Sunday, August 23, 2009

The New Covenant - part 1

Lately, I have been meditating on the nature of the new covenant that God has made with His people. What is it? Is it just an offer, an invitation...a sign up sheet for "whomsoever wills"? Or is it the work of the Almighty God to rescue and save a people for Himself and keep them until the end?
Ill start by saying that Jesus Christ is the Mediatior and the One who brings in the New Covenant.
Luke 22:20 - And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Hebrews 12:24 - and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Christ actually acomplished this New Covenant and brought it to fulfillment in His death so that whosoever believes on Him might be a partaker of this new covenant that God has made with His people.

Ezekiel 36:22-32
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. [1] 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

1. Why does the Lord establish this new covenant? What is the motive behind it? For His Holy names sake - for His glory.
Many today in viewing this question would say "Well, He did all of these thigs because He loves us." This is correct, but it is not the supreme motive behind God's work in making this new covenant. Romanticizing this work of God will not allow us to see the power and soveriegnty of God, namely of the free exercise of His mercy and grace. To say that God only did these things because "He loves and needs us, and we are precious to Him" is to turn His sovereignty into a romantic novel. Scripture teaches that God is love, and He is the very essence of love. He is a God who is the fullness of agape love and He does all things out of love. But because He is a God of love, who is holy and righteous and good, He must love only those things which are pure, lovely righteous and good and perfect in beauty. If He loved anything less than that or esteemed it worthy of His infinite love, that would be sin. He must show His infinite love by loving those things which are worthy of infinite love; and His glory - His infinitely worthy, esteem for who He is and His regard for who He is (holy, righteous, pure, just, etc) is the only thing which is worthy of all love, glory, honor, and worship. He does all things for His glory because His glory is the thing which is worthy of all estimation. This is the reason why when men do not love and esteem God above anything and everything, it is sin - because He and His glory are the only thing that are worthy of supreme love, adoration, affection, worship and honor. Giving supreme love and adoration to anything less than Him is wickedness and exchanging His glory (Romans 1:23).Because He is love, His motive in establishing His covenant is love, but His supreme motive is for His glory.This great love which with he loved us was not because of who we were or what we had done, or even our appearance. The false notion that God loved us and owed us salvation because we were "made in his image" and his most precious creation, is wrong and it makes God a debtor to us because of some "value" in us. God loves us in spite of who we are and what we have done: inspite of mankind rebelling against Him, exchanging His glory and even crucifying His own Son. God's love is free, and in His choosing to love us, it doesent end with exercising good twoards us, it ends with Him being glorified in His grace and mercy for loving and saving undeserving sinners and bringing many sons to glory. "Not for your sakes" meaning "not because of who you are, or anything good in you am I doing this, because the truth is, YOU ARE NOT GOOD. Why? "You have profaned my Holy Name..."
So God's goodness in establishing a covenant with His people is not based on anything in man. We are not neutral objects which He decided to act good twoards, hoping that we might just come His way. Rather, we were sinners and blasphemers, trampling His glory underfoot and profaning His name among the heathen, and God, because He esteems His glory above anything, and because He is loving, rescued a people for Himself through this covenant....not so that they may be happy, but so that they might be holy and bring Him glory in their salvation.
One might say..."Well, that seems selfish. God is only saving us for His glory.Doesent he care about our well being in this matter and our estimation?" The answer is yes, He loves those whom He saves. As a matter of fact "we love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19) but it goes deeper than this. God is not being selfish in doing things for His own name's sake and for His own glory. Why?
God's glory and the estimation of His glory is of supreme worth, it is more valuable and precious than anything. God, being Supreme, Sovereign, the perfection of beauty, and the essence of all joy, happiness, and delight, is the most worthy of all honor praise and glory. Fallen man might say, "well, the best thing God could do for me is to give me a good, long, happy, pleasuable life, a good family, health and so forth....then heaven, streets of gold, a mansion, pearly gates; to sum it up: the desires of your heart. The truth is, the greatest gift that God could ever give, and the best thing that God could ever do for anyone is to show His glory and allow men to partake in giving Him glory. Plainly, the greatest gift God can give is Himself. Because He and His glory are infinitely and supremely worthy of adoration and worship, and because He regards His glory above all things, the best thing He can do for anyone is to reveal His glory and invite men to give Him the praise and honor He deserves.

So, the purpose for which God establishes this covenant is for His names sake. He is Holy, Righteous, hates sin, and idolatry and Israel was profaning His name and reputation by claiming that they served a holy and righteous God, all the while they were living in blatant sin. By serving the gods of other nations and by drinking from the cup of demons from which other nations partook, Israel was trampling God's glory and making a mockery of His name. So, because God esteems and regards His glory above all, He will not let His name be blasphemed among the Gentiles because of the adultery and folly of a foolish people. He will vindicate His glory and show the nations that He is a Holy, Righteous and Just God, who shows mercy to thousands but will not let the guilty go unpunished. He says that all the nations will know and see that He is God and that He is a holy God.
Now, lets focus on this briefly. How could God vindicate His holiness? I see two ways here and God would be perfectly just in acting in either way. First lets go to Romans 3:23-26
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Ok, in Ezekiel 36, it is safe to say that these people who claimed to be God's people were in sin. Eze 36:17 in comparison to Isa 64:6 tells us that the ways of these people were unclean and as a filthy menustration cloth before God's sight. These people,as Romans 3 speaks of, were all under sin and God had actually been forbearing and patient and longsuffering in their behalf by accepting their sacrifices and sin offerings. He allowed the priests to offer bulls, goats, doves, pigeons, and so forth to atone for the sins of the people. All the books of the prophets in the Old Testament, including Ezekiel include the command of God to the people to repent and turn fromt heir idols and abhor their sins. Yet, in spite of God's general call for all men to repent, these people still chose wickedness and chose to make a mockery of God's glory by worshipping other idols. God knew that the blood of bulls and goats would never really atone for the sins of the people and justice had to be satisfied because people had sinned against Him. God was actually exercising His Divine forberance in allowing His people to continue in rebellion instead of wiping them out.
So, here is God's first option of displaying His righteousness and Justice
1) God could have wiped out and destroyed all mankind,because all are sinners and He would have been perfectly just and right in getting rid of sinful men. This is God's justice displayed against all wickedness and unrighteousness. This would have been a way to vindicate his holiness for sure and again, He would have been just in doing it.
2) The second way God could have vindicated his holiness is what we see going on in this chapter - demonstrating the glory of His grace and mercy, His longsuffering and power. God, even when men were undeserving and wicked, caught in a thicket of spiritual adultery and idol worship, chooses to establish a new covenant with His people. Instead of giving sinners what they deserve, God, because He is loving, and merciful, gives men something they would never be able to achieve of themselves.

God could be and would be glorified in either of these two options, but it was only by the counsel of His own will that He chose to show His grace and mercy in making a new covenant with His people. And this covenant, although it was called "new" was by no means something God thought of at the moment of this prophecy. This covenant was foreordained by God from before the foundations of the world to display His glory supremely through the work of Jesus Christ and the bringing to salvation undeserving sinners.
By God vindicating His holiness in this method before the eyes of the nations, He was by no means saying that He had to prove something to anyone. God is God and He needs the testimony and validation of no man. God would choose to vindicate His holy name by giving a new covenant so that He might be glorified in the sight of all the nations. God could easily have wiped out His people and the heathen might have feared Him, but for how long though? God could have easily done another Red Sea Parting, or Sun-stopping feat and He might have recieved praise from both His people and the heathen - but He had done these things: both sending destruction upon His people and redeeming them from it, and preforming marvelous miraculous things in the sight of the heathen so that they would declare "The God of Israel is King". But these works were not the greatest display of God's power and the greatest demonstration of His estimation for His glory.
God would not vindicate His holiness or demonstrate His power in working through a sea parting or plagues or defeating armies of men with one angel. God was going to do something in this new covenant that had never been done, nor had ever been seen in the eyes of men. God was going to work through men and in men to vindicate His holiness and be glorified in the sight of all peoples. Ezekiel 36:23 "And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes."

More to come...

No comments: