The Story of Scripture, Part 10 – A New Covenant for Sinners

Having conquered its enemies under King David, the nation of Israel flourished. It reached the peak of its glory during the reign of King David’s son, Solomon. Unfortunately, Solomon yielded to a life of sin and sent the nation into a fast downward spiral. Israel’s condition became more and more severe as they slid down the track of idolatry and all-round rebellion. Even after God had sent them message upon message (through the prophets), warning them to repent of their ways, the downward cycle of sin continued.

This eventually led to their severe chastisement. God brought the Babylonians upon them to destroy their temple and have them taken off into captivity. Exile was a devastating experience for the Israelites. They had broken their covenant with God, and were undergoing the severe consequences of their transgression: no temple, no city, no land. All was taken away, and never was their sin so clearly before them. Yet, very purposefully, it was during this time that God’s covenant grace was most clearly revealed as God sent his prophets to console the people with news of the coming Saviour and the New Covenant;

Jer 23:5-6;

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.” 

Jer 31:31-34;

But 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.

Isa 53:5-6;

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 

Zec 9:9;

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Mal 4:5-6;

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

The Story of Scripture, Part 8 – God Saves.

The Mosaic covenant promised blessing and prosperity. However, it was conditioned upon obedience. When entering into this covenant arrangement, the people of Israel displayed a grossly naive overconfidence with regard to their own ability. Without a thought to the contrary, they assumed that it would not be any trouble for them to keep their side of the bargain. However, despite their promises, they soon joined Adam in deep-seated covenant-breaking rebellion. Indeed, during their travels to the land of Canaan, Israel gave in almost completely to a contemptuous unbelief before God, and so had already forsaken any hope of entering the land as their promised covenant reward. Like Adam, they had failed to enter rest. 

Through it all however, God did not cast them off, showing them even at this stage that a promise of grace (Gen 3:15) undergirded the present typological Mosaic arrangement. Eventually, when this Mosaic law had served its function in destroying their false confidence, thereby properly joining them to Adam’s rebellion (and showing them their need for a Saviour); then, the undergirding covenant grace already promised to their forefather Abraham would bloom even further, eventually finding its full expression in the promise of the New Covenant itself. Before the New Covenant Messiah came however, they would have their whole national history (of failure) to look back on in order to prove one simple point: because of their failure to be obedient to God, they were under just condemnation, and had no hope of entering into the promised land of eternal sabbath rest. Only a Saviour, one who had not shared in their sin, could lead them into this promised land. While this truth would become clearer and clearer as they moved towards the New Covenant, already it was being shown to them in picture form. For even at this point, it was only once they had forsaken any right to the land that one of their kinsmen, one who had not shared in their wilderness rebellion, would lead them into the promised land. His name was Joshua, meaning “God saves”. It was the Hebrew equivalent of the name, Jesus.