Friday, February 24, 2006

Why the New Covenant Doesn’t Do Away with the Torah, Pt. 1: The Covenant vs. the Torah

It's a common question: "Why are you into all this Jewish stuff? Don't you know that all that Old Covenant stuff passed away with the coming of the New?"

On the contrary, while the Old Covenant was indeed replaced by the New (or rather, is in the process of being replaced-complete replacement will not happen until all Israel is saved and within the New Covenant, to whom it was promised originally) the Torah itself is still God's Law. Let's start by looking at the exact promise of the New Covenant, given in Jeremiah 31 and quoted at length in Hebrews 8:
Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will cut a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I cut with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which covenant of Mine they broke, although I was a husband to them, says the LORD; but this shall be the covenant that I will cut with the house of Israel: After those days, says the LORD, I will put My Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall no more teach each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, Know the LORD; for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more.
Point the first: There are not two, but eight major covenants in Scripture, and only one of them is specifically replaced by the New Covenant:
The Edenic Covenant (Gen. 2): Man given dominion over the earth and told to subdue it, be fruitful, and multiply. While one might make the case that Man broke this covenant by disobeying God (though not eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was never mentioned as a part of this covenant), this covenant most certainly was not made "in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt," and so is not in view as the "old" covenant.

The Adamic Covenant (Gen. 3): Curses for sinning handed out as well as the first promise of the Redeemer, from the "seed" of the woman, given. Again, this promise was not made in the desert when God brought Israel out of Egypt.

The Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9): God's promise never again to destroy all life by a flood, and a renewal of the command to be fruitful and multiply. In this covenant, God commands Man to carry out the death penalty for murder, and permits the eating of meat. Sealed by the sign of the rainbow. Again, this covenant had nothing to do with coming out of Egypt.

The Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 15): God unilaterally promises to give the Promised Land to Abraham through his natural seed ("from your own body") who will number as the stars in the sky. Sealed by the sign of circumcision (Gen. 17), and renewed through Isaac and Jacob. Not subject to being broken by Israel's disobedience to the Torah (Gal. 3:17). This covenant did not come about when God led His people out of Egypt--just the opposite in fact, since this covenant prophesies the 400 years of oppression in Egypt.

The Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 24:1-8): The people of Israel, upon hearing God's commands, say as one, "All the words which the LORD has said, we will do"--in other words, to keep the Torah. Includes curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience (Dt. 28-29). This is the only covenant which came in conjunction with the liberation of Israel with Egypt. It is also the only covenant in which anyone but God promised to do anything. Therefore, it is the only one subject to being broken by the people of Israel. This covenant, and no other, is the subject of Hebrews 8.

The Levitical Covenant (Num. 25): As a reward for his zeal, God promises Phinehas that the Levitical priesthood belongs to him and his descendants forever. Reiterated in Jer. 33, which links it to the Davidic Covenant (see below). While it might be said that this promise is linked to the salvation of Israel from Egypt, it in fact took place nearly forty years later. Furthermore, Phinehas made no promises, so this covenant is not subject to being broken on his end.

The Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7): God promises that David will never lack a man to sit on his throne; that is, the throne of Israel. Reiterated in Jer. 33 and numerous other Messianic prophecies, as well as to Maryam the mother of Yeshua (Lk. 1:32-33). Fulfilled in the Messiah. Again, has nothing to do with Egypt, and could not be broken if anyone had wanted to.
Point the second: Read carefully the terms of the New Covenant. Does it say that the Torah-the commandments, the feastdays, etc.-would be done away with? No. Instead it says, "I will put My Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." Ezekiel promised the same in different terms:
And I will sprinkle clean waters on you, and you shall be clean. I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from your idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them. (36:25-27)
So then, shall we say that God's promise to write the Torah on our hearts, to cause us to walk in His statutes and keep His judgments by the power of His Spirit means that His Torah, His statutes, and His judgments are done away with? From whence did this theology that if God writes His Torah in our hearts it ceases to be the Torah come from? Certainly not from the Bible!

As we saw in previous posts, since God Himself gave the Torah, only God Himself could change it--no prophet or even apostle has that authority. But what did Yeshua say about the Torah?
Do not think that I have come to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any way pass from the Torah until all is fulfilled. Therefore whoever shall break one of these commandments, the least, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.
--Mt. 5:17-19
The last time I checked, the Heaven and the Earth were still here, so the Torah is still in effect. That's not to say that every commandment applies the same way to all people--the High Priest had to follow commandments that the common Levite did not, the Levite commands that the rest of Israel did not, and the circumcised Israeli had to keep commands that the alien living among them wasn't held responsible for--but that we cannot simply say the Torah is the "old" covenant and should no longer be followed.

Next: The Yoke of the Torah


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