Week of Dec. 15

God’s Table of Fellowship is Eternally Yours

Read: Hebrews 9-11

“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”
Hebrews 9:15, ESV


It has been said, “In the old covenant the blessing was initiated by you; in the new covenant, the blessing is initiated by God” (Paul A. Adefarasin). Covenant! Yes, it represents the eternal bond between our God and our lives. It would be impossible in a few short paragraphs to encapsulate the aim of the new covenant in Christ but that should not prevent us from making an attempt (I’m laughing). Our writer tells us that Christ established a new covenant; one about which Jeremiah had prophesied (Hebrews 8:1-9:28, esp. 8:6-8, “enacted on better promises”; See also Jeremiah 31:31-34). Nothing about the covenant should catch us by surprise because God stated it clearly throughout the Old Testament and through the Son in the New Testament (See the Gospels). Let’s consider today the blessings of the new covenant in Christ.

A Biblical Lens

Tommy Lea, a wonderful, former Southwestern Seminary professor and Christian gentleman, who is now with the Lord, writes that the new covenant provides three benefits for those who live beneath its authority: 1) it gives people a “new awareness of God’s laws and a new nature by which to obey God” (8:10b; “put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts”); 2) it gives a “personal knowledge of God” that inspires loyalty and commitment to Him (8:11, “they shall all know me”); 3) it provides a complete forgiveness of sins” [emphases mine] (8:12, “I will remember their sins no more”; HCBC, 623-24). Christians, according to Dr. Lea, have inherited these benefits in their relationship with God! The heart of the covenant is critical for our assurance.

Jesus died to redeem his people from their sins that had kept them separate from God and at odds with one another (cf. Ephesians 2:13-16). The writer tells us that he accomplished this salvation by shedding his blood in our behalf (9:11-14). It is possible to read the “therefore” in 9:15 by looking at what precedes it; meaning, Christ cleanses us from dead works where we tried to merit our redemption by his blood (9:13-14). The word “therefore” could also point forward to Christ’s mediation.  Christ did this work so that “the called” may receive the inheritance (cf. 1 Peter 1:3-5) [EBC]. “Those who are called” reminds us that all of this saving work in our lives is the result of God’s initiative. So, we are to say “bye-bye” to the old way of seeking to merit God’s favor! Jesus, as we sing, paid it all, and all to Him we owe.

Lastly, the writer states, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way. . .let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance. . .” (Hebrews 10:19-22). The saving action of God through the Son should give us full assurance of God’s presence. Now, you may have wiped your foreheads and said beneath your breath, “Whew, this Ashlock fellow has worn me out with this deep stuff today. Give me some air!”

Breathe my next words in deeply, then live them. The former High Priests would not linger in the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement lest the people become frightened that God had struck them dead. Christians, however, should approach God confidently (not disrespectfully!). We are to be completely at home in His presence by virtue of Christ’s saving work.

A Moral Crossroad

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) represents a new trade covenant between the three nations. It seeks to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The independent, International Trade Commission (ITC) provided an analysis of the agreement and showed that it will increase “U.S. employment by 176,000 jobs and is projected to increase GDP by $65.2 billion (0.35 percent)” (Tradeology).

Of course, this is a devotional and not a blog on international trade economics, so this begs a key moral question: How will our bordering neighbors benefit from the arrangement? Covenants are, after all, relational agreements. I raise this moral question to illustrate that not all covenants are equally balanced. Supposedly, the other nations will benefit economically by removing governmental trade barriers in the form of tariffs. Such taxes, roughly speaking, were the “sacrifices” required to gain access to free trade. Those have been removed. Get it?

On a much deeper spiritual level, we need to make sure that when we herald “free access” to God in Christ that we make certain not to hinder this new freedom by leaving in place the burden of meriting God’s approval.

For Your Heart

Funny, but this passage reminds me of a wonderful fellowship meal that I enjoyed recently with dear friends. We laughed, discussed the past, present, and future, and lingered well past the time that I would typically spend at a meal. It was lovely! However, I grew concerned that we had remained too long at the table and had deprived our waiter of the tips that other diners might have given to him. I sought him out to give him a “little extra” and apologized that I had overstayed my welcome. He smiled and told me that that was never a concern; and, he meant it. You, in Christ, will never overstay your welcome in God’s holy presence. He wants you there.

For Your Journaling

1. I feel certain that some of you may hear still an “inner voice” that says, “Yes, but I did ‘this’ in my past, so I must do ‘this’ in the present.” Take a moment to reread aloud chapters 9-10 and place your name in chapter 10, verse 19 where the writer addresses the “brothers.” Accept the truth that you have eternal access to the Father through the Son.

2. This next assignment will take some time, but I ask you to become aware of ways that you may be sending the wrong message to others about their access to God. Take a week to observe quietly how you are “discipling” your family members, life group, and even other Christian friends. Make sure that you are teaching the new covenant and not inserting parts of the old into your message.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock