A covenant is a sacred agreement made between God and man. God made covenants with Abraham and encouraged him to walk with Him. One of the covenants was the promise of redemption. God foreknew the fall of man and hence formulated a redemptive plan even before the creation of this world.
The Abrahamic Covenant
God showed Abraham the stars of the sky and told him that his descendants would be multiplied like them. All this while Abraham did not have any children of his own. Hence, it was hard for Abraham to believe in the promise of God, and he asked for a sign to help him believe. To make a vow in this regard, God asked Abraham to bring a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon (Genesis 15:9).
When two parties agree to do something, they vow to each other on a stamp paper, and both parties sign on the judicial document to carry out the clauses specified in that document in case of non-compliance. Likewise, in those ancient days, people would cut an animal into two pieces, and then both parties would walk between the pieces of the animal, vowing each other that if anyone failed to fulfil the vow, the party that failed would die similar to the sacrificed animal. God asked Abraham to bring the animals and birds mentioned above to make an agreement between Him and Abraham.
Remarkably God did not ask Abraham to walk with Him in between the pieces of the sacrificed meat but, He walked alone in between, pledging that even if Abraham or his descendants failed to keep the covenant, He would bear the punishment all alone on behalf of the erring party. This is even after God told Abraham about the captivity of His people for the next four generations and their deliverance during the fourth generation.
Then in due course, sin touched every area of man’s life, and now no area of a man is without sin. Subsequently, death entered, and mankind always feared death during their lifespan. Man stopped trusting God and even forgot about the love of God.
With the malice of envy, the brothers of Joseph sold him to the Egyptians, where they became slaves. God’s people tamed themselves to live under slavery for almost four generations, and thereby, they were accustomed to slavery. They did not like to rely on God for their deliverance.
Meanwhile, God used Isaac and Jacob to perpetuate the covenant made with Abraham. God remembered His covenant with Abraham and called Moses to bring His people out of slavery. As God took the oath on Him in respect of erring people, He did not ask for any of their lives as a sin offering. Instead, God ordered Moses to observe the Passover to distinguish themselves from the Egyptians.
They killed an animal and applied its blood on the threshold of their door so that the angel of death passed over their houses and killed all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. Fear engulfed the Egyptians, and they decided to send the people of God out by giving them their possessions. Then, God led them through the wilderness to liberty.
The New Covenant
Despite the deliverance from physical bondage, people became slaves to sins. God sent His only Son to redeem them from their slavery to sin. When Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit, she sang that God has fulfilled His promise that He had vowed to Abraham (Luke 1:54-55).
For redeeming the sinners, God did not abolish the law but rather fulfilled it by allowing His Son to die on the cross on our behalf. Because according to the law, the wages of sin is death. Redemption is done not by abolishing the law but by fulfilling it in all respects. Yet, people believe that Jesus has abolished the law by His grace and did not bother to observe them anymore. To correct this idea Jesus says
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.Matthew 5:17 (NIV)
After Jesus ascended to heaven, Paul educated the Galatians and explained how Jesus was born under the law to redeem those under the law. Right from His birth to the death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled the law in every respect.
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV)
The Law Still Exists
The author of the book of Hebrews directly tells his readers that the old covenant has become obsolete in the presence of the new covenant. He also tells us that the old covenant will soon disappear.
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.Hebrews 8:13 (NIV)
Though the new covenant overrides the old, both covenants are subject to law, and hence the law still exists. The old covenant and the law have become obsolete to the children of God because now they are not under the law, but the law is under them, as the maker of the law is their Father. For this reason, the scripture tells us that,
Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!1 Corinthians 6:3 (NIV)
Jesus told the Pharisees and teachers of the law that He is greater than Jonah, through whom Ninevites turned to God who would now stand on the judgment day to condemn this generation. If the law does not exist, on what basis are children of God going to judge? Jesus did not delete any of the commandments but wrapped all of them in two commandments.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)
To understand this, we should look at our smartphone’s advanced technologies. Every three years, latest models come on the market, and the old ones become obsolete. The company stops updating the software to its older models. People still go for those outdated smartphones at a lower price because they buy them to show their status to others. Who knows that they purchased it after the new one was released? As far as the buyers of the latest smartphones, they need the updates of the software daily to cope with their job requirements, etc. Though their old smartphones have become obsolete, every aspect of the old one is available in the new one.
Likewise, if we want to show others we are righteous, the laws will meet our requirements. But if we want to update our souls by walking in His light, we need the New Covenant that contains the old covenant in them. The old covenant, if stood alone, dealt with the remedies to our sins through punishment, but when the new incorporated the old, it is all about loving God. Knowing this, if we still want to stick with the old covenant, then we do not value the love of God that spared His Son to save us all.
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”Galatians 2:21 (NIV)
Love Thy Neighbour
In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)
The above verse explains the state of people who lived during the time of the old covenant and the privilege of people living under the new covenant. Earlier, God did not deal with people directly. But today, He deals with us by standing beside us when broken hearts (Psalm 34:18), by knocking at our door to show His willingness to enter in (Revelation 3:21), or by dwelling in us (1 Corinthians 3:16).
We can keep the New Covenant only when we love our neighbour. Who is our neighbour? We fail to abide by the New Covenant as we always choose the wrong neighbours leaving aside God, our neighbour. The scripture tells us so. If we identify Him as our neighbour, then it is easy for us to love Him, and in turn, we will love our Father with all our hearts and minds. May God open our eyes to find our Neighbor and love Him.
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.Acts 17:27 (NIV)