Friday, April 01, 2016

The Vision (4.1.16): Led by his hand

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday morning's sermon on Hebrews 8:7-13.

Hebrews 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For 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: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

In v. 9 the inspired author declares that the new covenant in Christ will not be like the old covenant (see v. 9a).  I love the striking image here, drawn from the account of the great exodus from bondage in Egypt.  God had been like a father to Israel, leading the nation as a father does a small child “by the hand.”

Every parent here has had the experience of leading or attempting to lead a child by the hand.  Maybe you are taking a child across a busy road or over a narrow bridge and you firmly grasp the child’s hand lest he come into danger and be harmed, struck by a car, or fall from the bridge.  Does the child typically turn to the father and say, “Oh, thank you for taking my hand and guiding me safely.  Thank you for your paternal care and love and provision for me.”?   No.  What does the child often do?  He tries to twist and pull his hand out of your hand, so that he can walk on his own. He wants freedom.  He wants liberty.  He wants autonomy.  He does not want your oppressive hand holding him back from his full self-expression.  And Israel of old had been like that willful and disobedient child (see v. 9b).  This is also where the analogy breaks down, because a human parent can also sometimes be wrongly willful and overbearing. But here the fault is all, totally, on one side.

Notice also the emphasis here on God’s response to willful Israel:  “and I regarded them not.”  The verb here is ameleo:  to disregard, to neglect, to reject.  The NIV renders it as “I turned away from them.”

Matthew Poole explains the verb’s meaning:  “I took no care of them.  I did neither esteem or regard them, but cast them off from being my people for their lewd, treacherous covenant breaking with me; they would not return unto me, and I rejected them from being my people, or a people as they were before.”

Well has it been said that the worst thing that can happen is not necessarily for God actively to chasten a person, but sometimes the greater judgment is when he allows a person to go his own way, when he gives him over to his own sinful and rebellious inclinations.

Later, in v. 10a, we read:  “And I will be to them a God and they shall be to me a people.”  This speaks to the fulfillment of a quest we might trace back to the very beginning of God’s covenant relationship to Israel.  Of course, God would still be God even if no human being ever acknowledged his Godhood but what is envisioned here is the ideal of a people who acknowledge God to be who God is.  A people who acknowledge themselves to be his own, as expressed in Psalm 95:7:  “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”

It envisions a people who are not twisting their hand and trying to break away from the Father’s protective guidance, but who turn to him in ready and humble submission. They do not shake their puny fists and him and say, “You can’t tell me what to do” but they turn in humble submission and say, “Lord, please tell us what to do and how to be.”

May we have this new covenant spirit toward our God through Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeffrey T. Riddle

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