Saturday 24 October 2015

Bible Book:

“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (v. 10)

Hebrews 8:6-13 Saturday 24 October 2015

Psalm: Psalm 121


How much change can you cope with? For many folk in the 1stcentury, life was marked by constant change. Those who lived in thecities, in particular, were part of societies where people camefrom many different parts of the Roman Empire, bringing differentways of life into a melting pot of cultures and languages. Romansociety too could be creative in many ways, from new technologies(eg water supplies) to new entertainments at the greatamphitheatres that graced every substantial town.

So when the writer to the Hebrews talks about 'a new covenant'that replaces the outdated past, there is a close fit withcontemporary cultural expectations. People would be ready to hearthe message about new ways of understanding our relationship toGod. The writer draws on a very familiar passage from Jeremiah 31:31-34, where Jeremiah prophesies anew covenant to replace the covenant given to Moses. This wasevidently a significant passage for the early Church, and Paul'saccount of the Lord's Supper records that Jesus himself describedthe sacrament as "a new covenant in my blood" (1Corinthians 11:25, also Luke22:20). However, the writer to the Hebrews has reshaped theoriginal text slightly to emphasise the understanding that God hasturned away from the people of the first covenant - rather thansaying "I was their husband" (Jeremiah 31:32), God is given the words "I hadno concern for them" (v. 9), and the quotation is introduced withthe words "God finds fault with them" (v. 8), which does notreflect the sorrow and hope of the original text.

For those who received this letter, however, thisreinterpretation of Jeremiah would be good news. More interested inthe future than the past, accustomed to novelty and a rapid pace ofchange, they could look forward with hope to the promises of thenew covenant becoming a reality in their lives. What would it belike to receive God's forgiveness? What would it be like to haveGod's law written on the heart, or to know the Lord first-hand?God's gifts are shared right across society, no longer restrictedto the famous, important or educated (consider Peter's quotation ofJoel 2:28-29 at Acts2:17-18, stressing that the Spirit is given to everyone, evenslaves.).

This promise of covenant relationship is at the heart of theconcept of fullness of life - this is the relationship that has thepotential to make everything new.

To Ponder

  • The writer here suggests that God has abandoned hisrelationship with the Jews. Other writers from Paul onwards (Romans11:25-32) have taken a much more nuanced approach. How shouldChristians engage with people of other faiths?
  • What would you like God to change in your life as part of thenew covenant?

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