Monday, September 20, 2010

The shadow of the Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement was a shadow that looked forward to when the Messiah would offer himself as a sacrifice for us. His blood became the payment, power, and the seal of the New Covenant. It also had its own set of blessings and curses, just like the covenant the Moses officiated with Israel. The response of the individual and response of the nation can take either of these two directions.

Quoting once again from Tim Hegg's book, The Letter Writer, page 251: "What Paul sees in his brothers who have rejected Yeshua is that the same hardness of heart remains when they read the Torah every Shabbat. Instead of finding in the Torah the Messiah to whom it points, they rather read the Torah as the very reason to reject Him. Only when they turn to Yeshua in faith is the veil lifted, and the glory (which they could not see in Moses' face because it was veiled) is seen.

Paul’s use of the word “old” (palaios in Greek) to modify “covenant” carries the same meaning as when he speaks of the “old self”. In this case Paul is describing a person before faith, before the infusion of the Spirit into his life as the child of God. In the “old self,” pleasing God is impossible because the “old self” is a slave of sin. Indeed “old” and “new” in Paul generally contrast the time before coming to faith in the Messiah with that which follows true faith, and the corresponding manner of life in each. Furthermore, just as Paul connects “old” and “new” in Romans 7 to “letter” and “Spirit,” so he makes the same connection here (2 Corinthians 3). The “old” is characterized by the “letter,” the “new” by the “Spirit.”
What Paul is showing us by his use of the term “old covenant” is that he has, indeed, understood and followed Jeremiah. For Jeremiah speaks of the covenant made with Israel at the time of the exodus as a covenant which they broke; whereas, the future, “new covenant” is characterized by acceptance in faith. Paul draws the same parallel: the “old covenant” is the Torah which falls upon hardened hearts, is rejected, and is characterized by the lifeless “letter;” the “new covenant” is the Torah, written on the hearts of flesh, which is received by faith, and results in life in the “Spirit.” The difference is not in the Torah or the message given, but in the receiving of it by faith. Thus the “old covenant” is the reading of the Torah (God’s revelation) without faith, and therefore with out the Spirit, which always results in missing the Messianic message. The “new covenant” involves reading and receiving the Torah (God’s revelation) with faith via the Spirit, which always results in seeing and receiving the revelation of Messiah.
We see, then, that “old” and “new” when applied to the covenant, do not speak so much of time and generations (“old” being “long ago” and “new” being “current”), as it speaks of faith or the absence of faith. Granted, the “new covenant” will only find its full realization in the final salvation of the nation of Israel, but throughout the generations of time, each and every one who has come to faith in the Messiah and has trusted God for his eternal salvation has entered into the “new covenant as first fruits of a final harvest. As such, each one has the Torah written on the heart and has confessed a true and abiding loyalty to God as his Lord and King, having received forgiveness of sins by the sacrifice of Yeshua. In contrast, all, in every generation, who have rejected the call of the gospel and have spurned the message of grace, have demonstrated their participation in the “old covenant.” They are acting as Israel did when she rejected the word of God through Moses and resorted to the worship of the golden calf and the god it represented. For Paul, “old” and “new” are not time-bound, they are faith-bound.”

The seven festivals are part of God's plan of redemption. They remind us of events that have happened in the first coming and are rehearsals of what is yet to come in the second. To these special days the church can certainly add what is fitting and good. But it is arrogant and unwise to belittle them, ignore them, or replace them. I am not advocating that we observe the festivals or commandments as an obligation. There is no must or should in the Kingdom, especially for Gentile believers. But the primarily Gentile church has set up an environment that has effectively removed the topic from conversation. There are many subjects that God has addressed that Christians don't even consider because it's been "done away with" in our minds. The Biblical God is not so capricious as to make mistakes. Yes, there is progressive revelation; where many things which were partially revealed in the old covenant are more fully revealed in the new covenant. But the fulfillment does not render the thing that casts the shadow invisible, otherwise there would be no shadow.

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