationship.
Initiated by Him, as recorded throughout Exodus, much of the rest of the Old Testament then reveals how he continually worked to maintain and/or re-establish that relationship; in which he promises to be a personal, loving God from whom we learn what is expected of those who claim to be his followers. A paramount theme of those expectations being absolute loyalty. (See Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 26:16-19; Jeremiah 7:3 & 11:1-5; Ezekiel 11:17-21 & 36:28; Zechariah 8:7,8) The difference between the old and new covenant again noted in Jeremiah, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” (See 2 Corinthians 3:3) As such, “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33 (See then the “church’s” use of thiethis scripture in Heb. 8)
The old covenant was centered in community worship, community commitment and community obligations. Each individual bore responsibility to God for their behavior and could be excluded from the community at large – and thus God – but the community remained paramount.
The new covenant/community became necessary because of Israle’sIsrael’s refusal/inability to keep their end of the bargain. Through repeated attempts at reconciliation, God none-the-less prepared the Israelis – through the prophets – for a new covenant relationship based on a reformation of their inner will and desire. (Such as Ezekiel 11:16-21 & 18:30,31) Those efforts to restore His people now included a decisive call for heart transformation, which mere adherence to the law’s do’s and don’ts hadn’t accomplished; a decisive turn in the salvation process. (See Is. 58:6, Hosea 6:6 & Micah 6:8 A theme picked up on by Christ in Matthew 23:23)
A new covenant written on the hearts of believers rather than tablets of stone ( Proverbs 3:3; Jeremiah 3:33; Ezekiel 36:22) was used by Paul and the early church to express its concept of the New Covenant/Testament in Christ Jesus. (See Hebrews 10:16; Luke 22:19,20 – referenced by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:24,25)1 This New Covenant re-emphasized God’s desire and intent to create a people willing to follow him as Lord and Master, which included expectations – dare we say obligations – that new covenant members were required to accept. Summed up succinctly in loving God first-and-foremost, and then through him, loving our neighbors – essentially everyone, including our “enemies” – as we do ourselves. ( Matthew 22:37-40 & Mark 12:30,31) Jesus giving us a list of possibilities for “obedience” to this ideal in Matthew 25:31-46;.citing as well the serious consequences if we refuse to participate in such endeavors. (Even as we have no “laws” specifically requiring them.) A transformed heart and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit prompting us to a life of love, commitment and yes – obedience.
No longer restricted to one nation or people, the new covenant is open to all true believers and adherents of Jesus’ will and way; emphasizing personal relationship and forgiveness, made possible by Jesus’ fulfillment of the “law’s” requirements on the cross. God’s preeminence as the author of change in our lives evident throughout both Testaments, as God – through his Son – continues to “seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 The essential nature of this desire emphasized in Jesus’ parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son recorded in Luke 15:1-31.
1Some material gleaned from the notes section of The Disciple’s Study Bible – NIV. Cornerstone Bible Publishers
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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