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Let's turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 1. In our ongoing study of Luke, we have arrived at the last section of the first chapter. And as you know, we have slowed down significantly because of the nature of this material. The last section starts in verse 67 and is a song of salvation given by Zacharias when he was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied.
You remember the scene. Zacharias, the old priest, was married to Elizabeth. The two of them had never been able to have children but in their old age, in their 60s or 70s or perhaps even in their 80s, God allowed a miracle of conception and Elizabeth in her old age became pregnant, carried the boy to full term and gave birth. The boy born of this union, born to this barren couple in their old age was none other than John, John who became known as John the Baptist, John the prophet, who was the forerunner of the Messiah. He was the one who would announce the Messiah's arrival. He was the one who would identify the Messiah, point to the Messiah. He was the one who would prepare the people for the Messiah's coming.
When Zacharias gives this song of praise, he's holding this little baby, John, in his arms who is perhaps eight-days old because it was on the eighth day that they all got together for the circumcision of that child according to the Mosaic law.
Zacharias, holding in his arms the little baby, his own son, knowing that this is the prophet of God, the first prophet in over 400 years, this is the last Old Testament prophet, this is the forerunner of the Messiah, this is the one who will announce the Messiah, point to the Messiah, prepare the people for the Messiah, he knows also that the Messiah is not far behind. In fact, he has already met the mother of the Messiah, the virgin, Mary, the young 13- or 14-year-old girl who was given a child, planted in her womb by the Holy Spirit without a man — that is a virgin conception — that young Mary has just spent three months in the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth. So he knows full well that she is pregnant, the Messiah is already being formed in her womb. The forerunner is born. The Messiah is only a few months behind. He also knows that it will be a few years after that for those two to develop, perhaps twenty years, and the prophet John will begin to announce the Messiah and the Messiah will begin His great and glorious work.
All Israel had been waiting for the Messiah because they tied all the fulfillment of blessing to the Messiah. All the hopes of the promises to Abraham would be fulfilled in Messiah. All the hopes of the promises to David would be fulfilled in Messiah. All the promises of the New Covenant salvation to the nation would be fulfilled in the Messiah. And so Zacharias knew this because he knew the Old Testament. Upon the arrival of his own son, miraculously conceived, he realizes that God is doing miracles. He realizes a prophet for the first time in 400 years is on the scene. He realizes that angels are active among men for the first time in over 400 years and miracles are happening and they haven't happened for 500 years, at least he would have to reach that far back in redemptive Scripture to find one. So this is a monumental moment in the life of Zacharias and he pours out this unique hymn of praise here which pulls together the Old Testament Covenants: The Davidic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant.
Now we know about that. Verse 68, his song realizes that redemption has come. Salvation has come and that God has raised up a horn of salvation, that horn simply means power, strength, and refers to the Messiah. He is looking at the fact that the Messiah is coming, the Messiah will be the great power of salvation who will bring redemption. He further identifies the Messiah, verse 69, as coming in the house of David and fulfilling the great Davidic promise that Israel would be delivered from their enemies and the hand of all who hated them. That is they would have their own kingdom. They would have their own ruler who would reign over Israel and the whole world. So he sees the arrival of Messiah as the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.
He also sees the coming of Messiah as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. In verse 73...or verse 72 he refers to the holy covenant, the oath which God swore to Abraham that He would grant us that we might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. The Abrahamic Covenant was a covenant of blessing, of peace, prosperity, righteousness, reigning, and ruling in the Promised Land. God had made this promise of a kingdom to David and this problem...this promise of a land, an inheritance and peace and prosperity and blessing to Abraham, and the Jews knew that it was all tied to the coming of Messiah and here Messiah was on the horizon, and Zacharias, not alone, but for all who looked for redemption in Israel could anticipate the fulfillment of the Davidic and Abrahamic Covenant promises.
But as I've been saying to you, there's a third covenant that he refers to here and it begins to be identified in verse 76. And we looked at verse 76 last time, we won't go over it again. Here Zacharias, holding in his arms perhaps the little child John, looks in his little face and says, "You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways." And that's exactly what John was to do. And when the Messiah comes, what's He going to do? Well, He's going to bring the fulfillment of the New Covenant, first of all, that in verse 77 is to give His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. The main feature of the New Covenant, which is not included in the Abrahamic Covenant, not included in the Davidic Covenant, and certainly not included in the Mosaic Covenant, or Sinaitic Covenant, the law given at Sinai, is the forgiveness of their sins. This will come because of the tender mercy of our God with which the sunrise from on high shall visit us to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death to guide our feet in the way of peace.
The New Covenant is the covenant that brings the forgiveness of sin. The New Covenant is the covenant that brings the personal experience or personal knowledge of salvation. The New Covenant is the covenant that extends God's tender mercy or grace to us. The New Covenant brings the sunrise that shines on our darkness and delivers us from the shadow of death and leads us in the way of peace. This is all New Covenant language. And so we've come then in our study of these three covenants to the New Covenant.
Now let me help you to understand the New Covenant. There would be a number of ways to approach it and I've thought about it a lot for the last few weeks and I've landed on a way that I hope will be most helpful to you. Stay with the flow of this as I play the role of the theologian a little more here.
Let's start at a point we can all understand. One truth that the Bible makes abundantly clear, one truth the Bible makes unmistakably clear is that all men are sinners, all men are sinners and that their sin is not just a behavioral problem. It is not just an attitudinal problem. It is a deep-seated flaw in their nature. It's not a matter of just how they act, or how they speak. It's a matter of what they are. Just as we have five senses physically, we have some non-physical components: Emotion, thought, will, and sin. It's endemic, it's systemic, it's in the fabric of man by virtue of the Fall. In Adam, who sinned, the whole race was plunged into sin because Adam was cursed and passed on that curse to all who came from him.
So, man is sinful and it's not just a minor problem. Jeremiah 17 says he's deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, desperately wicked. That tells you the depth of his wickedness. The breadth of his wickedness defined in Romans 3, "There is none righteous, no not even one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks for God.
All have turned aside, together they have become useless. There is none who does good. There is not even one. Their throat is an open grave. With their tongues they keep deceiving. The poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their paths and the path of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes." I mean, that's just a very comprehensive description of the endemic, systemic sinfulness of man.
Now in Romans chapter 7, Paul calls this presence of sin, and it's important to follow this, the law of sin, the law of sin. He says there is a law in us called the law of sin and it's in me, he says, it's in my flesh. Now let me use that metaphor "law" to help you to explain the issue here.
Paul does use the term "law" metaphorically because it expresses something with power, something with authority, something that controls so that the law of sin, or the word "law" is used not so much as we normally might use it when we talk about a law written on a book, but more the way we talk about it when we talk about an operative principle such as the law of gravity. When we say the law of gravity, we're not talking about something that is a standard to be lived up to, we're talking about a force, and that's the way the apostle Paul uses the term "law." Sin is a force that is in us. It is a law that is in us. And I think it's important to understand that. It's an operative principle. It's not just a moral rule that's sort of out there. It's not just a moral rule that is established externally. We're not talking about that. It's not just the idea that somehow we fall short of that standard. It is that there is in us a force, there is in us a power. Like the law of gravity, it bends us, it draws us, it pulls us toward itself.
In that sense hunger is a law because it has the power to drive us, to compel us. Thirst is a law, it has the power to drive us and compel us. Sexual desire is a law because it has the power to drive us and compel us. Fear is such a law. Anger is such a law. Sorrow is such a law. Because they impel us, they bring a force to bear upon us that ends in a certain kind of behavior.
Well indwelling sin is that kind of force. It entices us. It pushes us. It manipulates us. It bends us. It dominates us. It controls us. And the law of sin doesn't work from the outside like other laws, it works from the inside. We have a lot of laws on the outside. They're all around us, all kinds of laws. Laws in the Bible that God has established, laws in society, standards and rules in our careers and our business and our workplace and schools or wherever else we live out our daily lives, standards that we adhere to in our home, we have a lot of external demands, commands, laws, rules, standards, and so forth. We're not talking about that. We're talking about a principle that is a force that is in us. In Romans 7 Paul says, "The law of sin is in me.” It is in me. It is living in me. It is in the fabric of my humanity.
And listen to this, no promises from God, however good they are, no promises from God, however often they are repeated, no promises from God, no matter how attractive they are, no promises from God, no matter how clearly understood, no promises from God at all can overpower the law of sin. Did you get that? That's very important to understand. They can't do that. And let's turn it over. No threats from God, no matter how powerful, no matter how formidable, no matter how frightening, no matter how fearful, no matter how permanent, no matter how deadly, no matter how eternal, no threat from God can overpower our disposition to do evil.
So, you can take the whole law of God, the whole Mosaic law, the whole righteous standard that God laid out in the Old Testament, take the book of Exodus, take the book of Deuteronomy, list everything there that God requires, put it in front of your face, read it, memorize it, and it will have no effect on you because it cannot from the outside overpower the force on the inside. Or take the Ten Commandments, just reduce it like Dr. Laura does and holds it up in front of society. Here it is, folks, here's the ten. You may agree with them, you may think they're good, you may think they're helpful, you may really desire to keep them. Forget it. You can't, because even though it is the law of God, even though it is written by God Himself, even though it comes with divine authority, divine clarity, and divine precision, you can't keep it. Or maybe you'd like to just reduce it to the simplest point and that's the first and second commandment, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself," which in effect is the fulfilling of the whole law. Hang that in front of your face, memorize that, believe that and try to apply that. Can't be done; no sinner can do that.
When God gave the promise to Abraham and said, "I'm going to bless you, I'm going to give you the land, I'm going to bless you, I'm going to make you prosperous, I'm going to bless you and through you bless the whole world, I'm going to make your life rich beyond any other nation," when God made that promise to Abraham, that promise in itself had no ability to make those people obey so that they could receive that promised blessing. And when God made the promise to David and through David to the nation Israel that some time Messiah would come and He would be of the line of David, the royal seed, and He would take up the throne in Jerusalem, He would establish His rule in Jerusalem, and He would bring peace to Israel, He would destroy all their enemies and He would rule over Israel and they would have the kingdom, the glorious wondrous kingdom promised. Not only would they be ruled by Messiah, but the Messiah ruling over Israel and through Israel would rule the entire world and that His kingdom would be everlasting, when God hung that glorious promise out in front of them and asked them to obey, it was impossible for them to do that no matter how wonderful that promise was, no matter how glorious it would have been to receive all of the promises of Davidic blessing and Abrahamic blessing. There wasn't anything in the Davidic Covenant and there wasn't anything in the Abrahamic Covenant that could overpower the force that was in them. There was nothing that could cause them to live their lives in a way that would bring them into the place where they would be able to receive those blessings.
You say, "What about the Mosaic Covenant?" No, the Mosaic Covenant was even worse because the Mosaic Covenant just heightened their sinfulness. God laid out all of the laws. The law told them to obey. The law says if you obey I will bless you, if you don't I'll curse you. They couldn't obey because they had a force within them. They had the law of sin operative within them. And all the law did was serve to demonstrate their inability to obey. All it did was show the depth and hopelessness and pervasiveness of their sinful hearts. And it showed that what they really needed was mercy and grace and forgiveness, which, by the way, was not provided in the Mosaic law.
So, when God made promises to David that there would come the great King in the line of David, from David's royal line, that the great King, Messiah, would come someday and set up the glorious throne of royalty in Jerusalem and He would set aside all the enemies of Israel, He would bring Israel freedom from all its enemies, a kingdom like no kingdom had ever been, a kingdom from which Messiah would rule the entire world and He would never relinquish that rule again, He would rule for a thousand years on the earth and then establish the eternal kingdom from which He would rule, over which He would rule forever and ever, when He promised that, they were thrilled to death about that, they wanted to see that happen. They longed for that to happen.
The problem is, they didn't have the ability in their own hearts to meet the conditions to bring it about. And when God promised to Abraham a great nation and a land, a people and prosperity and peace and blessing to them and through them to the world, they wanted that. They longed for that. They associated that with Messiah and that's why Zacharias gets excited because he sees the Messiah coming and with the Messiah is going to come Davidic fulfillment, Abrahamic fulfillment. But, you see, before they could ever receive the promises made to David, or the promises made to Abraham, they had to deal with one huge issue. They were on God's bad side because they kept violating the Mosaic Covenant.
They couldn't keep His law. No matter how great the promises, and no matter how frightening the threats, external promises even from God and external threats even from God can't overpower the bent of the human heart. And the Mosaic law just made it clear that they couldn't do what God wanted them to do. No matter how severe the threats, or how glorious the promises, threats and promises even from God cannot break the power of the more compelling law of sin.
Would they never receive those promises then? Would they only receive those threats? Were they doomed to curses and never blessings? Is that how it was going to be? Was there any hope? How were they ever going to receive the promises of God? Was there a hope that somewhere along the line two things could happen: One, they would be forgiven for their violations, they would be forgiven for their inability to keep the standards of God, they would be forgiven for breaking the law of God, forgiven for not being able to meet the conditions for Abrahamic and Davidic fulfillment? Would there ever be a time and a way to be forgiven? Secondly, would there ever be a means by which they could obey? Would there ever be a means by which they could obey? What they needed was another covenant.
The Davidic Covenant gave them great promise. The Abrahamic Covenant gave them great promise. The Mosaic Covenant at Sinai, or Horeb, both the same place, the Mosaic Covenant just damned them. If they were ever going to inherit what was promised to David and Abraham, then the sins, the violations of the Mosaic Covenant were going to have to be forgiven. And, secondly, they were going to have to be changed on the inside so that they possessed another force that could overpower the force of sin.
Bottom line, they were looking for a covenant, another covenant that could do two things: Forgive their sin and change their heart. Got that? If you understand that, you understand the ground work for the New Covenant.
Now go with me back to Deuteronomy 27. And if you think I'm going to finish this today, you are whistling through the cemetery, it's not going to happen. But I'm going to finish what I want to say to you today. But I'm going to leave a few verses for next time, at the end of this chapter. Twenty messages on chapter 1 and there are twenty-four chapters in Luke. This has to change somewhere down the line.
All right, Deuteronomy 26, 27 and 28. But what can I do? What can an expositor do but exposit, huh? Deuteronomy 26; now Deuteronomy is a word really from the Greek, deutero nomos. Deutero means “second." Nomos means "law." This is the second giving of the law. So you have in the book of Deuteronomy a very, very careful giving of God's law, the Mosaic law. All through the first part of this book is God's law laid down.
Now come to chapter 26, verse 16, and this really sets the stage. Chapter 26 verse 16, "This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have today declared the Lord to be your God," and these people were well-intentioned, and they declared that they would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His ordinances and listen to His voice. That was what they did. They made this... You can go back to Exodus 24 where they did the same thing. In fact, they had a big slaughter, they slaughtered all kinds of animals and they said, "God, we promise to keep Your law, we promise to keep Your law, we'll walk in Your ways and just to show you how serious we are, we've sacrificed all these animals." They collected all the blood in great big, flat basins and then they decided that they would sort of act out their covenant, as was often done, as I told you before. And so they took some of the blood and they dumped it, sloshed it all over the altar — that symbolizing God's side of the covenant — and the rest was the people's side and they took these big sort of flat pans full of blood and they sloshed the crowd with them, and just sloshed them with blood.
That was their affirmation of the fact that they were going to keep the law of God. You have the same thing here in Deuteronomy 26. You've said that you're going to do it. You're going to walk in His ways, you're going to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances; you're going to listen to His voice. You're going to do that. "And the Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession as He promised you and you shall keep all His commandments and He'll set you on high above all nations which He has made for praise and fame and honor." In other words, you'll get the Davidic promise and you'll get the Abrahamic promise, all of that is going to come to pass if you're obedient. And you said you'd be obedient.
Problem: They can't do it. They can't do it. But verse 1 of chapter 27, they certainly were well-intentioned. "Moses and the elders of Israel charged the people saying, 'Keep all the commandments which I command you today. Keep them all.'" And when you get over there in the Promised Land, you're going over there, you just make sure you hang on to this law. You set up some large stones and coat them with lime and write on them all the words of this law. When you cross over put it in some permanent place so that you enter the land which the Lord gave you, a land flowing with milk and honey, the Lord, the God of your fathers promised you, and you get over there, you want to remember the law. Build that altar to the Lord your God, offer your offerings, verse 7, “and write on the stones all the words of this law very distinctly." You set that law right there in the land when you get there and you keep that law.
Then in chapter 27, verse 9 there's an interesting thing. "Moses and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel saying, 'Be silent and listen, O Israel, this day you've become a people for the Lord your God, you shall therefore obey the Lord your God, do His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.'" I think they're getting the point, don't you? I mean, he just keeps saying it over and over; obedience, obedience, obedience, obedience.
Now, that's the issue, obedience to the law of God. Here's the illustration. He says in verse 11 and charges the people — Moses does — when you get over the other side I want some of you to go to Mount Gerizim. Six tribes of the twelve go to Mount Gerizim, six of you, verse 13, go down to Mount Ebal." Those were two mountains separated by a valley in which Shechem existed and it might have been that the priests were in the valley and the Ark of the Covenant was in the valley as well. Put six of you on one mountain, six of you on the other side, Ebal was the mountain that would express the curses and Gerizim was the mountain that would express the blessings. And so they were to dramatize the situation.
And here were the promises and the threats, blessings and cursings, promises and threats. "Keep My Law," God says, "and I'll bless, I'll bless, I'll bless." And the blessings were recited from Mount Gerizim. They're not recorded in this chapter. Some surmise they're not recorded because the people never kept them, so they weren't recorded for that reason. We don't exactly know, but the curses are given here as they were recited from Mount Ebal. So that in a dramatic thing of six tribes on one mountain, six tribes represented...six tribes on the other, people all gathered in the middle, the whole...the Ark of the Covenant is there representing the presence of God, the priests are there. It's all a great scene. And they start shouting blessings from one place and curses from the other. And the idea is God is pouring out promises in one hand and threats on the other. And as you go down through chapter 27 you see starting in...see starting in verse 20....or verse 15...curse, cursed, cursed, cursed, all the curses if you disobey, all the curses. You come into chapter 28. It starts to talk about "if you obey, if you obey" verse 3, "blessed, blessed, blessed, blessed." And the rest of chapter 28 deal with blessings and cursings.
If you obey, God will bless you. If you don't obey, you'll get cursed, as you see in verse 16, 17, 18. In fact, the whole chapter just goes on and on like that until you come to verse 68. You come to verse 68.
Now we get the scene. God's given the Mosaic law. God has already laid out Abrahamic promise to them. Davidic promise will come later. But in order for them to receive the blessings that God has included in the Abrahamic promise, in order for them to receive the blessings that God will include in the Davidic promise, they have to be obedient. And so God recites again and again how important it is for them to obey. They make a very overt expression as a nation that they're going to obey the law of God. God seals the importance of this by promises to incite them to obedience and threats to warn them against disobedience. That's the scenario.
And when that's all said and done, folks, they've got a problem because no matter how hard they tried they couldn't obey. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified, or made right in God's sight." They couldn't do it because even the promises of God and even the threats of God couldn't break the power of the law of sin, the force that is in you. They needed something else. They needed another covenant, a covenant that incorporated two things, forgiveness and a new heart, a new capacity. That would open the door to Davidic fulfillment. That would open the door to Abrahamic fulfillment. And that's where we come to the New Covenant. You understand now how it fits, its importance?
And so, in Luke chapter 1... You can stay in Deuteronomy, don't go back there because we're going to stay in Deuteronomy for a minute, but in Luke chapter 1 when Zacharias shifts gears coming out of the Abrahamic Covenant and says, "The Messiah is going to come to give His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins," he's now gone beyond Abrahamic, beyond Davidic and beyond Mosaic Covenants and he's talking about the New Covenant, because it's the New Covenant that provides the forgiveness of sins. It's the New Covenant that sheds light on darkness and liberates us from darkness and the shadow of death, it's the New Covenant that takes us out of the way of death and takes us into the way of peace. Everything Zacharias said is New Covenant lingo.
These dear Jewish people standing there that day on those two mountains and in the valley between trying to figure out how they were going to...how they were going to manage to avoid the curses and receive the blessings of God when there was a force for sin in them, how they were going to be able to overpower that, were in a difficult situation, the same situation any person is in who tries to achieve God's standard of righteousness on his or her own. And with that you come to chapter 29 verse 1 in one of the most notable verses of all.
"These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab besides the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb, or Sinai." Oh listen to this. We have a new covenant here. This is a new covenant. This is a covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel to give to the sons of Israel besides the covenant which He made with him at Horeb. Aren't you glad about that? Because if all they had was the covenant at Horeb, they're all damned, right? Because they can't keep the law so they're all under its curse. Galatians 3, break one point of the law and you're guilty of all of it. They needed another covenant. They needed another covenant beside the covenant at Sinai because they couldn't get saved by keeping the law.
Folks, that's why the New Testament makes such a monumental point about the fact that you can't be saved by works. That's why every false religious system in the world can be known because they have a salvation by works; religious, or moral, or both. Moses is here introducing a new covenant, not like any other covenant.
Now go to chapter 30 and he spells it out. He spells it out. Chapter 30 verse 1, "So it shall be when all these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you and you call them to mind in all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you." Now there's a good indication of how they're going to do on keeping the commandments, they're going to end up banished. That's right. So obviously they're not going to receive the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant if they're banished because the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant was the land. So history is going to indicate just exactly what is stated right here, that they're banished.
"But the day is going to come,” verse 2, “when you return to the Lord your God and you obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons. Then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity and have compassion on you and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you."
I know Israel has reconstituted a nation in 1949. I know that the Jews have gone back to the land, a great many of them gone back to the land. That’s not the regathering spoken of here because they haven't yet returned to the Lord their God or obeyed Him with all their heart and soul, have they? If there's any secular state in the world, it's certainly Israel. But the time is going to come when the Lord will regather them and they will worship Him and the Lord says, "I'll have compassion on you." Verse 4, "If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you and from there He will bring you back." I think this is a kingdom regathering, this is the future millennial regathering. "And the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed and you shall possess it and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers."
You see what he's saying to them? He's saying, look, I've given you all this instruction, and I've threatened you if you don't obey, I've promised you blessing if you do obey. Frankly, you're not going to be able to do it and I know that and you're going to wind up banished and you're going to wind up scattered. And folks, that is the history of Israel, is it not? "But someday in the end, I'm going to bring you back, I'm going to bring you into the land and I'm going to give you all the fulfillment of Mosaic promise."
How is it going to happen? Verse 6, "Moreover,” here is the essence of the New Covenant, “the Lord your God will circumcise” your what? “your heart." Wow, you're going to have a spiritual surgery that is going to cleanse the inside. "And the heart of your descendants so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul in order that you may live."
And then the Lord your God is going to afflict all those curses on your enemies and those who hate you. And you, verse 8, “shall again obey the Lord and observe all His commandments which I command you today. And the Lord your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, and the offspring of your body, and the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your ground. The Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in the book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.”
What he is saying is blessing depends on turning to the Lord with all your heart and soul. Listen, turning to the Lord with all your heart and soul depends on God giving you a new heart. This is New Covenant truth, New Covenant truth. Verse 6 is the key, "God, the Lord your God, will circumcise your heart. He'll cleanse your heart." Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Malachi, in the New Testament certainly the apostle Paul, all speak of this ultimate salvation of the nation Israel. Remember now, this is a national promise. Davidic Covenant was a national promise with universal implications. The Abrahamic promise was a national promise that also had wide implications. The New Covenant is a personal promise that has national implications because salvation, being personal, it's personal, but someday the persons who are saved will constitute the nation Israel. So the prophets anticipated the fulfillment of Abrahamic promise, Davidic promise and this New Covenant promise when God would circumcise the heart. That's the New Covenant.
There wouldn't be any way to keep the law of God unless you had a different heart. There wouldn't be any way to keep the law of God and to avoid the threats and accept the blessings if...if there wasn't a way to overcome the power of sin, the force, the law of sin that operates in your flesh.
Turn to Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah 31, when anybody talks about the New Covenant they always go to Jeremiah 31 because this is its most explicit rendering. This gets us right in touch with where Zacharias was. Jeremiah 31, the prophet Jeremiah, verse 31, quotes the Lord, "’Behold days are coming,’ declares the Lord,” here it comes “’when I will make a’” what? “’New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.’" You know something, folks? By the time of Jeremiah they desperately needed a New Covenant. They were in a hopeless situation. He said, "I'm going to make this new covenant with the house of Israel, I'm going to make this new covenant with the house of Judah," the same one that was talked about way back in Deuteronomy chapter 30 when their hearts are going to be circumcised.
Now look at verse 32. "It's not like the covenant which I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt." Now that was the Mosaic Covenant. That was made at Mount Sinai, or Mount Horeb. It's not like that. It's not a covenant of law and judgment. Oh, this is...this is not how it is. “It's not like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord. Listen to this, “I will put,” oh I love this, “My law.” Where? Let's take that word "law" again. What did I tell you the word means? What does law mean? Give me a synonym. Force, that's right. I will put My force within them. I will put My power within them. It will cause them to bend My direction.
When God says, I'm going to put My law within them, He's talking about a righteous force in the life of His people. Boy what a great truth that is. "And on their heart I'm going to write it and I'll be their God and they'll be My people."
Well what did we say... What did we say we desperately need if we're going to avoid promises and threats? We need to have two things: Forgiveness for our violations and a new heart, right? So that we can obey. Now watch this. "I am going to put My law,” My force, “within them. On their heart I will write it, I will be their God, they'll be My people and they're not going to teach again each man his neighbor and each man his brother throughout Israel.” You won't have to go around teaching each other, saying know the Lord, know the Lord. Why? "’Because they'll all know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the Lord." And listen to this one, "For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more."
Isn't that what we said we needed? The only hope for Israel to receive Davidic hope, Davidic promise and Abrahamic promise is that they would have a new heart that could obey. The only hope for Israel that they could avoid the judgment, the just and righteous judgment for their violation for the Mosaic Covenant is if they were forgiven. And so whatever this New Covenant is, it needs to do two things: It needs to empower us to obedience by putting a force in us that is greater than the force that is already there, namely sin, and it needs to be able to deal with all the violations that we have committed against the law of God by the forgiveness of sin and that's exactly what the New Covenant does.
Now this again is a...an unconditional, unilateral, eternal, irrevocable covenant from God, as are the other ones. This is what is necessary. God promised a future to Israel in the land with blessing and prosperity and through them to bless the world. God promised a kingdom to Israel and a King, Messiah reigning in Jerusalem over Israel and over the entire earth, ruling with a rod of iron and a kingdom that will never end. But they can't receive those things because they can't ever get to the point of obedience so as to receive the blessings. And, on their own, it's hopeless.
Israel has a great future, beloved, a great future. There's a King coming to rule over Israel. There will be a King, Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will set up His throne in Jerusalem. He will rule over the land of Israel. And they will have peace and safety. And they will have Abrahamic prosperity and blessing and they will possess their land to the max, to its fullest, sweeping far into the Middle East, as we call it. They will also be blessed by God to be a blessing to the entire world. They will all know God. They will all have new hearts, able to serve God and overpower the force of sin that is in them. They will all have all their sins forgiven. That is to come. But, folks, it hasn't come yet because Israel is still trying to avoid divine threats and receive divine promises by their own efforts to keep the law, or they've given up all together and become pagan. It's not going to happen until they receive the new heart that comes with the New Covenant.
Ezekiel spoke of this in Ezekiel 36 and I would really be remiss if I didn't point you to that passage because it's another critical passage in linking this together. Ezekiel 36:25; verse 24 says the Lord is going to bring all these Jews from the nations, gather them from all the lands, bring them into their own land, getting ready to fulfill the Davidic and the Abrahamic promise. And then verse 25, here's the New Covenant salvation, "I'll sprinkle clean water on you, you'll be clean. I'll cleanse you from all your filthiness," that's like circumcising your heart. "I'll give you a new heart. I'll put a new spirit within you. I'll remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I'll put My Spirit within you and I will cause you to walk in My statutes and you will be careful to observe My ordinances."
Wow! That's New Covenant stuff. I'll give you a new heart and I'll put My Spirit within you. So, two things are going to happen. I'm going to forgive all your sin and I'm going to give you a new force, a new law, a new power within you to obey Me, namely, the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit working with a regenerated spirit.
Let me close this whole discussion by having you turn to Luke 22. Now when I read to you about the New Covenant in Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, it didn't say anything about the means by which the New Covenant is activated. It doesn't say anything about that. It just says there will be a New Covenant. It just says that New Covenant will involve the forgiveness of sins, remembering your sins no more and that it will involve a new heart, a new force in you. It doesn't say how that's going to happen. We know how it's going to happen by coming to the New Testament, Luke 22:20. It's the Passover that night, the Last Supper. Jesus is with His disciples, takes the cup of wine after they had eaten. He says, "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My blood."
What is it that produces the new heart? What is it that produces the Spirit coming to dwell in the believer? What is it that circumcises the heart? What is it that enables God to write His law on the heart? In a word, it is the New Covenant made real through the blood of Christ, right?
Simply stated, when you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your sacrifice for sin and the only sacrifice for sin, and the only way of salvation, when you acknowledge Jesus Christ as the one who bore in His body your sins on the cross, when you acknowledge Jesus Christ as the one who knew no sin but was made sin for you, when you acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Lamb, the sacrificial substitute provided by God who died in your place to bear your sins, when you acknowledge Him as your Savior and your Lord, you have met New Covenant conditions and God in His great grace will circumcise your heart, give you a new heart, to use the other metaphor, to use a third one, write His law on your heart, plant His Spirit within you.
And I'll tell you something, folks, until Israel does that they will not and cannot receive the Abrahamic or Davidic blessing. It's a long time since Zacharias got excited that day, two thousand years. Zacharias probably figured, well, the Messiah will be here in a few months, He's just a few months behind the birth of John, probably they won't engage in ministry until they're in their...maybe in their late teens or early 20s they might begin their ministry. And so it's probably about twenty years from now and then all Davidic promise and all Abrahamic promise comes to pass. Twenty years from now, folks. We're two thousand years from then and it hasn't happened. And it won't happen until Israel, in the words of Zechariah 12:10, "Looks on Him whom they have pierced and mourns for Him as an only Son." In other words, until they see Him as their crucified Messiah, until they see Him as the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world, until they see Him as the One sacrificed forever taking away sin, the One who by the offering of Himself perfected forever those that are sanctified, until they see Him as the spotless, unblemished Lamb who died in their place, there will not be a new heart, there will not be the Spirit planted in them, there will not be the fulfillment of all Old Testament promise.
In the meantime... In the meantime, the New Covenant truth is applied to everyone who believes; Jew or Gentile. Is that not true? In fact, this is just a footnote. We'll say more about this next time, everybody who has ever been saved has been saved by the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Even people way back in the patriarchal time, even Abraham was counted righteous before God because He believed God. He didn't know about Christ, but he believed God and even though Christ had not yet died, God forgave Abraham's sin and imputed Abraham's sins to Christ who would one day die for them and imputed Christ's righteousness to Abraham, though Christ had not yet even lived that righteous life. But there's no such thing as time in God's economy and that's why He speaks of the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. In the purposes of God the Lamb was slain before anybody was ever created and the application of His death made the first time anybody believed God. So all of us have come to the place of having a new heart and the Spirit planted in us and having the law of God written in us, all of us are able to obey the law of God, we're able to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and strength. It's not perfect, obviously, because we still have our unredeemed humanness. Our...our new heart and the Spirit within us and the law of God which we love is still incarcerated in unredeemed humanness and until we get out of that unredeemed humanness, entering into the presence of the Lord and receiving a glorified body in a perfect new body, we'll always have the battle but the joy of it is we can win the battle, we can obey the law of God, we can enjoy the promise of blessing.
But the New Covenant had unique application to the people of Israel. We're all New Covenant believers. Everybody who has ever believed has been saved by the terms of the New Covenant; that is by the sacrificial blood atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross. Everybody who has ever been saved through all of history has been saved by the death of Jesus Christ. But the New Covenant as a special pledge to the people of Israel has not been fulfilled because Israel as a nation has not believed. But they will.
God made a promise to David, didn't He? That someday he would have a kingdom and he will. And that is an irrevocable promise. God made a promise to Abraham, that Israel would have a land and blessing and they will. That is an irrevocable promise. And God made a promise in Deuteronomy to the nation and reiterated again in Jeremiah 31 through the prophet Jeremiah that someday, someday a fountain of blessing would be open to Israel and someday they would be cleansed on the inside and someday they would have a new inside, their hearts would be circumcised or on their hearts would be written the law of God, or they would receive a new heart, they would be changed on the inside and then it wouldn't be a matter of going around telling other Jews that you know the Lord because everybody would know Him. That too is an irrevocable promise.
The salvation of Israel, the blessing of Israel and the kingdom of Messiah in Israel are all irrevocable promises made by God. In the meantime, they have spiritual implications. The earthly element of the Davidic kingdom hasn't come. But listen to this: Christ is your King and mine, isn't He? We have inherited the spiritual essence of Davidic promise. He is your Lord and your King. Not only that, the Abrahamic blessing hasn't come in its earthly features, but we are literally flooded with spiritual blessings. Ephesians 1 says we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, and we don't have an earthly Promised Land, but we have a heavenly promised land, don't we? A city whose builder and maker is God. And Israel has not yet come to New Covenant salvation as a nation, but we have entered into that and we have been given by God's grace a new heart.
Well, see, old Zacharias, old priest, all he could see was the historic fulfillment. He thought it would come right away. He was right, it was irrevocable, and it would come, just not then because of unbelief. Every time we have communion, every time we lift up the cup we are...we're doing what 1 Corinthians 11:25 says. "He took the cup after supper saying, 'This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.'" Every time we take communion we remember that God made a New Covenant and He'll keep it. He'll keep it.
There's no question about the future of Israel. The future of Israel is they're going to be saved. They're going to receive a new heart. The Spirit is going to be planted in them. They're going to know God. And when they know God they're going to enter into the fullness of all the promises of God made to David and Abraham. The New Covenant is unconditional in the sense that it will happen. It is unilateral in the sense that it depends only on God. It is irrevocable.
You say, "Well what about all these years of breaking the law, breaking the Mosaic Covenant, violating the Mosaic Covenant?" That's why essential to the New Covenant, essential to planting the Spirit, essential to getting a new heart is the matter of the forgiveness (of what?) of all those sins. The New Covenant would be pointless if God couldn't forgive sin.
So old Zacharias, he had it right, he knew what the New Covenant was all about, going back to Luke 1. It was all about the knowledge of a salvation that comes by the forgiveness of their sins, verse 78, "because of the tender mercies of our God." It's all because of God's what? Mercy. And so, you see, the reason I've taken five and will take six messages just to get through this song of praise is because all the Old Testament covenant threads just come and weave together here. To understand what's going on here is to understand the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, as well as the flow of redemptive history.
Well, next time we're going to talk about what the sunrise from on high means, shining on us, the rest of these verses, if I can think of enough things to say to fill forty-five minutes with what's left in this text. I've been known to do that on occasion. Let's pray together.
Father, the genius of Scripture staggers us. The folly of some who would say that the Bible is the independent offering of a variety of religious people writing their own religious experiences without the aid of God is so ridiculous. The cohesiveness of Scripture is staggering. The evidence that there is one author, namely Your own self, who poured the truth through many writers, becomes clear to us as we look at the big picture. Oh Father, how we thank You for the New Covenant, how we thank You that we who...who really are not a people, as Paul says, have been given New Covenant blessing. We have been blessed with faithful Abraham and we have become subjects of the great King. We have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son. We are enjoying the rule of the great King of David, our Messiah. We enjoy His rule, His sovereign rule in our lives right now. We enjoy all the blessings, all the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, all and far more than ever was promised to Abraham because we have received the New Covenant. Our sins have been forgiven and we've been given a cleansed heart and Your law has been written as a powerful force in our hearts. We long for that to happen to the nation Israel. We long for the day when it will so that the fullness of all the promises can come to pass and the King can reign over the earth and fill it with His blessings. Until that day may we preach New Covenant gospel and may many believe and be saved for Your glory we pray. Amen.