When troubles challenge us from time to time, the Bible, God’s love letter to humanity, comes with a number of promises. The first, I guess, was the one that was made to Noah.
In Genesis 9:11, God said “Never again will all life be cut off by the water of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth”
But, the promises that are central to the theme of the book are known to us as the Old and New Covenants.
The Old Covenant,
or the covenant made in the flesh, is well described for us in the New Testament in Acts 7: 2 – 8, when Peter says to the Sanhedrin….
Acts 7: 2 – 8: The God of Glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia (Ur of the Chaldees)….
“Leave your country and your people”, God said, “and go to the land I shall show you”. So, he left Ur and settled in Haran (in northern Iraq). After the death of his father, God sent him to this land (Canaan, or Israel) where you are now living. He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But, God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though, at the time, Abraham had no child. God spoke to him in this way:-
“Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill-treated for 400 years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards, they will come out of that country and worship me in this place”.
Then He gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision (ie the fleshly covenant).
The seal of that promise was God’s Law, which the nation was required to keep, but because of human weakness, could not. The Old Covenant was (according to Hebrews 9:10)
A set of external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
So, this promise to God’s earthly people was a temporary measure through which sin was covered for a time, but could not be eliminated because of humanity’s stubbornness. The old covenant (Romans 3:20) made men conscious of their sin but could not cancel it. What was needed was a New Covenant designed to take away sin by the delivery of a perfect, atoning sacrifice.
The New Covenant,
or the covenant made in the spirit, is the promise that God, even today, makes with all who call on His name. He pledges to forgive sin and restore fellowship with those whose hearts turn to Him.
Just as the Old Covenant finds full expression in Peter’s words in the New Testament, so the New Covenant features clearly in the words of Ezekiel in the Old.
In Ezekiel 36: 25 – 27, God says, when the day of the Messiah dawns:-
“I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep My laws”.
So, the New Covenant, first promised to Israel, but in the New Testament freely offered to all mankind, does something that is beyond the time-served Old Covenant. It vows to create a new heart, a new spirit and a pathway to true holiness, in which all can share
Christ’s fulfilment of the Old Covenant made His inheritance, the New Covenant, accessible to all who reach out to Him. The Old Covenant served its purpose, but Law has now been replaced by Grace.
The Eternal Covenant
This one final covenant we read about in Revelation 21: 1 – 7. The apostle John saw:-
“A new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea (no longer any separation from God).”
John saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And he heard a loud voice from the throne saying
“Now, the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things are passed away….am making everything new…..I am the Alpha and the Omega …. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. They who overcome will inherit all this and I will be their God and they will be My children”.
This eternal promise is the fulfilment of the hope that comes to all of us through the grasp we have of the New Covenant.