Have you noticed how quickly things become obsolete of late? Consider some of the items that became obsolete just in the past decade, for instance.
Remember Palm Pilots? How about dial-up connections to the internet? Or Kodachrome film and getting your photos developed at the local drugstore?
Then there’s Blockbuster and Hollywood video stores, maps that were actually printed on paper and landlines physically connected to the wall. Oh, and don’t forget fax machines, VCR’s and public pay phones.
Yeah. Those are all pretty much a thing of the past. And frankly most of them didn’t have that long of a life span. Interestingly, the book of Hebrews reminds us of another thing that has gone the way of Kodachrome, Blockbuster and Bell Telephone.
What’s been made obsolete is the covenant that says that our relationship with God is based on the law, on our obedience, and on our faithfulness in keeping the traditions and customs of the Old Testament. The book of Hebrews says that this way of approaching God is now a dead letter. It’s archaic and outdated. And really, the author points out, it never worked in the first place.
Yet, any honest assessment would say that this is still the most popular way of building a relationship with God. Be a religious person and you will win God’s confidence and love, or so goes the prevailing opinion.
But, there’s a new and better way, the author of Hebrews tells us, a “next-generation” way through which God builds a relationship with us. It’s through the gospel, not through the law. It’s through Christ’s obedience, not ours. It’s seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of all the Old Testament traditions and customs.
This new way is to simply look in faith and trust to Jesus Christ as our perfect Savior and Substitute. Then God will be our God, and we will be his people. Jesus will send us the Holy Spirit through word and sacraments, and he will personally teach us to know the Lord. He will write God’s law on our hearts, so that we obey not because we have too, but because we get to, knowing deep down that obedience is simply aligning ourselves with God’s heart and God’s design for our world.
And when our hands or feet, our words or our ideas, lead us into sin, we will be forgiven of our wickedness. Our sins will be forgotten and put into the past along with the old covenant.
Out with the obsolete, outdated and popular way of trying to worm our way into God’s heart by our righteousness. In with the new way — of God working his way into our hearts by his righteousness, his sacrifice, and his grace.
“But God found fault with the people and said: ‘The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. 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 their neighbor, 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.’ By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:8-13, NIV).
Lord, help me to move away from trying to earn my place in your heart and move toward your grace, mercy and forgiveness, all of which assure me that my place in your heart has already been earned and won by Jesus. Help me by your Spirit’s power to turn my back on the righteousness that comes by works, and learn that I am accepted only through the righteousness that comes by faith.
Our Bible reading for Saturday, November 7, is Ezekiel 13:1 – 15:8, Hebrews 8:1-13 and Psalm 120:1-7.
Header image based on "Blockbuster store closing sale" by Consumerist Dot Com, CC By 2.0