What does God want to give us more than anything? To walk well with God, we must understand the new covenant answer.
By Doug Reed
For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow. And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
A key concept in understanding our relationship with God is the idea of covenant. The Bible is divided into the new and the old testament. The old is by and large the story of the old covenant, and the new testament is the story of the new covenant. The book of Hebrews is written to describe the differences between the two covenants and to show how the new is superior. At the end of the book the writer gives a marvelous comparison of the two covenants by using of the example of two mountains, Sinai and Zion. Hebrews tells us that we have not come to Mount Sinai which represented the old covenant with all of its fears but to Mount Zion and all of its glory.
In the first article in this series our topic was “Know your Mountain.” we talked about how important it is to know our covenant with God. We must not try to walk with God like we were still under the old covenant, but instead walk in the freedom of the new
In this article our subject is “Know your Blessing.” When it comes to blessings, the emphasis is different in the new covenant than it was in the old. What does God want to give us more than anything? Someone under the old covenant might answer this question differently than someone under the new. If we are to walk well with God, we must understand the new covenant answer.
Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:29-35)
Misunderstanding God’s new covenant blessing certainly created problems in John chapter six. This passage takes place over a period of two days. The first day Jesus deals with physical things. The old covenant blessings were primarily material. God promised that if they obeyed, their bellies would always be full. They would always have enough. The old testament manna from heaven filled the stomach and could satiate physical hunger. On the first day Jesus gave such a miracle. He took five loaves of bread and two fish and multiplied them to feed the people. The second day, Jesus offers them the new covenant blessing. The blessings of the new covenant are primarily spiritual. They fill not the belly but the soul. On the second day Jesus wanted to give them the new covenant manna from heaven. Our new covenant blessing is that second day blessing. To help us understand this concept, let us compare and contrast the two types of blessings.
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel.
Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory.
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. Joshua 1:1-7
In the book of Joshua we see one of the central blessings of the old covenant. God promised His people a land in which to dwell. In other words, He gave them a piece of real estate. Not only that, He promised them prosperity. We read in places like Deuteronomy 28 that they would be rich, prosperous, and that their enemies would not triumph over them. How were they to enter into the promise? Boldly! God had given it, now they were to possess it, and they did. So, God’s great old covenant blessing was a physical kingdom you could see on a map.
Now, lets flash forward over a thousand years to the time of Christ. Were the people still in possession of the old covenant promise? No, not really. In the 9th century BC Israel divided into two nations. The Northern kingdom of Israel was lost to the Assyrians in the 8th century BC. The Southern kingdom of Judah was lost in the sixth century BC to the Babylonians. God’s people came home after years of exile, but they never really obtained the old covenant promise again. They were dominated by one empire after another, and finally in the first century BC the Romans came. Rome levied taxes so high that people were having to sell the land God gave them to pay up. Some fell well below the poverty line, living even off of grass and the bark on trees. It seemed the promise was no where in sight.
Then in John chapter six Jesus comes on the scene, and what does He do? He fills their bellies. The people thought Jesus might be the chosen one who would bring back the glory of old covenant Israel. We know they thought such things, because on the first day they tried to make Jesus their king.
On the second day the excitement was growing. Yet, this time Jesus offered a very different blessing. He sought not to lead them into the old covenant blessing but into the new covenant blessing of God.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:4-7
The old covenant Joshua was a type of a greater Joshua to come. The old covenant Joshua led the people into a land. Where does the greater New Covenant Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ, take us? Our promised dwelling is not a land but the presence of God. Our inheritance is not a visible kingdom but the kingdom of God. It is interesting that the Old Covenant people of God were commanded to enter boldly into the land of promise. Hebrews four tells us that we are to “…come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The Throne of Grace was the mercy seat in the Holiest of Holies. To be there was to be in God’s presence.
The nature of the blessing changes in the New Covenant. The old covenant treasures were earthly; they could fill a person’s physical belly. Jesus spoke far more of treasure in heaven than earthly treasure. Paul said we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. These gifts can do what the material blessing never can. They can fill the soul.
It is no wonder people in Jesus’ day had trouble with the idea of the kingdom of God. They did not understand their blessing. It was not the manna Moses gave but the manna from heaven which comes through Christ. They wanted God to give them something of the earth. Yet, God wanted to give them something from heaven, His Son. He wanted to give them a kingdom that could not be found on a map but in the heart. God’s great gift was not the “good life” but the life of Christ.
Moreover, many not only misunderstood the nature of the new covenant blessings, they also misunderstood the means by which they came. Like many today they thought if we get what we want or need we will be full. The way to be somebody important is to be more important than others. The way to be free from our enemies is our enemy’s destruction or harm. If we believe these things, we can amass earthly treasure. Yet, can we find heavenly treasure this way? The way of the kingdom is different. The way we become full is by being given. The way we become somebody important is to count others more important than ourselves. The way we become free from our enemies is to forgive them. If we believe these things, our lives will be full of heavenly treasure.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33
Does the New Covenant and the kingdom of God say anything about material blessings? Yes, of course it does. God knows we need things to get by. However, things are only a secondary blessing in the kingdom of God. Heavenly treasure is primary.
If we don’t’ understand this simple truth, we can experience much confusion in our relationship with God. We think we need something to be happy. We may even wonder why God does not give us what we want. “Doesn’t God see that I am unhappy? Why doesn’t he give me what I want?” Why didn’t He give the people more bread and fish the second day in John chapter six? That is what they wanted. Why didn’t He give them what they wanted? It is because He knew what they needed. They needed Him and His kingdom to fill their lives.
We are no different. God wants us to be full, but He knows only the new covenant blessing can fill us. So, it is vital that we understand our blessing. Not understanding the nature of their blessing caused many in the first century to turn their backs on God. It can trouble our relationship with the Lord as well. Let us therefore understand our blessing and seek it first, and all these things shall be added to us.
Other articles in this series