DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE COVENANTS
The early Rabbis and other Jews of two thousand years ago recognized that there would be changes in the Law of God in the Messianic age, when the New Covenant would be fully in force. Messiah himself was seen as the authoritative interpreter of Torah who would explain the differences between the covenants. Whatever he taught was to be obeyed. Moses had prophesied that, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.
"The LORD said to me: What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account." Deut. 18:15-19
The Talmud says of Messiah, "Come and hear: Unto him ye shall hearken, even if he tells you, Transgress any of all the commandments of the Torah as in the case, for instance, of Elijah on Mount Carmel, obey him in every respect in accordance with the needs of the hour!" Yebamot 90b The Torah ends with a reminder of the promise to send Messiah: "Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel." Dt. 34:10-12
The implication is that Messiah would be the prophet who would, like Moses, perform miraculous signs and wonders, destroy the power of the oppressor, and redeem Israel. And, like Moses, present Gods Law to the people. In the Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran, especially in the "Rule of the Community", Messiah is presented as the final interpreter of God's Torah. e.g. 1QS 3.13 & 4QFlor.1:11-12 To some extent, this same role had also been anticipated in 1 Maccabees, concerning the cleansing of the altar which had been defiled. 1Mac.4:46
Some rabbis expected Torah to change in the days of Messiah. The rabbinic Midrash on Psalms suggests that unclean animals may be declared clean. "Some say that in the time to come all the animals which are unclean in this world God will declare to be clean, as they were in days before Noah. And why did God forbid them? To see who would accept his bidding and who would not; but in the time to come he will permit all that He has forbidden." Mid. Teh. 146:7 In the Talmud, the Rabbis even say that, "In the days of the Messiah, bastards [i.e. the children of forbidden marriages]...will be pure." Kid.72b 2Baruch speaks of the inclusion in the covenant community of Gentiles who observe God's law, and the exclusion of Jews who do not.
Other rabbinic writings refer to a new Torah that is related to the Torah given at Sinai but different in some respects. "The Holy One, blessed be He, will sit in Paradise and give instruction, and all the righteous will sit before him and all the hosts of Heaven will stand on his right and the sun, and stars on His left; and the Holy One, blessed be he, interprets to them the grounds of a new Torah which the Holy One, blessed be He, will give to them by the hand of King Messiah." Yalqut on Is.26
The Rabbis pondered the relationship of the dead to Torah, since the dead are to be resurrected with the coming of Messiah. cf. Sotah 48b, Gen.Rab.96:5 Once a person has died, is he still obligated to observe all the laws? The Rabbis concluded that those who died were free from the commandments. [Torah prohibits the mixing of wool and linen in the garments worn by the Jewish people. e.g. Dt.22:11-12 This and the other statutes which prohibit the mixing of different kinds of things, i.e. kilayim, are symbolic of the separation that God requires of Israel.
"Our Rabbis taught: A garment in which kilayim was lost ...may be made into a shroud for a corpse. R. Joseph observed: This implies that the commandments will be abolished in the Hereafter....for R. Johanan stated: What is the purport of the Scriptural text, 'Free among the dead'? As soon as a man dies he is free from the commandments." Nid.61b citing Ps. 88:5 [v.6 in English], cf.Shab.151b]
However, freedom from the commandments, either through death or the resurrection, did not mean lawlessness or the freedom to disobey God. Rather, the Rabbis believed that in the days of Messiah, "Mans deeds will be spontaneously good." Lev. Rab.18:1 n .5, citing Eccl.12:1
This is much the same as what Paul wrote: "Do you not know brethren for I am speaking to men who know the law that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?" Rom.7:1 For those of us who are Jewish, our failure to keep the Law of Moses condemns us to God's judgment of death. In Messiah we are put to death, as the Law requires. Paul then explained that the new life which one receives in the resurrection of Messiah produces righteousness by its very nature, not by any obligation to the Law. It is not the Law which dies, it is the transgressor of the Law who dies.
In Tanakh, there is a basis for these expectations. In promising to make a New Covenant, God said that it would be different from the covenant made at Sinai, but would still have His Law at the center. The text of the New Covenant promise indicates the differences and changes from the Covenant of the Law.
" The time is coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them, declares the LORD.
" This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the LORD. I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, Know the LORD, because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. " Jer. 31:31-34
God said that the new covenant would be different from the covenant of the law made at Sinai. His purpose did not change, but Israel broke the covenant of the law made at Sinai, resulting in judgment. Through the new covenant, with its differences, God intends to bring Israel into a righteous relationship with Himself. The nature of the differences between the Covenant of the Law and the new covenant is contained in Gods three prophetic declarations: 1. "I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts." 2. "I will be their God, and they will be my people." 3. "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
1. "I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts."
In the covenant made at Sinai, God had included certain symbolic practices to remind Israel to think about and obey His Law. The mezuzah, tefillin, and tzitzit * symbolize Israels submission to Gods Law. They serve as ever-present reminders to keep Gods commandments on our hearts. Dt.6:4-9 As the Lord said of tzitzit, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: Throughout the generations to come you are to make fringes on the corners of your garments, with a blue thread on each fringe. You will have these fringes to look at that you may remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes." Num. 15:38-39
The Rabbis say of tefillin, however, that since they are a sign to remind Israel of the commandments of God, they are not worn on Shabbat or the holy days because these days are a sufficient reminder in themselves. cf. Eruvin 96a "The very Sabbath day itself and the very festival itself is intended to serve as an everpresent reminder of Gods Presence and of His commandments....To add the observance of tefillin in the context of its meaning and purpose would not only be superfluous but would imply downgrading the Sabbath." Hayim Donin, To Be A Jew, Basic Books, 1991, P.146 Unfortunately, although the symbols themselves remind us, as do Shabbat and the festivals, they do not give us the power to keep the commandments, and they cannot produce submission in our hearts. That is why, in the new covenant, God puts His law in our minds and writes it on our hearts. The reminder comes from within.
Where does the power to live righteously come from? From Gods Spirit living within. The Messianic Age, the age of the outpouring of Gods Holy Spirit is characterized by holiness. Israel and the world are transformed, and "In that day there will be upon the bells of horses: Holy unto the Lord; and the posts in the Lords house shall be like the basins before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holy unto the Lord of hosts..." Zech.14:20-21 This is the core of Gods second promise in the new covenant He makes with Israel:
2. "I will be their God, and they will be my people."
God repeats this new covenant promise in Ezekiel 37:27, after first promising: "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." Ezek. 36:26-27 cf 37:1-14 Gods Spirit provides the power to walk in obedience to His commandments. God gives His Spirit to those who enter into the new covenant. His Spirit draws us into close relationship with Him, making us the people He has always wanted us to be.
Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, is a God-given example of the way we should walk before the Lord. cf Is.51:1-2 He left his country, his relatives, and his fathers house to follow God. He believed God for His promise of a supernaturally conceived son. He obediently put that son on the wood as a sacrifice to God, believing in His power to resurrect Isaac to fulfill His promise. In all of this, we see that Abraham trusted, and therefore obeyed, God completely. "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness." Gen.15:6 Faith was the means by which Abraham was considered righteous by God, but it is not the sum and the end of that righteousness. Abrahams faith produced a very tangible deed when he offered up Isaac. Gen. 22
God considered Abraham righteous because of his faith, the internal decision of his heart. The righteousness of the law is different, as Moses told our ancestors: "And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us, that will be our righteousness." Deut. 6:25 The Biblical record demonstrates that we did not "obey all this law". Today, we are not better than our fathers. We need a different source of righteousness. In the new covenant we believe as Abraham did, and we receive from God the same righteousness he received.
3. "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
In the new covenant, there is a difference in (a) the means of atonement, (b) the power of that atonement, (c) the priesthood which offers the sacrifice, and (d) the Temple in which the sacrifice is offered. Each of these is regulated by specific commandments in the Covenant of the Law. God is therefore promising to change those specific commandments when He institutes the New Covenant. God indicated in Jer.31:31-34 that there would be all these differences between His New Covenant with Israel and the Covenant of the Law He made with us at Sinai.
How can Gods law change? God created Adam without sin in a world without sin. When Adam chose to sin, however, he changed, the world changed, and so did his relationship with God. God Himself did not change, but His instruction to Adam did, because of Adams changed nature and circumstances. Initially God placed Adam in the garden of Eden and gave him the responsibility of taking care of it. cf. Gen.2:15 When Adam rebelled against God, he was excluded from the garden and his responsibility changed.
In the same way, in the days to come, when Israel is a redeemed people, we and our circumstances will have changed. Gods instruction for our relationship with Him will change accordingly, even as it did for Adam. His covenant with Abraham, the foundation for Israel's relationship with God, remains the same. What are the differences in (a) the means of atonement?
In Torah, God had declared that it is the blood, i.e. the sacrificial death, of an innocent other that brings atonement. Lev.17:11 Vicarious atonement, the death of an innocent other in the place of the guilty, is at the heart of the Covenant of the Law. In that covenant, however, sheep, bulls, and goats were the innocent others who were sacrificed. In the New Covenant, it is Messiah. Can one man atone for the sins of another? Can one man atone for the sins of all Israel? If God had not promised and declared it, there would be no reason to believe it. But He did promise it as His New Covenant way of removing our sin from us.
In Torah, God stipulated that a person who unintentionally killed another was to flee from the blood-avenger to a city of refuge and live there until the death of the High Priest. Num. 35:22-28 The High Priest is called the Anointed One, haCohen haMoshiach. e.g. Lev.4:3,5,16 The death of the High Priest canceled any right of vengeance which the relatives of the one killed might have had. In effect, the death of the High Priest, the Anointed One, brought atonement. In the Talmud, the Rabbis also noted, "It is the death of the [high] priest that procures the atonement." Mak.11b
God commanded the sacrifice of Abrahams only son. Gen.22 As Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to Gods command, he told Isaac that God Himself would provide the lamb for the sacrifice. In response to Abrahams obedience in offering his only son to be sacrificed, God declared Abraham worthy to be the father of all those from every nation who would be Gods people. On that day, however, God did not provide a lamb in place of Isaac. He provided a ram. The time when God would provide that promised lamb was still in the future. [In the traditional Yom Kippur liturgy, God is asked to remember the binding of Isaac as though it were the equivalent of the atoning sacrifices in the Temple.]
Isaiah the prophet spoke of Messiah as the ultimate atoning lamb: "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, but he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth...
"Yet it was the LORDs will to crush him putting him to grief. If he would render his soul as a guilt offering, he will see his offspring, he will prolong his days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in his hand. As a result of the anguish of his soul he will see the light of life and be satisfied. By his knowledge the righteous one My servant will justify the many as He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot him a portion with the great and he will divide the booty with the strong because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors yet he himself bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors." Isa. 53:5-7,10-12
This is a portion which the ancient rabbis as well as the followers of Yeshua understood to be speaking of Messiah. The Lord put Messiah to death as a guilt offering to atone for our sin, transgression, and iniquity. (b) the power of that atonement: The covenant of the Law provided for ongoing sacrifices for ongoing sins. Each sin required another sacrifice. There was no end to the sacrifices because there was no end to the sins. Additionally, atonement could only be made for sins that had already been committed, not for sins that would be committed in the future.
In the New Covenant, the sacrifice of Messiah is not limited to one direction in time. One sacrifice atones for all sins, whether committed before or after that sacrifice is offered. The Messianic sacrifice brings more than atonement. It also brings peace, healing, and being acceptable to God. David spoke prophetically for Messiah, his descendant: "Sacrifice and meal offering you have not desired. My ears you have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, Behold I come. In the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God. Your law is within my heart. " Ps. 40:6-8
In the Covenant of the Law, God did require burnt offerings and sin offerings. Messiah who comes with God's law within his heart, comes to do the will of God and, by offering himself, makes all other sacrifices unnecessary in and of themselves. They simply serve to teach of and point to the one sacrifice. (c) the priesthood which offers the sacrifice: A Levitical priest cannot offer this kind of sacrifice. In Tanakh, however, God speaks of other priesthoods. The Levites, after all, were chosen as substitutes for the first-born male of each family, the natural priest of each family. Num.3:41 Before God chose the Levites, they were not the priests of Israel. After they were chosen, there were times when God bypassed the order He had established for them. Eli is a case in point. He was Gods high priest, but he did not raise his children to fear the Lord. God rebuked Eli for his immoral sons, and promised, "I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always." 1Sam. 2:35 God chose Samuel to be His priest in the place of the sons of Eli.
Samuel served as Gods high priest in anointing both Saul and then David as King of Israel. The promise that God would raise up "a faithful priest" referred to Samuel, but it looked beyond him to Messiah, a greater priest. Samuel, after all, did not minister before either Saul or David always, literally "all the days", as God had promised. When Saul turned away from the Lord, Samuel turned away from Saul. And as for David, Samuel died before David ascended the throne.
God had commanded that when the Temple was built, all sacrifices should be offered there by the sons of Aaron. Elijah, who is not identified as a descendant of Aaron, offered sacrifices on Mt. Carmel in his confrontation with the prophets of Baal. God sent fire from heaven to complete the sacrifices and demonstrate that He was the only true God. 1Kings 18 God had chosen Elijah for that purpose.
Long before Elijah, Samuel, Aaron, or even Levi, God had already established a different priesthood. After a successful military rescue operation, Abraham gave a tenth of all the spoils to Melchizedek, "a priest of God Most High." Gen.14:18-20. Melchizedek, whose name means "king of righteousness", was also the king of Salem. He was both a king and a priest. Messiah belongs to the same priesthood. "The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. ...The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind. You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." Ps. 110:2,4 Like Melchizedek, Messiah is both a king and a priest.
In the covenant of the Law, the kings were to come from the tribe of Judah, and the priests from the tribe of Levi. No one could be both, even though all Israel was to be a kingdom of priests to bring the nations to God. Ex.19:6 Zechariah also prophesied of Messiah as a priest and a king. Zech.6:11-13 The Lord told Zechariah to put an ornate crown on Yeshua, the high priest, and seat him on a throne. The Lord said that Yeshua represented Messiah who would be both priest and king.
Messiah is to be a priest like Samuel, doing all that is in Gods heart and mind, and a king like David, a man after Gods own heart. God promised to bring such a priest from the order of Melchizedek because the Levitical priests could not set the people free from sin. They could not set themselves free from sin.
(d) the Temple in which the New Covenant sacrifice is offered: The sacrifice of Messiah cannot be offered within the Temple confines or system. It would defile the Temple altar, rather than bring atonement. cf. 2Kings 23:16 Yet it is this one sacrifice that establishes the New Covenant and atones for all the sins of those who enter into the covenant.
Following the giving of the Ten Commandments, God gave Israel instructions for the altars "in every place" on which they would offer sacrifices to Him. cf. Exod. 20:22-26; vv19-23 in Heb. He did not initially specify one place where sacrifices were to be offered to Him in the land of Israel. There would be many places. Later God designated one particular place.
Where could God receive the sacrifice of Messiah as an offering for sin, presented by a priest of the order of Melchizedek? God encompassed Moses in His glory and showed him the pattern for the Tabernacle he was to make. Ex. 24:15-25:9,40 God supernaturally revealed to David the plan for the Temple. 1Chr. 28:19 In the visions of God, Ezekiel was shown the design of the third Temple.
God commanded that these places of worship and sacrifice be made exactly according to the pattern He revealed from heaven. He was present in their Holy of Holies, but earthly temples are inadequate to fully contain and reveal Gods glory. They are also inadequate for the new covenant sacrifice which brings complete atonement and forgiveness.
The Lord said to Israel, "Heaven is my throne, the earth is my footstool. Where then is the house you could build for me and where is the place that I may rest. For my hand made all these things." Is. 66:1 God is enthroned in the heavenly temple, which provided the pattern for the sanctuaries on earth. The Lord warned Israel to trust in Him, and not in the Temple. "Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!" Jer. 7:4 In the Talmud, R. Joseph taught that this meant the first two temples would be destroyed because of Israels sins and a third one built. Naz.32b
The Temple itself could not take away our sins. To the contrary, our sins took away the Temple. A place beyond the reach of our sins was necessary. God spoke of a time of restoration when He would dwell in our midst and Jerusalem would be called "The Throne of the LORD." "In those days, ...men will no longer say, The ark of the covenant of the LORD. It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. " Jer. 3:16-17
The ark, in the Holy of Holies, was the place where atonement was made for all Israel on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The fact that there will be no ark and that it will not be missed means that complete and final atonement will already have been made. Messiah, as a priest of the order of Melchizedek, will have entered the heavenly Holy of Holies to offer his own blood to secure our eternal redemption. cf.Heb. 9:11-12
*Tzitzit, the fringes, were to be put on the corners of every four-cornered garment. When garments were no longer made with four corners, the Rabbis decreed that a special garment, the tallit katan [small tallis] or arba kanfot [four corners], be made and worn so that the commandment could still be fulfilled. However, the blue dye used for the commanded blue thread came from a particular mollusc. For the last nineteen hundred years, that mollusc has been hard to find. The Rabbis decreed that no substitute blue could be used. They also decreed that the blue thread was not necessary. Men.IV So the contemporary tallit and tallit katan are made without the blue thread required by scripture.
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