Our writer to the Hebrews said the first agreement was defective (8:7-8) and a better one was always needed. Our author has already shown how much more serious this new deal is and it cannot be ignored. God’s design for his people’s service unfolded in the New must be followed and not lost or replaced by worldly or pagan ideas and practices.
The choice for us to worship (=serve) God is a choice between two systems, two ways.
There is the system of law following the type of Aaron: Christ is redeemer and because of his wondrous act, his death on the cross, we compel ourselves to love and obedience, though it may not be our delight. So we have a striving and not the promised rest from trying to be righteous. Others around us looking on get the message we are self-righteous though we may deny it. And they have every right to form that opinion.
By pursuing the way of law at the expense of the Holy Spirit and his revealed Word, we invariably add in our own ideas, mixing right with wrong, light with darkness and dropping the true and real by hanging on to vain traditions and practices of religion. Like sheep we go astray.
But a much better deal has been made for us! We are called into the experience of the Lord Jesus in the power of his endless, imperishable life in which he works in us who draw near. He promises to energise within us, in our own life, breathing his life in us, so that it becomes our new nature to love him, delight to do his will—his own life in us. That is, to worship him in Spirit and in Truth, each of us and together.
Surprise: Meeting together as Christ’s people today (“going to church”) is frequently inferior to that experienced even by Jews in Jesus’ day. For example in the synagogue, there was no pastor or priest ruling over them, running the show, so anyone was able to speak and to question what was said. No one person jealously guarded who was allowed to share the word of God and for how long.
Nor did they think they were meeting in the ‘house of the Lord’. And each synagogue (means gathering) was independent and they did not have to toe the line of any outside superintendent, C.E.O., denomination board, statement of faith, or any head office.
Hebrews 8:7-8. God found fault with the first covenant in the hands of his ancient people and said (in the words of Jeremiah 31:31-34) ….
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach or say to one another, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’
We are supposed to have embraced the new arrangement. But appallingly, today, we see a denial of much of the glorious features of the New. Instead of God’s laws poured by the Holy Spirit into their minds and written on their hearts, many are content to get their spiritual input not from the Lord Himself, but from middlemen with agendas—spiritual directors, priests, pastors. Instead of being the people of God, many see their identity as Baptist or Catholic or Evangelical and so on. Tradition, blind, mindless tradition.
So instead of all God’s people being in unbroken fellowship with the living God—knowing Him in their personal experience—they are dependent on professional Christians as mediators.
In the fantastic deal we have received in Jesus, we have become part of a household, a family. We are each born into a Body—the Body of Christ. Individualism is contrary to the New Deal and to our organic, community life in the Body of Christ. We are many members and one body. God has made covenant in Jesus with a people, not with individuals.
Hebrews 8:13. When the Lord talks about a new agreement, he means that the first one is out of date. And anything that is old and useless will soon disappear. (CEV)
All kinds of spirituality are inadequate and have now been made obsolete by God’s flawless design. What is not planted by the Father will be rooted up, said Jesus. And what is built, if not with God’s specified materials, will be destroyed, even if on a good foundation, said St Paul.
It seems to me, God is calling on us to abandon obsolete, sinking, old-hat stuff that we should have jettisoned ages ago and join Jesus’ movement of love, joy, freedom and power as he promised. What do you think?