Category Archives: The New Covenant

Take My Yoke Upon You

I’m writing this as to an unbeliever, asking that one a question, aware also that sometimes we believers can be very unbelieving. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness when the going got rough. “They believed not in God…” (Ps. 78:22).

Here’s my question. Are you willing to take the risk of completely unburdening yourself of your cares? Isn’t your response that this would be wonderful? Away with them all… but what’s the catch? Why do you call it a risk?

For two reasons. First, I know how important your troubles are to you, as mine are to me—for they are ours, aren’t they, and who wants to risk not looking after them ourselves, who else would give them the care and attention they need? So we continue to carry them ourselves, and they pile up, and we are like the beast of burden yoked under heavy burden.

Perhaps you are saying that this is not true of you; you would do anything to be liberated from your yoke of cares, but you’ve been taught by long experience you can’t expect that. If this is your case there is good news for you; there is yet one thing you haven’t done; there is a way—but this too involves a risk.

Which leads to my second reason, and this will mean rephrasing my question. Are you ready to take the risk of discovering another yoke—one in which you may be sure your burdens are truly cared for while you yourself live care free?

Ah, you say, that’s the catch—to be free of all my burdens I must take upon me another yoke. And yokes, well, yokes themselves are something I would as soon be completely rid of.

Oh? All of them? What about this one? Hearken to Jesus’ words:

Come unto me all ye that labour and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)

Let’s go through this slowly with a listening ear, a hearing heart.

“Come unto Me…”

We are invited to come to a Person, not a formula for how to live the carefree life. “Come unto Me.” This is where it begins for those who hear these words for the first time. But—this will help some of us for whom these words are no longer new—in the Greek, come is in the present imperative tense. The implication of that tense is, continue to come, come again and again, come as often as necessary, and—“take heed how ye hear”—discover His words to be continually new.

“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden…”

Young’s Literal Translation has, “Come unto me, all ye labouring and burdened ones…” Vincent’s Word Studies comments, “the first [labouring] an active, the second [burdened] a passive participle, exhibiting the active and passive sides of human misery.” So there is an unhappy synergy at work here—our own inner labourings of heart and mind trying to cope with the problems of life (in fact the word labour is the Greek kopiaO, from which our word cope came down to us); and synergizing (working together) with our inner labourings, the burdens from without, the multitude of cares that come upon you and me, which it seems we have no say in the matter; it comes with the territory of life in this world, and nobody is exempt, all we can do is try somehow to cope with it.

Again, let us listen. Here is Jesus, moved with our miseries, calling out to us:

“Come unto Me…. and I will give you rest.”

And what is rest? We will state it in negative terms for now—what it is not—and there are negative terms aplenty. No anxiety. No worry. No fear. No torment. No frazzled nerves. No stressed-out meltdowns. No turmoil of mind… The list is long. No unrest of heart. That’s a word we hear a lot in the news these days whenever there is social upheaval somewhere in the world. Unrest. Jesus says He has, and gives, rest in the midst of unrest. That one word give. No necessity to labour for or pay for it. It’s free. “I will give you rest.”

More on rest in a moment from the positive point of view. First we must join this statement with the one following it:

“I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you…”

There, as I said, is the catch. We must understand that the rest comes only in another yoke—that is, in our being yoked with Christ. “My yoke.” But Lord Jesus, yokes are made for toil, for work, aren’t they? Are You actually saying that You have for us a yoke that is so different that it actually produces rest instead of weariness, a yoke that in fact is in itself rest? Yes, this is what He is saying, and He simply says, “Take My yoke upon you…” He presents it to us, to you and to me, and will surely put it upon us; our part, the grace of God helping us, is to bow our neck and take it upon us. “Take My yoke upon you…”

I wonder how you see that yoke. Some picture it as a single yoke with Jesus outside it guiding. Others, of whom I am one, see it as a dual yoke with Jesus the “lead ox”  beside me.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me…”

That is, from Me, not just about Me. Learn from Me, and the word learn is from the same root as disciple. So the Teacher is inviting the burdened to become discipled to Himself. Come unto Me, He says, take My yoke upon you, become My committed disciple, and learn from Me…

“For I am meek and lowly of heart…”

The lowly Son of God walked ever in rest, doing only what He saw His Father doing, speaking only what He heard Him saying. He would not take upon Himself any other burden than this, leaving all else to His Father to look after. Not for Him—the proud disposition of the seekers of self-sovereignty, who instead of being submissive to God are dismissive of Him, asserting their un-dependence, arrogating to themselves what is God’s alone… inevitably discovering to their great unrest that the liberty they sought was actually a grievous yoke under which they are burdened with what God never meant man to bear. The God of love has not left them without a way of release. How good to know with great thankfulness that One who is meek and lowly of heart, who willingly took upon Him His Father’s yoke of rest, delighting to do His will, nothing more, nothing less, calls the labouring and burdened to join Him in that same yoke.

Let’s join phrases together again:

“Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart…”

“I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Satisfaction, contentment, peace, fulfillment… Rest. The rest is in His yoke, in being discipled to Him; learning from Him His own meekness and lowliness, we find rest unto our souls.

But—You are so kind and patient, Lord—is someone still worrying, still finding it hard to let go, still asking, What about all these burdens that mean so much to me, Lord? Am I just to abandon them?

But what if, He responds, your burdens become my burdens, and My burden becomes yours, the one and only burden you are to carry? In My yoke you cannot carry any other burden. Only My own. That one burden alone, My burden, is all you are responsible to carry—yet not alone, but carry with Me. As to your burdens, I will look after them, each of them, all of them, I will carry them as though they were My own. In fact they are My own, once you have become My disciple. The burdens of My disciple become My very own. I will not let a single one of them fall to the ground. And yoked together, My disciple and I will pray together concerning each one of them—in My Father’s will—and do together what He bids us do. Be sure that in this yoke we shall accomplish together far more than you ever dreamed of.

“And ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is                    light.”

Again the rest is linked to the yoke. He promises rest—in a yoke—in complete submission to Him, the abandoned obedience of a yielded disciple willingly and fully surrendered to Him in His yoke—His yoke alone, while refusing any other. “My yoke,” He says, “My burden…” He is speaking of the yoke His Father had put upon Him, a yoke that is “easy,” in which he bears a burden that is “light.” I wonder at that: Jesus carried immense responsibility, and His burden—the glory of God—was surely heavier than any other. But no, He says, yoked with My Father the burden is light. Light because I am doing only what My Father lays upon Me to do—and actually it is My Father Himself that doeth the works. Now Jesus calls you and me to take upon us that same yoke in which the work is His, it is He Himself who is working—and we are simply doing His work with Him; yoked beside Him we are partners in His work.

We enjoy His rest. This does not mean inactivity or idleness any more than it meant for Him, but inward rest, rest unto the soul, refreshing rest, even though each one of us is very much involved in whatever the Lord Himself is doing. Now we too do simply and only what He is doing, and discover rest unto our souls in the doing of it. This, then, is a very different synergy, isn’t it—a synergy of rest.

“For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“Rest unto your souls,” He says. Because His yoke is “easy,” that is, gentle, kindly, comfortable, congenial, serviceable, helpful, “like wings to a bird,” as one has described it. And “tailor made.” Someone else’s will not do, it’s not a “one size fits all” yoke. My rancher friend Ed Parke once told me of something he had read, an account of an old timer who made yokes like that. He would place the yoke on the animal and check the fit, and wherever necessary shave it down so it fit without abrasion; it would not cause raw sores by constant rubbing. In the words of old-time Bible commentator Matthew Henry, the yoke is “chrestos, not only easy, but gracious, so the word signifies; it is sweet and pleasant, there is nothing in it to gall the yielding neck, nothing to hurt us, but on the contrary, much to refresh us. It is lined with love.”

“Nothing in it to gall the yielding neck.” I love those words, I love them; evermore put Your yoke upon me, dear Lord, I come to you, and I bow and yield my neck.

And you? Ready to take the risk now for the first time?

Or like me, persistently take it again?

The Exegesis Of God–Part Two

Let’s recall from last time Solomon’s proclamation at the inauguration of the temple that God had instructed him to build for Him.

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

This is what Solomon’s temple was all about.  It was to be the place among men where the God who had formerly dwelt in thick darkness now shone forth.  Solomon’s temple was, however, only a shadow of the true temple not made with hands—the Son of God Himself.  And so last time we also quoted a verse from John.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared is the Greek exegesato, and is related to our word exegesis, which is the biblical science of discovering and explaining what the Scriptures really say and mean.  Patient exegesis of the Bible will yield to the yielded much fruit.  But in John 1:18 we discover that the Son of God when He walked the earth was the exegesis of God Himself.  He was the One who explained, made known, revealed, shone forth, the hard-to-understand, unseen, obscure, unknown God.

That’s very wonderful, but I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, “Well and good that Jesus the Son of God was the exegesis of God the Father back then, but He is not here now.”

I know the regret you’re expressing: if only we could have lived back in Jesus’ day… or if only He were still here today.  Too bad the Devil succeeded in tearing down that living Temple in whom God dwelt and was revealed.

Just a minute.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

 Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…
But He spake of the Temple of His body (Jn. 2:19,21).

And so the Devil has his own regrets that he and his cohorts conspired to have the Lord of glory crucified, thinking to be done with Him.  For He rose from the dead.  And He ascended into Heaven, where, seated at the right hand of God, He began His more excellent ministry of the New Covenant, and an enlargement of that Temple which would continue to be the same exegesis of God.

How so?  When Christ ascended to the right hand of God, He “received the promise of the Father” (Acts 2:33), on the day of Pentecost sending the Spirit to His waiting disciples, just as He, in turn, had earlier promised them.

 I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you (Jn. 14.18).

I will come to you?  This is a mystery.  The coming of the Spirit was such that the same One who was the exegesis of God at the right hand of the Father, while continuing to abide at the right hand of the Father in the Heavens, came to His disciples again, and took up residence in them.  For, those in whom the Spirit dwells, it is Christ Himself who dwells in them, as we read in many places in our New Testament.  (For example, Romans 8: 9,10, and many other places that speak of the indwelling Christ.)  And thus they become part of the same Temple Solomon prophesied of, the same habitation the Son of God fulfilled—the same living Exegesis that reveals God and makes Him known among men.

That is the astonishing implication of the sending of the Spirit.  Those in whom Christ dwells now become part of that same exegesis of God that the Son of God was.

This is what the New Covenant assembly is all about, or ought to be.  The church—which was formed by the coming of the Spirit to individual disciples—is to be the fullness of that same Exegesis of God who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

 The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

The fullness of Him?  The church is His very body—the fullness of Him?  I am sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He “spake of the temple of His body” which He said He would raise up.  “The church, which is His body…”  The Devil thought to be rid of Him by the cross.  What he did, to his great chagrin, enabled God to lay in Zion the foundation Stone for an enlargement of that temple.  It began with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.  He comes for nothing less than to continue the same exegesis of God that the Son of God was when He was here.

That is the nature of Christ’s more excellent ministry of the New Covenant.  It is a ministration of the very knowledge of God, and thus, “all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11) .  This is something more than knowledge as we generally think of the word.  It is New Covenant knowledge: the kind of knowledge—the knowledge of God—whom to know means our being like Him.

How imperative, then, that we in the church, as ministers of the New Covenant (which all Christians are to be) give the Prime Minister of the New Covenant—the Holy Spirit—His lordship and pre-eminence in our individual lives, and in our gatherings.  He comes for nothing less than to reveal, to make known, the same God of love and righteousness that dwelt in the Son… so that the same exegesis of God now dwells in and shines forth from the churches—you and me and our brothers and sisters in the churches.

This is what the New Covenant, and the New Covenant assembly, is all about—or is supposed to be—the exegesis of God to a world in darkness.  Anything short of this… we are sorely missing His mark.

And it has to be said that much of what is called church in our day has in fact done that.  Has fallen short.  Has missed the mark.  Let the broken and repentant heart be encouraged.  Christ is still on the Throne at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit sent from the Throne is still in the earth.  The temple He inaugurated at Pentecost is still here, though in the midst of much that man has built cannot always readily be seen.  In fact her enemies are gloating these days that they have succeeded in destroying her and treading her down in the dust.  The Lord on the throne has a surprise in store for His enemies.  The power and principle of His resurrection life is still at work.  He continues to raise up this Temple—the One that was torn down on Calvary’s cross—just as He prophesied He would do.  He will beautify her, set living stones in her just like Himself.  He will yet be fully revealed, will yet shine forth in this temple in all His glory in the Heavens and in the earth…

…And all the confusion and debate and doubt and misunderstanding as to who He is—all the thick darkness—will vanish like the morning mist in the light of the sun.

The Shemitah Holds My Future?

Apparently the hearts of many Christians are all astir again these days over Jonathan Cahn’s exciting new book, The Mystery of the Shemitah. The blurb on the book’s  cover calls it, “The 3,000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future!”

Wow.  I better get a copy.  But fast; its sellers warn that it’s “flying off the shelves.”

Cahn’s previous book The Harbinger was a “runaway bestseller” on the New York Times Christian books list.  Looks like this one is on the way to joining it.

What is the shemitah? It’s the sabbath year as laid out in Leviticus.

When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather the fruit thereof;
But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field or prune thy vineyard (Lev. 25:2-4).

Failure to keep this and other things set forth in the Law would bring judgment (Lev. 26:34, 1 Chr. 36:21).

And so Cahn propounds that it is failure to observe the shemitah (pronounced shmeeta) that has caused cyclical devastation every seven years in the earth.  I have not read the book but saw it advertised on Charisma News along with an interview Sid Roth (It’s Supernatural) had with Jonathan Cahn.  So I watched the interview.  Cahn proclaimed to a very excited Roth that it is failure to keep the shemitahs that has brought down judgments upon the world in seven-year cycles going a long way back.  He listed several.  It included the world wars.  The Great Depression.  9/11 in 2001.  The last one was the financial crisis of 2008.  Apparently the next shemitah is from September 25, 2014 to September 13, 2015, which could bring down on us… who knows what.

There is only one little problem with this teaching.  It is entirely false.  It is derived from a covenant—the old covenant— that is no longer in effect.  Don’t take my word for it; get it straight from the writers of the New Testament:

 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (Heb. 7:18 NKJV).

In that He says, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first obsolete (Heb. 8:13 NKJV).

If we dare to believe our New Testament, then, the only covenant now extant with God is the New Covenant.  The covenant God made with the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is not a covenant independent of Christ; it is fulfilled in Christ and His New covenant (Acts 13:32-34, Gal. 4:16).  And (according to the verses quoted above) the covenant God made with Israel under the shadow of Mount Sinai is obsolete.  It is null and void.  It is no longer in effect.  According to an online site on legal definitions I checked out, “a void contract imposes no legal rights or obligations upon the parties and is not enforceable by a court. It is, in effect, no contract at all.”  And so the Sinai covenant, the old covenant, because it is void, because it has been annulled, cannot be enforced.  That would be tantamount to trying to enforce a business partnership that has been legally disbanded, or a marriage contract that has been nullified, or trying on the basis of an old title deed to lay claim to land that has been sold to someone else.

God has brought in a BETTER covenant now (Heb. 7:22, 8:6)—better not only for Gentiles, but for Jews (with whom, actually, it was first made).  As a result, the old contract is no longer in effect.

But even if the Old Covenant were still in effect there is not the slightest suggestion anywhere in the Bible that the shemitah was in force for any nation other than Israel.  In fact the Old Covenant was a covenant God made with Israel alone.  How then could the shemitah be something that “holds the secret of America’s future, the world’s future, and your future?”

I find it very distressing, even frightening, that so many Christians are being duped by this kind of teaching.

Distressing… because it is evidence of how grievously lacking they are in their understanding of the basic difference between the Old Covenant and the New; there is such a blindness, it seems, as to the astonishing terms of the New Covenant.  And many believe God still holds out the Old Covenant for Jews that don’t believe in Jesus, and they can still come to Yahweh on the basis of that covenant. It is a teaching that does despite to the blood of Christ.

Frightening… because (and I know I am generalizing) this present generation of charismatic/evangelical Christians has strayed far, far from the truth– God’s controversy is with their teachers– and as a result they are abysmally ill prepared for the hour that is at hand. I tell you, there is trouble at the door.  Great trouble.   And it is going to result in the great and frightening collapse of a realm of Christianity that ought to have prepared its people for that hour, but did not.

Jesus My Forerunner

I have been dwelling much these days on the significance of Christ being at the right hand of God, and, as one who is seeking to come to God by Him,  I am increasingly aware that His being there is as good as my being there… while I am yet here.

For, as I mentioned last time, God has made Him my surety.  He who is both a king and a priest is my surety—yes, my surety—that God will bring me into the same relationship with Himself that my surety enjoys.   For, He who is my surety is also a forerunner.

That’s what we discover earlier in Hebrews in another passage where we are told that Jesus is before God on our behalf.  He is a forerunner who has entered into “that place within the veil” on our behalf.

Whither a forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

As with the surety passage, this too speaks of the great assurance we have—God’s promise and His oath.  Here he is talking about the promise God gave Abraham, confirming the promise with an oath.

Wherein God, willing (that is, desiring) more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel confirmed it by an oath;
That by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong  encouragement who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us:
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil:
Where a forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:17-20).

What love.  He has entered there “for us.”  And notice the dynamic here—“we… who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us.”  On the one hand we are fleeing something—fleeing—running away from something with all our might. Running for our lives!  But not aimlessly; we are headed toward a specific destination, running to a refuge that is set before us, where we can lay hold of a hope that is set before us.

And so there is something behind us, and something set before us.  But our pace tells on us, whether or not we take this seriously.  Are we just ambling casually along, stopping here and there to enjoy “the good life” this world has to offer?  If so, it is apparent that we do not see the peril we are in.  We have not seen that this present evil world is not our friend.  Its god is intent on our destruction, and has laced all the things our carnal appetite loves to feed on with a sleeping potion that will keep us in the sleep of death.  Do we not see this?  It grieves me deeply that there are so many who do not see it… or, if they have seen, are determined to continue deceiving themselves so they can enjoy its pleasures for a few more seconds.

Some, who have awakened, and do see, have fled, as from a building on fire, have “fled for refuge…”  That is the strength of the original Greek word here; it is fleeing with a destination in mind.  Now we come to another strong word: “to lay hold of the hope that is set before us.” There is a hope set before us—the hope.  Have we laid hold of this hope?  It is an anchor of the soul that cannot drift, and cannot break, for it enters into that Place within the veil where a Forerunner has for us entered—even Jesus, whom God has made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  He is saying, actually, that it is the Forerunner within the veil to whom our hope is anchored, joined.  And He cannot be moved.

The Lord Jesus Christ our hope (1 Tim. 1:1).

I think we see this same forerunner a little later in Hebrews, where the writer exhorts us to run with endurance the race that is set before us “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:1,2).  He is there!  He has arrived!  “Where a forerunner is for us entered…”  But the significance of a forerunner is that other runners are about to arrive.  So, those in the bleachers on that side of the veil… I see them craning their necks to look behind the Forerunner to see who else is coming in.  Who would that be?

Forerunner for us, it says.  Are we running, then?  His being there is on our behalf—so that we might have strong encouragement, not just to hope, but to lay hold of the hope set before us—even that same relationship of eternal life that our Forerunner enjoys with His Father.  “Fight the good fight of faith,” said Paul, “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12).  It is the same eternal life that our Forerunner abides in—but abides in as a priest after the order of Melchizedek.  Meaning, He is there for our sake.  He is there (in the throne of God in the Heavens) in the power of an endless life, an indissoluble life, eternal life, His own eternal life, to the intent that you and I may live that same victorious eternal life—here on earth.  Christ has ascended to the Throne of God for this very reason—that in the power of His life we too might live.  “Because I live,” He says, “ye shall live also” (Jn. 14:19).

What wondrous words.  He lives—at the right hand of God, that we also, who are joined to Him by His Spirit, may live that same victorious eternal life right here on earth, might reign here on earth in the power of the throne of Heaven, reign in life, in the power of His own eternal life, in the midst of all we are going through…

…Right here in this present evil world.  Because, though we have fled this present evil world, though we are no longer part of it, though it is no longer our home, though we live in a realm above it all, we are not only kings, but priests.  We are still here for the sake of others around us, who, when their world collapses all around them, as it is going to, will be looking for a king and a priest.

 

Jesus My Surety

The book of Proverbs has several verses about surety, and they all have one thing in common.  They warn against suretyship.  Never, they say, never become surety for anyone else. Never.

What is surety?  It’s one of those old King James Version words which means making yourself responsible for someone else’s debt or venture.

Here is one passage from Proverbs:

 My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,
Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.
Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure (or, prevail with) thy friend.
Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.
Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler (Pr. 6:1-5).

Another is:

 A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend (Pr. 17:18).

Another:

 Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.
If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee? (Pr. 22:26,27).

Striking hands with the other person would be in modern finance the same as co-signing his loan.  Other translations of the passage in Ch. 6 have, “if you have made a pledge for your neighbour, and have become a guarantor for a stranger…” (NET); “if you have put up security for a neighbour,  given your pledge for a stranger…” (ESV).  Once you do this you are on the hook for what that person owes someone else.  You have committed yourself to your neighbour’s project, and if suddenly your neighbour is unable to follow through, or pay what he owes, it is you who are bound to complete the venture, or are in debt to some stranger.  In Bible days, even if you had to sell everything you own, or even yourself into slavery to keep the commitment, you were bound to do so.

And that is why the wise man said we should never get into any such commitment.  It could mean great loss to yourself, and there is no way out.  Once you have committed yourself to be surety for another, you are legally and morally bound to do so whatever the cost to yourself.

The thing is, after all of Solomon’s counsel advising us to never become surety for another… lo and behold, God Himself did this.

And that, I believe, is the very reason why we find all those passages in Proverbs warning us against suretyship.  It is so that we, who all too often are very unsure of God, will “get it.”  Suretyship is an unbreakable commitment?  Once you have made the commitment there is no way to back down, no way out of it?  God wants us to know that He was prepared to make this very commitment.  And did.

He entered into suretyship with us—that is, with those who look to Him for the fulfillment of the New Covenant in their lives.  God has made Jesus “the surety of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22).  He did this by the oath wherewith He swore that Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

 The LORD sware, and will not repent: thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek: By so much [that is, God’s oath] was Jesus made the surety of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22, see Ps. 110:4).

Jesus enthroned as a king at the right hand of God, and made a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, is God’s guarantee, God’s pledge, His oath—His surety—that He will make good the terms of His better covenant with you and me.  The only way He might fail in this is if something happens to our Surety, and Jesus is somehow deposed, or dies, and is no longer high priest.  Which cannot happen.  Christ our high priest is before God on our behalf “in the power of an indissoluble life” (Heb. 7:16).  So He cannot fail to fully mediate the New Covenant in the lives of those who believe Him for this.

And what are the terms of this covenant?  Simply put, when they are fully wrought in our lives, we in this world are just like our Surety who is before the throne in Heaven.  Yes, just like Him.  Having the same heart and mind.  The same righteousness. The same love.  The same relationship with the Father that He has.  A very tall order, no doubt.  But this is what we are sure of because He who was slain to redeem us is God’s surety before the very Throne of Heaven on our behalf.

 For thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood… and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth (Rev. 5:10).

Meaning that,  just as our great high priest reigns in the Heavens, we are a kingdom of priests who reign in the earth.  We manifest His kingdom in the earth—a kingdom that is over all.  We are priests here in the earth ministering this heavenly kingdom to those around us in the grip of the kingdom of sin and death.  For, since our Surety is dead to sin, and alive to God, we too are dead to sin and alive to God– with the same eternal life our Surety reigns in the power of.  It is life that reigns in all situations (Rom. 5:17).  You say you’ve been trying to do that but find the battle overwhelming?  I know all about it.  Let us not be discouraged; let us continue to fight the good fight of faith; victory is as certain as the Surety of the Covenant before the Throne.   He ever lives above to make intercession for us, and we who are in the earth, we too make intercession for the saints who are in this hard-fought battle.  It is the authoritative intercession of priests who are kings; it is effectual intercession because of the power of His indissoluble life.

Beloved, with all the uncertainty of our day, with evil unleashed (or so it seems) and even talk of being on the brink of World War III, one thing is certain.  God has given us a Surety.  That Surety is before His Throne.  His purposes in your life and mine, and in this troubled world of ours, are as certain as that Surety.  Just as certain.

And that is the only answer for this troubled world of ours.

Hear… And Live

I believe the secret of eternal life is hidden right here—“My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life…” (John 10:27,28).

I remember an experience I had years ago while we were visiting my mother-in-law in Calgary.  This goes back about thirty-five years, to 1980 or thereabouts.

We were visiting her in the house, and after a while I decided to go for a short walk down the street along the city sidewalk.  I walked down the block, and as I walked along, the thought came into my heart—and it was so clear, and the Presence of the Lord was in the thought—that death was not inevitable… if I could simply hear God saying, “Live.”

For, I asked myself, “What has more authority?  The commandment of the living God?  Or death?

I remember how exhilarating the thought was.  As I walked along, I was certain that if I could but hear His commandment, His Voice saying, “Live,” I need never die.  All I needed was to hear with the hearing of faith.  And then life, not death, is inevitable.

Very naive of me?  Young in the faith, and in need of teachers who could sit me down and wise me up?

But Jesus told Martha the very same thing, first saying that those who believe in Him, though they were dead, they would live (which most Christians believe to be true), but then continuing with, “whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:26).  To this last statement He appended a question.  “Believest thou this?”

That’s a hard one to believe.  Yet Paul talks of a day when “those who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them [with the dead who have been raised] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thes. 4:17).

So my thought on that city sidewalk was entirely scriptural.

However, there was a lot more to it than I realized that day; it was far from a lesson in theology that the Lord was speaking into my heart.

He was showing me—and I didn’t discover this for some time—that there is a domain of hearing His word that rules over and overrules the whole domain of sin and death in which the family of Adam is bound—so that, in hearing His Voice, I need not be subject to the law of sin and death, but am empowered to walk in Life, eternal Life.  “My sheep hear My Voice… and I give unto them eternal life.”

Death is far more than an event that terminates our mortal lives; it is the whole domain under which all those in Adam spend their lives from the moment they are born to the day they go to the grave.  The Good News is that there is realm of life in Christ over which death has no dominion.

And, there is a faith, a hearing of faith—not just in the moment I first heard His Voice and was born again, but a continual hearing—that enjoins me to that life, in fact joins me to Him who was once dead, and is now reigning in eternal life.

My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life…

There are things in the domain of Hell—the realm of the dead, the domain of sin and death—that are very tenacious.  The grip of sin, guilt, in the soul…  addictions of the body and the mind, thought patterns, the habit of ingrained thought patterns… all the domain of the carnal mind.  Which Paul says is itself death.  “For the mind of the flesh is death…” (Rom. 8:6).

Yes… but to hear His Voice calling out to us!

Bound down with twice ten thousand ties,
Yet let me hear Thy call;
My soul in confidence shall rise,
Shall rise and break through all.

And so God cries in Isaiah the prophet:

Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live…” (Isa. 55:3).

That is just what God is dropping into my heart these days.

Anticipate hearing His Voice afresh.

…Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David (Isa. 55:3).

What are the sure mercies of David?  According to the apostle Paul, it is resurrection life.

And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David’” (Acts 13:34).

This is an astonishing verse.  Remember that in the King James Version, ye and you are always plural pronouns.  So apparently God, in raising up His Son from the dead, fulfilled the ancient prophecy that says, “I will give you the sure mercies of David.”  Who are these—you—who receive the sure mercies of David, that is, resurrection life, because of the raising of the Son of God from the dead?

It is those who hear His Voice, and respond, and as a result are brought into New Covenant relationship with Him!

Let’s begin at Isaiah 55:1.

Ho!  Everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?  And your labour for that which satisfieth not?  Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

And so, in raising up His Son from the dead, God makes an everlasting covenant of life with the thirsty, the hungry, the poor, the weary…. who hear His Voice and simply come to Him.

Perhaps we say, “I don’t know how good my hearing is.”

But are we hungry?  Thirsty?  Spiritually impoverished?  Weary—tired of labouring to advance ourselves spiritually?  Then let us notice the steps.

1)     “Incline your ear…”  This is where we begin.  If we are unsure how good our hearing is, let us begin by at least inclining our ear to Him, training our ear in His direction, and not toward the world with its many voices constantly clamouring for our attention.  To put it another way, let us cultivate an ear to hear like we would a plant, watering it, and keeping the weeds out.

2)    “Come unto Me…”  It is a loving invitation.  “Come unto Me.”  He says to the hungry, “Come,” to the thirsty, “Come,” to the weary, “Come.”  Do we hear Him calling us?  “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (Jn. 6:37).

3)    “Hear, and your soul shall live,” He calls.  It is a quickening word, it creates the very hearing it calls for, imparts the very life it promises.

Years ago I had an old friend who lived in a seniors’ facility.  She was deaf, and those who visited her had to communicate by writing on a little notepad she kept.  I say she was deaf, but let me tell you, she was not deaf.  One day she gave me a bookmark on the back of which in her very shaky handwriting she had written a few lines from Psalm 143 beginning, “Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning…”

I treasure that bookmark, which I keep in my Bible; what she wrote on its back has been my prayer for years.  Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning—that is, Lord, Your Voice!  Which, as He speaks with quickening power, the sure mercies of David become mine– the faithful mercies, His covenant-love, His lovingkindness.  (It’s the same word in Hebrew, chesed.)

And this is my prayer in this hour, which many are beginning to recognize is a very early hour of a brand new day.  Let those of us who are watching for the morning be praying:

“Dear Lord, for our part, we are inclining our ear to You, recognizing how deeply we need to hear Your Voice in this hour when the morning is about to break on a world in gross darkness.  For your part, please cause us to hear Your Voice, cause us to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning!  For in Thee do we trust, for You are our beloved Shepherd David, and we are the beloved sheep of your pasture.  Cause us to hear Your Voice, our Shepherd!  We believe that in Your Voice is the grace to do things otherwise impossible for us to do.  Cause us to hear Your Voice!  We trust You; hearing your Voice we will follow You as You lead us in the realms of eternal life.”

We Are There Unto This Day

Christian teachers for centuries have seen in the old testament story of Israel crossing Jordan a shadow of the true baptism—baptism into Christ, which Paul sets forth in Romans Chapter Six.  It is a teaching that is fundamental to the Christian walk, yet all too often it is unfamiliar territory to believers.  It is left to the theologians to ponder while we do our best to get on with a practical life.

But we will get nowhere in life without what Christ accomplished in the Cross of Calvary becoming not just doctrine, but the reality we walk in.  And this is what Romans Six is all about.

Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6.4).

Baptism into Christ makes real in us what is real in Him.  What is real in Him?  First, that He died unto sin.

For in that He died, He died unto sin once (once for all) but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God (Rom. 6.10).

Christ died unto sin.  But Paul continues:

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through (Gk. en, meaning in) Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6.11).

Astonishing words!  You and I, dead unto sin just as Christ is dead unto sin?  Paul says we are to reckon it so.  To reckon means to account.  I think it was Watchman Nee who gave the illustration of a man who has a certain amount of money in his bank account.  He makes a transaction on the basis of this; he buys something, reckoning (accounting) on what he has in the bank.  He could not reckon this if he did not know it to be true.  This is why Paul talks about “knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him…” (Rom. 6.6).  We can only reckon on the basis of what we know is true.  It is true, it is a fact, that Christ died unto sin, and that our old man died with Him.  Knowing this we who are baptized into Christ can reckon ourselves to be just as dead unto sin as Christ is dead unto sin.  It is as true in us as it is in Him.  If it is true in Him, it is true also of those who are in Him.

And so going back to the story in Joshua, when Israel crossed through Jordan on dry ground, the Lord commanded that twelve stones from the midst of Jordan were to be set up as a memorial on the Canaan side of the river.  The twelve stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel, that is, the whole congregation, each and every one of them.  And twelve stones were set up in the midst of Jordan as well.

And they are there unto this day (Josh. 4.9).

“Dad,” says a young Israelite, as they walk along the bank of the Jordan, “what are these stones here for?”

“These stones,” Dad says, “are to remind us that the Lord brought us all through the Jordan on dry ground.  Right over there is where it happened,” says Dad, pointing.  “And do you know what else, son?  There are also twelve stones under the water over there, which the Lord commanded were to be set up in the midst of Jordan.  They are there to this day.”

So it is with us, beloved, when we were baptized into Christ.  We were baptized into His death—which is death indeed unto sin.  And we are there unto this day.

Let this truth—this fact—enlighten us with new-covenant light.  In Christ we are not dead unto sin one day and alive unto sin the next.  In Christ we are not still alive unto sin.  On the very day that we were baptized into Christ we were baptized into His death.  We were buried with Him in the Jordan waters of baptism.  And we are there unto this day.  We are dead unto sin.  We are no longer alive unto sin.  We are no longer sinners.  Sin has dominion over us no longer.  We are as dead unto sin as Christ.

In Christ we are dead unto sin.  We are buried with Him in baptism…

…And—if this is not wonder enough—also risen with Him (Eph. 2.6, Col. 3.1).

And therefore we are also seated together with Him in the heavenlies—the Canaan side of the Jordan.  We are in our inheritance now as He is in His inheritance!  We need no longer look behind us fearing some specter of sin might come up out of Jordan to haunt us.  This very day we are to “seek those things which are above,” that is, the things of our heavenly inheritance in the Spirit. This is God’s new-covenant commandment unto which we have been liberated.  With Joshua—Jesus—as our guide, this very day we can explore our eternal inheritance in the heavenlies a bit more.  We are to fix our minds on this, we are to have a one-track mind, and not be perpetually focusing on our sins that are buried (with ourselves as well) back there in the Jordan waters.  We are to “walk in newness of life” through the land of our inheritance a bit further—the length and the breadth of it, the depth and the height of it, overcoming every enemy that would stand against us along the way.

This is His order—His new creation order—for us today… if we will hear His Voice!

Light That Changes Us

We have been talking about walking in the light of our Lord and Saviour’s countenance.  It is light that changes us, as Paul shows when he compares the glory of the old covenant with that of the new.

Moses when he came down from the mountain after communing with God did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him (Ex. 34.29).  When the people saw him they shielded their eyes, could not look steadily into his face, could no more look on his face than look at the sun.

But then the glory on Moses’ face began to fade. So he covered his face.  He could not let the people see the fading glory—and he refused to minister without that glory.  So he went into the tent he had set up, and took the veil off while he communed further with the Lord.  Then, recharged as it were, he would come out and talk with the people again, till the glory began to fade again.

What Moses did was prophetic of the whole dispensation of the old covenant—and also of the blindness of the hearts of the people under that covenant.  Paul called the old covenant a “ministration of death” that would one day come to its end; its glory would come to an end.  But tragically, most of those who were bound under that covenant refused to acknowledge that it was over; there was a veil upon their hearts that prevented them from seeing that the Sinai covenant was history.

For, God had brought in a new covenant—one whose glory was never going to fade.  Those who drew nigh to God by this covenant would, with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ, and be transformed “into the same image from glory to glory.”

“To this day,” grieved Paul, that same veil remained on their hearts in the reading of the old testament.  We may well say in our day it is still there—even in the reading of the new testament.  For “the letter” of the Scriptures has no power to change; it is “the Spirit that gives life” (2 Cor. 3.6).

And so Paul adds this:

Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away (2 Cor. 3.16).

He has in mind Moses returning to commune with the Lord, and taking away the veil while he talked with Him.

Let us not miss what Paul says next.  With apostolic authority and Holy Spirit inspiration, he brings this old testament picture right up into the new covenant.  “Now the Lord,” he says, referring to this passage about Moses returning to commune with the Lord, “is the Spirit…”

It is in unveiling our hearts to the Spirit of the Lord that we discover the shining face of the Lord Himself.

And in this light what do we discover?

“…And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

What does he mean—liberty?  This.  The covenant of the law was a covenant that “gendereth to bondage” (Gal. 4.24).  The Sinai covenant brought forth children of bondage.  It was “a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5.1).  Rather than liberating from sin, it actually intensified sin in the heart of man, and brought them deeper into captivity to the law of sin and death (Rom. 7.23).  But the new covenant—the perfect law of liberty—minsters grace to the hearers and sets them free from the law of sin and death, empowering them with the quickening power of Life to do the will of God.  As Paul says in another place—and I wonder sometimes if this is not the most wondrous verse in the Bible:

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath set me free from the law of sin and death.

The new covenant walk is a walk in the Spirit, a walk in the light of His countenance.  A walk in liberty.  A transforming walk.

…Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
But we all with open (unveiled) face beholding as in a glass (mirroring) the glory of the  Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord (that is, the Lord the Spirit).

This is what the light of His countenance does as we walk in it.  It is new covenant light that changes us into the same image we see in the mirror.  It is true light, making true in us what is true in Him (1 Jn. 2.8).

Let us keep looking into this mirror!

Our Grave Is Behind Us

Last time we talked of the joyful sound, the Shout of Triumph—the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ– and the significance of walking in the light of His countenance.  The light in His face is Gospel light, new-covenant light, light that makes what is true in Him true also in us.  It enables us to walk even as He walks, no longer subject to the law of sin and death, but in the empowering sway of a new law, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

And it means that the same light of the Gospel that shines in the face of Jesus Christ shines forth from the faces of those who are beholding His face.

This is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.  He must shine forth.  Our world is in the grip of “sin’s dread sway” and the tentacles of death.  Oh for the Joyful Sound of the Gospel of eternal life to go forth in this hour proclaiming liberty to the captives!  Oh to go out with joy, and be led forth with peace—testifying, demonstrating in the power of the Spirit, that those who know the Joyful Sound—they live no longer under sentence of death.  They have been sentenced to Life!  Their grave is behind them, not before them.

Yes, they may “fall asleep in Jesus,” but death is no longer their lot.  And so, what joy!

I came across this gem in a book (When He Is Come) by A.W. Tozer recently, and want to pass it on.

The joy of the Holy Ghost is not something worked up—it is a post-resurrection joy.  Christ came out of the grave, and the Spirit of the risen Christ comes back to His people.  The joy that we have is the joy that looks back on the grave.  This is not a joy that we have in spite of the knowledge that we must die—it is a joy that results from the fact that in Christ we have already died, and risen, and there is no real death out there for the true child of God.

Astonishing words, but for those who know the joyful sound of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—it’s a fact.  They were buried with Christ in baptism; their grave is behind them now.  And being also risen with Him, they walk no more in darkness under the pall of death.  Now they walk in the light of His Countenance.  It may be as dark as the grave round about them, but right in the midst of it all they know His Voice and walk in the light of His shining face.

It is light, as I said, that liberates from the law of sin and death.  And so these ones—how beautiful are their feet upon the mountains!  Oh the message they have!  It is not just words; the way they walk and the Kingdom they walk in is their message.  It is Good News!  They proclaim by their very lives that their God reigns!  Not sin.  Not death.  Their lives proclaim that where once sin reigned in the power of death, now “grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5.21).

This is His promise—the promise of the Gospel.  The law of sin and death reigns in each and every one of those born in Adam.  All you have to do to find yourself under the law of sin and death is get born, and you don’t have any choice even in that.  But—oh the joyful sound—those born in Christ have been liberated from the law of sin and death!  They have entered the Kingdom of God, and a new Law rules in them now.  Sin and death no longer hold sway!  Now they walk in the liberating Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus!

Family of God, those of us who know the joyful sound, we are grateful, and forever shall be, for what our beloved Lord Jesus Christ accomplished in His Cross.  Yet even after all these centuries we have scarcely scratched the surface of this wondrous Gospel of the Kingdom, the Good News of our salvation.  Wondrous things and mighty triumphs are before us!  Let us take up our own cross, then, and follow with our Saviour, lifting up our eyes and walking in the light of His countenance– come what may.  The promise is that His kingdom of grace and eternal Life will ultimately overthrow the kingdom of sin and death till there is not so much as a trace of it left on this planet, and the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.

We Have A Faithful Mediator

It is a great encouragement to me in these unstable times to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ will be faithful to mediate the New Covenant.

With all the troubling things taking place in our world, with all the forebodings of dark things ahead, we need this assurance—that no matter what happens, He who sits on the highest throne in the universe has been given a mandate to fulfill a covenant in God’s chosen, and He will not rest till He has done so.

Who are the chosen?  They are those, whether Jew or Gentile, who have been brought into covenant relationship with God through their faith in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

And what is the covenant?

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts… (Heb. 8.10).

God made this covenant originally with the house of Israel, and then brought the Gentiles into it.  I am glad.

And what does the completed covenant look like?

It looks like a people who look just like Jesus Christ the Son of God Himself.

In fact Isaiah tells us twice that He Himself is the covenant.  Isaiah prophesies of a certain Servant, whom we know from the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and Acts 8.35 to be the Lord Jesus Christ.

Behold My Servant, whom I uphold, Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth… I the LORD have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thine hand, and will keep Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles… (Isa. 42.1,6).

Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped Thee: and I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages…” (Isa. 49.8).

The old covenant (no longer in effect) was the laws and statutes God gave Israel on Sinai.  The new covenant (now in effect) is the laws of God written within our very hearts and minds—that is to say, Christ Himself.  “I will give Thee for a covenant…”

This is why Jesus in His great high priestly prayer concludes by saying:

I have made known unto them Thy Name, and will make it known, that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them (Jn. 17.26).

Notice how He says that.  The love of God in them is one and the same thing as “I in them.”  That is the fulfillment of the new covenant in our lives—the same love that was in Jesus now in you and me, to the extent that it is actually Christ Himself come to full maturity in you and me.

And this is why John says that when love with us is made perfect (that is how the original Greek reads: “Herein is love with us made perfect…” 1 Jn. 4.17)  …when love-with-us is made perfect, or has come to full maturity, we shall have boldness in the day of judgment, “because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 Jn. 4.17).

Yes, in this world, and this is a time of judgment and great upheaval.

And this is why Paul says that God’s purpose is that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8.29).  And that nothing can hinder this purpose of God.  In fact, we know that God is working all things together for good in the lives of those who are called according to this purpose (Rom. 8.28).

What good, Paul?  What is this good that you have in mind?

For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8.29).

This is the good Paul is speaking of, the purpose God is working toward in this world, and He will cause all things to work together and help Him out in this great eternal purpose of His.

So whatever happens in these last days, whether cataclysmic world events, or troubles closer to home in our own lives and families, let us continue to embrace and rest in the promise, and keep our eyes and our faith fixed on Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

He will not fail nor be discouraged till He has accomplished the work God gave Him to do, and surveys it all, and says, “Perfect.  Amen.”

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