Thoughts on the Sabbath School lesson dated 12.2.11
If someone asked you to explain the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant in the Bible, could you? I would have a really hard time, but with a lot of help from the Holy Spirit, I’m going to try. Hold on to your seats.
I’ve always heard that the old covenant was grounded in salvation by keeping the law, while the new covenant was all about faith. That always made me vaguely uncomfortable. Why would a God who never changes, change the rules in the middle of the game? Especially when the rule change seemed to be in our favor…what about all those folks who came before? That just didn’t seem fair.
I think I’ve learned something very important recently, though. I think that the old and new covenants didn’t change the way God deals with us, but the way we deal with Him.
Hang on, let me explain – Abraham and Sarah’s story can illustrate both attitudes. When Sarah and Abraham decided to help God by having a son through Hagar, they were living by the old covenant. When they trusted God to keep His promise to them, they were under the new covenant. God had not changed; they had.
“When I started a new church in Los Angeles County, California, I found that I was overwhelmed with pressure and stress. I was working more than seventy hours a week. My wife would ask me to take a day off, and I would say, ‘I can't.’ I wasn't sleeping at night, and I started to take sleeping pills. When the church was about a year old, I woke up in the night, and I had this strange sense that God was laughing at me. As I lay in bed, I wondered, Why is God laughing at me?
“It would take five years before I finally got an answer to that question. Here's how it happened: when we moved into our current house, I saved the heaviest piece of furniture for last—the desk from my office. As I was pushing and pulling the desk with all my might, my four-year-old son came over and asked if he could help. So together we started sliding it across the floor. He was pushing and grunting as we inched our way along. After a few minutes, my son stopped pushing, looked up at me, and said, ‘Dad, you're in my way.’ And then he tried to push the desk by himself. Of course it didn't budge. Then I realized that he thought he was actually doing all the work, instead of me. I couldn't help but laugh.
“The moment I started laughing at my son's comment, I recalled that middle-of-the-night incident and I realized why God was laughing at me. I thought I was pushing the desk. I know that's ridiculous, but instead of recognizing God's power and strength, I started to think it all depended on me.”
That’s why Israel carried God’s covenant with them like it was such a burden; they believed that keeping the law was all about them. God intended the covenant to be a joy and a privilege pointing to the promise of salvation and the debt being paid by His Son.
“If we could be saved through our works, there would have been no need for the law or the sacrificial system, which pointed to Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The law is a ‘shadow of the good things that are coming’ (Heb. 10:1, NIV), but it could not save in Moses’ time, and it cannot save now.
“If an animal sacrifice could really make the people perfect, then there would have been no need for Jesus’ sacrifice. But “‘“sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings [God] did not desire”’” (Heb. 10:8, NIV). So Jesus came to earth to do His Father’s will (Heb. 10:9). Jesus was sent to do what the law and sacrifices were too weak to do.”
That makes so much more sense to me. Doesn’t it to you?
Check out this scene from the movie Get Low. It takes place in the 1930s in Tennessee. An old hermit, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), wants to throw his own funeral party while he was still alive. Felix visits the Rev. Gus Horton to get his help arranging his funeral.
Bush puts a wad of cash in front of the pastor, and says,
"‘It's time for me to get low.’ When Rev. Horton asks what he means by that, Felix replies, ‘Down to business. I need a funeral.’ When the pastor asks who the funeral is for, Felix says, ‘Me.’
“Rev. Horton is bewildered by the request, but Felix presses forward, asking, ‘Well, what would you say [about me]?’
“‘Oh, eulogy. Well, ah, I don't know. What would you want me to say?’
“‘Say what you'd say right now to my face.’ Felix replies sternly.
“‘Mr. Bush, I don't know much about you,’ the reverend responds. ‘I've heard stories, but …’
“‘What stories?’ asks Felix.
“‘Stories, you know. People talk,’ replies the reverend.
“‘What kind of stories?’ Felix asks.
“‘Well sir,’ the reverend answers, ‘my mother used to say that gossip is the devil's radio. What matters is when you come to the end of your life that you're ready for the next one. Now, have you made peace with God, sir?’
“‘I paid,’ replies Felix.
“By ‘I paid’ Felix means he has spent most of his adult life trying to atone for his sins. … Now forty years later, after his long self-atonement project, he hopes that he's finally paid his debt.
“But Rev. Horton wisely disagrees with Felix. ‘Mr. Bush,’ he replies firmly, ‘you can't buy forgiveness. It's free, but you do have to ask for it.’
“With that, Felix reaches and picks up the wad of cash and stomps out of the church.”
Isn’t that really sad? We would rather torture ourselves to earn our own salvation than to just ask for forgiveness. That’s what living under the law is. From the instant that Adam and Eve sinned, God promised them salvation by faith in Jesus Christ – period.
God never told Abraham that if he worked hard enough and never made any mistakes, that He would make him the father of many nations. God just asked Abraham to trust Him, and “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6
“As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:11-13
 Adapted from Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan (Zondervan, 2011), pp. 96-97
 Dan Solis, associate pastor, Village Seventh-day Adventist Church, “Lesson 10 The Two Covenants,” The Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide
 Get Low (Sony Pictures, 2009), Directed by Aaron Schneider, Scene 2; submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky