Day 171: A New Covenant

Jeremiah 30-31; John 21

Key Verses

Jeremiah 31:31-34
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, 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. 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. 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.”

Hope. Restoration. Renewal. This is the aroma of Jeremiah 30-31. It is in these verses that we find the promise of a New Covenant – the only time this phrase is used in the Old Testament.

God makes a new covenant through Jesus. The Law that was written on stone tablets and so easily forgotten would now be written on the heart. The Law becomes internal so that it can never be lost or destroyed. It is a permanent, forever-type-of Law – that flows from God forgiving iniquity and choosing to remember our sin no more.

Jeremiah could not have known the far-reaching implications of his words. We know that forgiveness of sins is only possible because of Jesus and His Sacrifice. The gospels and epistles of the New Testament teach that Jesus is the mediator of this New Covenant – a covenant based on grace – not on our ability to keep the covenant demands. Yet the purpose of the New Covenant remains the same as the Old… “I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

In the final chapter of John, we see our God… kneeling on a sandy shore, cooking fish for his friends; restoring Simon Peter and commissioning him to lead the church. Just a typical day in the life of the Master.

I’m going to miss the gospels. I love reading Jesus’ words and picturing his life on the move. The beauty of the New Covenant is that Jesus’ teaching is written on the tablet of our hearts. He is close. And I am grateful.

Day 155: Gracious Delay

2 Kings 21-23; John 11:1-17

Key Verses

2 Kings 22:17-20
My wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. But to the king of Judah, [king Josiah], …because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, […] I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’”

John 11:4-6
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

2 Kings 21 is filled with the atrocious actions of  Judah’s most evil king. Manasseh rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah had torn down, offered his son as a child sacrifice, and consulted evil spirits for counsel. Manasseh’s complete apostasy brought an end to God’s patience with Judah; consequently, He declared that judgment would rain down upon the city of David.

Then Manasseh’s grandson, King Josiah, discovered the books of the Law and realized that destruction was exactly what Judah deserved. He mourned his country’s apostasy and humbled himself before God. What did God do in the presence of a truly repentant heart? He did as he always does – God relented!

Seriously?! God delayed the judgment because one man repented. How could I ever doubt God’s goodness and kindness and His overwhelming desire for repentance in his people? Repentance always brings blessing. Lack of repentance ultimately leads to judgment.

Josiah’s response to God’s grace was obedience. Josiah’s reforms were such that he exceeded David in observance of the Law – observing Passover in a way that had not been done since the days of the Judges, surpassing both Hezekiah and even David in faithfulness to God’s law!

But it was not enough to undo the evils of the earlier generations. God’s Covenant was broken, and his judgment – though delayed – was set.

In John, we read of a different sort of delay. Instead of delaying judgment, Jesus delayed healing – and his beloved friend, Lazarus, died as a result. But as we’ll read tomorrow, the suffering caused by the delay, only served to magnify God’s power and goodness.

Both stories of God’s “delays” are stories of grace. How often do I grumble when God delays to answer my prayer or change my circumstances? Chances are, His delay is for my good. His delay is a work of grace!

Keeping up with the Kings

  • Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat), Ahaziah (killed by Jehu), Queen Athaliah, Jehoash (only surviving son of Ahaziah: good), Amaziah (good), Azariah (Uzziah, good), Jotham (good), Ahaz, Hezekiah (good), Manasseh, Amon, Josiah (good), Jehoahaz, Eliakim/Jehoiakim
  • Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (or Joram, son of Ahab), Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hoshea

Day 149: Prophet, Priest, & King

2 Kings 4-5; John 8:21-36

Key Verses

2 Kings 4:42-44
And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.'” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

John 8:34, 36
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. …So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

In the Old Testament, God used prophets to communicate His truth and demonstrate His power.

Today we read of Elisha continuing the ministry of Elijah. God worked through Elisha to heal, give provision and bring life from death. Elisha was God’s mouthpiece as he persistently demonstrated that God, alone, was God of Israel.

In the New Testament, God sent His Son to fulfill the role of Prophet, Priest, and King.

As we read through the Pentateuch, we saw how Jesus perfectly fulfilled every point of the Law and the Sacrificial System. He is our High Priest – opening the way to the Father.

In the gospels, we see that Jesus is the ultimate Prophet, communicating truth and demonstrating God’s power. In today’s reading, Jesus continues to speak the words of the Father to the people, and through His words, he reveals that He is also the King.

Only a King has the authority to free slaves, and Jesus has this authority. But once again, as He is speaking, the people misunderstand Him. They interpret him literally and argue that they are not enslaved.

But they were enslaved. Everyone is a slave, spiritually. We are slaves to sin. And we need the King, not just of this world, but the King of Heaven and Earth to set us free from the bondage of sin.

Jesus, our Prophet, Priest, and King, gives us freedom. And we are free indeed!

Keeping up with the Kings
Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat)
Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (Joram)

Day 142: The needy

1 Kings 10-11; John 5:25-47

Key Verses

1 Kings 11:4-6
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.

John 5:39-40
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

At the end of his life, Solomon had disobeyed every command for kings listed in Deuteronomy 17:11:16-17. In Ch 11, what the author had been hinting at throughout the book of 1 Kings was finally stated clearly: “…his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God” (11:4).

In his old age, Solomon turned away from God to follow other gods. God was gracious and assured that the Davidic line would continue its rule – even if over just one tribe of a divided nation. God was preserving the family of David for the promised offspring… the true Forever King of Israel.

In John 5, we read of Jesus coming to the feast at Jerusalem and teaching the crowds of his authority from the Father. He rebuked the Jewish leaders for their blindness.

Only the needy come to Jesus. Solomon turned away because, from his earthly perspective, he had no need of God. The Jewish leaders refused Jesus because they depended on their rituals, traditions and outward obedience for justification. They had a formula; they didn’t need a Person.

A needy heart is a humble heart. A needy heart is someone who is desperate for help. Jesus offers life. Who will come? You have to recognize the depths of darkness in your own heart to seek out the light.

Day 97: Proper worship

Judges 17-18; Luke 10:25-42

Key Verses

Judges 17:6
Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Luke 10:36-37
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

As the time of the Judges comes to an end, somehow, God managed to preserve his people in spite of their apostasy. Yet, this nation was full of people who had no clue how to worship God according to the Mosaic law.

The rest of the book of Judges switches its focus from the threat of foreign invaders to its own inward chaos. The author is persuading the reader that Israel desperately needs the leadership of a godly king. The story recorded in Judges 17-18 is so preposterous that it seems cartoonish!

And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods…

And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest” (Judges 17:5; 12-13).

Since when did people start having their own personal priests?? And this priest doesn’t have an altar or a tabernacle, no, he has Micah’s shrine and carved images to facilitate proper worship. It’s ludicrous!

Fast forward to today’s reading in Luke. At this point in history, the Jews were so absorbed with proper worship – that they had added many extra laws which made the old laws seem permissive. This concern with observing the Mosaic law is obvious from the details in Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan. There was a distinction between the Priest and the Levite. Not just any Levite could be a Priest. Only a descendant of Aaron could be a Priest. I’m sure this detail was overlooked by Micah, our character from Judges ;)

But it is interesting that Jesus takes all of these religious regulations and turns them upside down. The story of the good Samaritan illustrates that it is not the “law-abiding” Priest and Levite that meet the standard of the Law – but rather it was the hated “half-breed” Samaritan who did what was acceptable – that is to sacrificially love his enemy.

Isn’t Jesus wonderful??!! He wants so much more for His people than mere religion!! The rules only teach us we’re not good enough! Then we can look to Jesus with a desperate need to be rescued. This is proper worship! Humble, reliance on the Savior.

Mary understood. She knew that nothing was as important as sitting at the feet of her Lord. All of life could wait – Jesus was in her house! What could be more important than that?!

Day 94: Perplexed and Amazed

Judges 10:6-12:15; Luke 9:10-36

Key Verses

Luke 9:23-25
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

In Judges, we read of Jephthah. He is a double-sided puzzle to me…

On one hand, Jephthah showed extensive knowledge of Israel’s history and seemed to have faith in the God of Israel. But on the other hand, he made a rash vow which resulted in the sacrifice of his own daughter. The law provided an “out” for rash vows (Lev. 5:4-6), so it is unclear why Jephthah would do something so horrible as child sacrifice.

I think Jephthah’s story illustrates the consequences of idolatry and apostasy on the human heart. The heart becomes duplicitous – double minded.

I wonder what Jephthah and Israel would have thought of Jesus’ words in today’s Key Verse? These verses convict me… Because just like Israel, I make compromises and look to modern-day idols to fill my longings. It always amazes me to read of God working on behalf of his adulterous people. Even though God did not “raise up” Jephthah, He still used him to defeat Israel’s oppressors. But Jephthah’s half-heartedness led to horrible personal consequences. The nation also suffered for their idolatrous hearts… as Judges 12 describes civil war in Israel.

What do we do with a passage like this? I know what I do… I’m more thankful for Jesus! I’m thankful that my sin has been forgiven. I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit convicts and equips me. I’m thankful for Jesus’ life of compassion and grace. And I’m thankful to be swept up in a relationship with the living God.

Oh God, help me live a life worthy of the calling I have received. Help me to love and obey you with a whole heart!

**For commentary on other significant parts of Luke 9, such as Jesus’ first prediction of his death and/or the Transfiguration, see “Day 24: Setting the Stage”.

Day 82: Intricacy and Goodness

Joshua 6-8; Luke 2:22-52

Key Verses

Joshua 8:1-2
And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land. And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king.”

Luke 2:28-32
Simeon took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

We have read of Abraham’s descendants moving to Egypt to escape the famine, of the people being enslaved by the Egyptians, of God’s amazing rescue mission. He indeed brought great judgment on Egypt and the people came out with great possessions. We’ve read of the giving of the law, of the building of the tabernacle, of the marching to Canaan, and of the people’s failure to enter the land. We’ve read in Numbers of the 40 years of wandering and we’ve listened to Moses reiterate the law in Deuteronomy.

And now, finally…the people begin to possess the land. In Genesis 15, God prophesied to Abraham that his ancestors would be enslaved in Egypt and would not possess the land until the 4th generation. Why did God make them wait so long? Because the iniquity of the Amorites was not complete. You see, God used every circumstance and weaved each failure as he orchestrated the perfect plan to both bless His people and bring judgment on a very sinful people. If Israel had taken the land earlier, it would have not been fair to the Amorites (one of the main peoples who lived in Canaan) for “the iniquity of the Amorites [was] not yet complete” (Gen 15:16).

God’s plans for the nations are intricate, complicated and good. But somehow God manages the same intricacy and goodness in His plans for individuals.

Consider Simeon in Luke’s passage. He is but one man. But like all people of faith, he was important to God. God had plans for him. Plans that included seeing the promised Messiah before he died. And God weaved and orchestrated so that Simeon, as an old man, would see Jesus as a 40-day-old infant.

And then God used Simeon, the individual, to prophesy God’s plan for the nations.

God’s ways are intricate and complicated. But most of all, they are good.

Day 79: An End and a Beginning

Deuteronomy 33-34; Luke 1:26-56

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 34:4-5
And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.

Luke 1:30-33
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Today we read of the death of Moses and the conception of Jesus. It is the end of the law-giver and the beginning of the law-Fulfiller. It is the end of the shadow and the beginning of the full-color glory.

The end of Deuteronomy marks the end of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). All the themes of the Pentateuch find their fulfillment in Christ.

  • The promises of the Abrahamic covenant, specifically “All the nations are blessed through Abraham and his descendants”Genesis 12:1-3), point forward to all nations being blessed through Jesus.
  • The climax of the Pentateuch, God coming down to fill the Tabernacle with His glory (Exodus 40:34-38), points forward to Christ coming to earth to reveal His glory to the world.
  • And finally, “Jesus is seen as the new and greater Moses. As Moses declared God’s law for Israel, so Jesus declared and embodied God’s word to the nations. As Moses suffered and died outside the land so that his people could enter it, so the Son of God died on earth so that his people might enter heaven” (from the article “Introduction to the Pentateuch” ESV Study Bible, Crossway).

Imagine if the people of Moses’ day could look forward and see the fulfillment of the promises in Jesus… It would have been beyond their imagination! Just as the ultimate fulfillment that Revelation describes is beyond our imagination :) It is no wonder that C.S. Lewis referred to our life on this earth as the “Shadowlands.”

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. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

Day 73: The End-Result of Failure

Deuteronomy 19:1-21:14; Mark 14:26-50

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 20:4
…for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.

Mark 14:34-36
“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” …And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

This section of Moses’ speech loosely correlates with the 6th Commandment (do not murder). Moses begins Chapter 19 by discussing cities of refuge – a place for a person to flee if they accidentally kill someone. There were to be three cities of refuge (which are later named in Joshua 20:1-9), but Moses mentions the possibility of three additional cities…

…provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the Lord your God and by walking ever in his ways—then you shall add three other cities to these three (Deuteronomy 19:9).

There is no record of additional cities of refuge being named in the Old Testament…which leads me to believe that the people did not meet the qualifications. They were not faithful to keep the commandments.

Looking forward to Mark… Jesus predicts that his disciples would all fall away. Despite Peter’s protest, Jesus knew – and we know – that Peter, along with the rest of the disciples – abandoned Jesus following his arrest.

The people of Israel failed to keep the commandments. The disciples failed to stand by their Lord. We fail… in so many ways.

Jesus came to earth to rescue us from our failures. Today’s passage in Mark describes Jesus’ final prayer before he was arrested. He was anticipating the physical and spiritual suffering which he would endure…

He endured the cross for our sake. Consider this; meditate upon it, and wrestle with it… Jesus died for me. Jesus died for you. Do not belittle the sacrifice.

Day 49: The reaping

Leviticus 26-27; Mark 2

Key Verses

Leviticus 26:45
“But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.”

Mark 2:17
And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Leviticus 26 is difficult. The first half paints a breathtaking picture of a life of obedience. This is the life that God wanted for his people – this is the life that God wants for us!

But I know the story of the Israelites, and I know they fail to obey. God is true to his word. The horrible curses described in the second half of Leviticus 26 come on Israel – so much that the land will be laid desolate and the people will live as captives in a foreign land. But God gives a glimmer of hope…

Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God” (Leviticus 26:44).

Because the strict language of Leviticus seems so different from Jesus’ love and compassion, it might be easy to discount the Law as obsolete and meaningless to the modern Christian. No! God is still holy!! And our disobedience is still costly!

Fast forward to Mark… The Jews questioned Jesus in Mark 2 several times… “Why do you make yourself unclean by associating with sinners?” “Why don’t your followers obey the fasting laws?” “Why do you break the law and pluck grain on the Sabbath?” On the surface, it seems like Jesus is voiding the law with his actions. But he refutes this in the parable of the wine skins… No, he fulfills the law and deepens it to include what flows from the heart instead of describing only outward actions.

The Israelites disobeyed God’s law and they reaped the consequences.We are no different from the Israelites. We reap what we sow. If you look back at Leviticus 26 (in the ESV translation), God describes the consequences for Israel’s disobedience as “discipline” not “punishment.” Every consequence was brought about with the hope of repentance. Ultimately, God just wants us to repent. He is waiting for the turning… for our hard hearts to be brought low in humility and surrender. What are you sowing?? Humble reliance or hard-hearted independence?? Just like the Israelites, we will reap what we sow.