Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. – Hebrews 8:8-9
When God’s people cannot rise to the heights of His standards, the Lord does not lower His standards to match their abilities. Instead, He determines to transform His people through the person and work of His Son, Jesus.
According to Old Testament practices, every high priest was appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices on behalf of the people. However, when Jesus came to fulfill the role of our Great High Priest, He ushered in the new and perfect covenant by offering Himself as the final sacrifice. By His death and resurrection, Jesus secured a covenant that cannot be broken—a covenant that these words had looked forward to when the prophet Jeremiah first spoke them (Jeremiah 31:31-32); a covenant that transforms the hearts of those with whom it is made. But how does this transformation take place?
Following His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down “at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 8:1). This decisive act not only signified that His work was complete but also initiated the coming of the Holy Spirit. Prior to His death and resurrection, Jesus essentially told His disciples, It is necessary for Me to go away. If I’m here, I’m just here, in this body and in this place. But when I go, when I send the Holy Spirit in all of His fullness, He will not only be with you, but He will be in you—all of you, wherever you are. And He will take the things that are Mine, and He will make them precious to you.
It’s the ministry of the Holy Spirit, then, to transform and renew our hearts so that God’s law will be written on them and so that it will be our delight to do His will (Jeremiah 31:33). Previously, God’s ways were irksome to us. Previously, His law was only condemnation to us. But now it has become a joyful reality. To live in purity, wholeness, and faithfulness has now become our delight.
The new covenant also enables us to know God through His word. Our knowledge of God doesn’t come primarily through sacraments, a hierarchy of priests, or teachers and pastors. Instead, all of us, from the least to the greatest, can know God (Hebrews 8:11). When we know God personally and intimately, we are assured of our forgiveness; and when we see Christ personally and intimately in His word, we are transformed by the Spirit to become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).
This is the wonder of what Jesus has done as our Great High Priest. He has secured our forgiveness, and He has sent His Spirit. In what ways are you struggling to obey God, or even really to want to obey Him? Ask Him to work through you, by His Spirit, to transform your view of His law and to enable your obedience of it. What you could never do on your own, you can do as you keep in step with Him.
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