Old Covenant Vs New Life - Giving Covenant: a call to give new life to oneself and others
Through one sacrifice made by Christ on the cross by giving up his body and pouring out his blood, he has made perfect for ever those who are purified from sin. Thus, the defect in the Jewish Law (Heb.10: 1-4) was rectified by Jesus through his own blood that was poured out.
By K.L. Joseph
The Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament contains regulations for worship and religious ceremonies which were given by the Lord to Moses for observance by the priests and the people in the Ancient Israel. The Old covenant was made by God with the people of Israel after their emancipation from Egyptian slavery.
Aaron, brother of Moses was appointed by God as the High Priest. Aaron’s sons were made as the priests. Under the Old Covenant, sacrifices were carried out at the desert tabernacle. There were two tents set up for worship, one was called the outer tent and the other was called the inner tent. The outer tent was regarded as the Holy Place and the priests have to enter this tent everyday to perform their priestly duties. This tent had a lamp stand and a table with the bread offered to God.
The inner tent was set up behind a curtain and it was called the Holy of Holies ( Sanctum Sanctorum). In this tent, were a gold altar for burning the incense, a Covenant Box covered with gold and containing the gold jar with the manna in it, Aaron’s stick having sprouted leaves and two stone tablets with the commandments written on them. Above the Box, were the winged creatures representing God’s presence, with their wings spread over the place where the sins were forgiven.
There were animal sacrifices laid down in the Book of Leviticus under the Old Covenant for observance by the people, such as “ Offerings for Unintentional Sins (Chap.4.1-35); “Sacrifices Burnt Whole” (6: 8-13); “Sin- offerings (6: 24-30); “Repayment offerings (7: 1-10); and Fellowship-Offerings” (7: 11-38). Each sacrifice was laid down for a specific purpose. However, there cannot be a sacrifice for atonement of sins without shedding blood. So, the Old Covenant came into effect with the use of blood drained out of bulls and goats. First, Moses proclaimed to the people all the commandments as set forth in the Law. Then he took the blood of bulls and goats, mixed it with water, and sprinkled it on the Book of Law and all the people, using a sprig of hyssop and some red wool.
He said, “This is the blood which seals the covenant that God has commanded you to obey “. In the same way Moses also sprinkled the blood on the Covenant Tent and over all the things used in the worship. (Heb. 9: 19-21). The use of blood implied purification of everything, including forgiveness of the sins granted by God. This worship in the Inner Tent (Holy of holies) was done only once a year by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. On this day, he will enter this tent and offer sacrifice and intercede with God for himself and the people of Israel.
(The Jewish High Priest offering the sacrifice of a goat)
In chapter 10: 1-4 of his letter written to the Hebrews, Paul says the following: “The Jewish Law is not a full and faithful model of the real things to come; it is only a faint outline of the good things to come. The same sacrifices are offered for ever, year after year. How can the Law, then, by means of these sacrifices make perfect the people who come to God? If the people worshipping God had really been purified from their sins, they would not feel guilty of sin any more, and all sacrifices would stop. As it is, however, the sacrifices serve year after year to remind people of their sins. For, the blood of bulls and goats can never take away the sins.“
By that very fact, the Jewish Law cannot be considered to be perfect. How a mere live goat chosen by the Jewish High Priest Aaron for Azazel ( The word ‘ Azazel ‘ believed to be the name of a desert demon) can carry away all the evils, sins and rebellions of the people of Israel and free them of sins sans their repentance or penitential involvement? In this regard, Chapter 16: 20-22 of the Book of Leviticus tells us:
“When Aaron has finished performing the ritual to purify the Most Holy Place, the rest of the Tent of the Lord’s presence, and the altar, he shall present to the Lord the live goat chosen for Azazel . He shall put both his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the evils, sins, and rebellions of the people of Israel, and so transfer them to the goat’s head. Then the goat is to be driven off into the desert by a man appointed to do it. The goat will carry all their sins away with him into some uninhabited land “.
Jesus is the one, who was referred to in the Jewish Law as the faint outline of the good things to come. So, for this reason, when Jesus was about to come into this world, he said to God (Heb.10.5-7): “You do not want sacrifices and offerings, but you have prepared a body for me. You are not pleased with animals burnt whole on the altar or with sacrifices to take away sins. Then I said, “Here I am, to do your will, O God, just as it is written of me in the book of the Law.”
Jesus knew that God was not really pleased with the animals burnt whole on the altar or with the sacrifices so offered with the blood of bulls or goats. Martyrdom can not be established by pouring out the blood of Goats and Bulls. A true martyr is the one who undergoes penalty of death for persistence in Christian faith or obedience to law of Church, or undergoes death or suffering for any great cause. So, Christ did not go in to offer many times, for then he would have to suffer himself many times ever since the creation of the world. So, he said to God, “Here I am, O God, to do your will”. So, God did away all the animal sacrifices under the Old Covenant and put the sacrifices of Christ in their place in the New Covenant (Hebrews 10. 9). In place of the blood of bulls and goats, Christ offered his own blood once and for all to remove sin through his persecutions, sufferings and sacrificial death on the cross, all for a great cause. Thus, through one sacrifice made by Christ on the cross by giving up his body and pouring out his blood, he has made perfect for ever those who are purified from sin. Thus, the defect in the Jewish Law (Heb.10: 1-4)) was rectified by Jesus through his own blood that was poured out.
The New Covenant sealed with the blood of Jesus, apart from granting forgiveness of sins to the people, will also ensure raising of the dead like Christ on the day of the last judgement for their salvation (Matt. 25: 31-46). This eternal salvation through resurrection would not have reached to us through the blood of bulls or goats as per the Old Covenant. Because the Old Covenant consists of only a written Law, but not of the spirit. The written law brings death, but the Spirit gives life. The New Covenant sealed with the blood of Jesus consists of his life giving spirit. Chapter 3: 7-9 of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians glorifies the New Covenant by saying the following: “If the Law, which brings death when it is in force, came with such glory, how much greater is the glory that belongs to the activity of the spirit! The system which brings condemnation was glorious; how much more glorious is the activity which brings salvation!”
Christ before leaving this world to be with his heavenly father, wanted the mankind to remember his sufferings and sacrificial death on the cross. He, therefore, set up the Holy Eucharist under his New Covenant for the people of this Earth for daily worship in remembrance of the last supper he had with his disciples in which the bread he broke and ate with his disciples signified his body and the cup from which they drank signified the blood that he poured out for the forgiveness of the sins of the people to ensure their salvation.
The Old Covenant was meant for the people in the ancient Israel. However, the New Life Giving Covenant by Christ through his sufferings and sacrificial death on the cross was meant for the liberation and salvation of the whole humankind. Any one, who believes in Christ and calls his name, will be saved from damnation. Soul of such person shall never perish. Because this New Life Giving Covenant has come in fulfilment of God’s promise to save the people from sins through his son and saviour Jesus.
(Image/Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia.com, Pixabay.com)
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