This week we are looking for the new covenant in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Most Christians have a tendency to think about the Old Testament as being all about the old covenant, and the New Testament all about the new. That is generally true, but it doesn’t mean there is no new covenant in the Old Testament and no old covenant in the New. The old covenant in the New Testament is represented primarily by the Pharisees who based their righteousness on the law and their supposed following of the law by twisting of the truth around their own arrogance.
But the new covenant is all over the Old Testament as well, to the point that anyone who only had the Old Testament to go by should have been able to figure out that there was something more than just following the law that would make people right before God. Almost every time there is a declaration of God’s judgment on the children of Israel in the Old Testament for not following the law, there is, not far behind it, some statement of His mercy, His forgiveness and His maintaining of a remnant whose faithfulness to Him is not something of their own doing, but a guarantee of His.
One of the songs in the New Covenant musical that we are happy to re-introduce this week is taken from the prophecy of Zechariah, the priest in the temple whose newborn son would become John the Baptist. Upon John’s presentation in the temple for his circumcision, Zechariah’s prophecy declared the coming of a new way including salvation, peace, deliverance from fear, forgiveness from sin, and a holiness and righteousness that comes not by following the law but by the Holy Spirit — all of this made possible not by anything we can do, but by the tender mercies of God.
Blessed be the God of Israel
Who accomplished our release
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
To guide us into peace
As He spoke through the mouth of the prophets of old
Deliverance from our fears
To give His people the knowledge of His love
By forgiveness of their sins
The words He spoke through Abraham our father
Still remain to this day
In holiness and righteousness before Him
We shall live all our days
The tender mercies of our God
With sunrise from on high
Shall visit us in the shadow of death
To guide us into peace
– From the prayer of Zechariah, Luke 1:68-79
Look at the references here: Abraham, and the prophets of old. This is no new news. They’ve known about this all along. Read the Psalms and it will soon become quite evident that David is not trusting in his ability to follow the law, but in the mercy and forgiveness of God to cover his many shortfalls. The new covenant is all over the Old Testament because it is, in any time and place, the only way we come into a relationship with God.
The old and new covenants are not so much a designation of seasons, or what theologians call dispensations, as they are a designation of the way we come to know God. For each one of us, these covenants are old and new based on human nature. It’s natural for us to start out trying to please. We do this with our parents, our teachers, our employers, and ultimately with God. We try to follow and fail, and finally throw ourselves at God’s mercy because we have no other choice. Our failure to make the old one is what qualifies us for the new. It’s always been this way, and it makes no difference whether it’s before, or after Christ. Christ’s blood covers everyone.