The Old Covenants defined the relationship between man and God prior to Jesus Christ establishing the New Covenant of grace. In the beginning God gave Adam and Eve the right of dominion over all living creatures and plants. Man was to eat of the seeds of all plants and the fruit of all trees with one exception, the tree of life. Satan tempted Eve into eating of the forbidden fruit. She in turn convinced Adam to eat also and sin was created. God then gave a promise with a curse. God cursed Satan for tempting man to disobey God, but out of love for man God promised a Savior who would crush this evil one. Because of their sin woman would have pain in childbirth and a desire for the husband who would rule over her. Man would know sorrow and have to work hard to make a living from the ground.
Cain and Abel were the first sons of Adam and Eve. They both offered sacrifices to the Lord. Abelís was accepted because of the love and faith he had in his heart for his God. Cainís was rejected because he lacked this love for his God. This rejection caused the envy, anger that led Cain to kill his brother. God punished Cain by making him a outcast and wanderer of the earth.
As the world began to grow in population man turned from God and wickedness ruled their hearts. God in his anger caused a flood to destroy all living things except for the righteous Noah, his wife, his sons, their wives and all the animals that were loaded on the ark. When the flood receded God gave mankind new commands through Noah. The right to eat everything that move or lives, all animals, providing the blood is drained from the animal. That anyone who kills another person should also be put to death. And finally a covenant to never kill all things with a flood, with the covenant sign to be the rainbow.
Generations passed and then Abraham was given promises and covenants because of his strong faith in God. God promised Abraham descendants numerous as the stars above and gave a covenant to the land of Canaan for Abraham and his descendants. God also revealed to Abraham that his descendants would turn from the Lord and as a consequence would spend 400 years in captivity before being delivered back to the promised land. Last but not least God gave a covenant to be the God of Abraham and his descendants if they would follow Him. And the sign of the covenant was to be the circumcision of all the men.
Just as God foretold, Abrahamís descendants, the nation of Israel, turned hard toward God once more. They were captured and put under slavery for over 400 years in Egypt when God called Moses to free His people. Moses brought Israel out of Egypt into the desert. Here God gives a covenant to Israel, that if they obey Him this nation will be Godís chosen people. God gave Moses commands for them to live by. There were moral laws, ceremonial laws for forgiveness of sins, and laws to govern the nation. The Mosaic Law was the culmination of the major old covenants until the time of Jesus Christ. The laws were external whereby all people had to learn them. They also needed a mediator to go before God for them, to receive, interrupt, or ask for favors, exceptions or changes in the laws. The mediators could be great leaders like Moses or David as well as prophets who brought Godís word when the elite would not follow their Master. A special mediator was also needed for the forgiveness of sins. Once a year the High Priest would go into the Holy of Holy section of the Temple of God to offer a lamb for atonement of the sins of man. During the rest of the year priests at the temple offered sacrifices for manís sins. Unrighteous man could not go directly to their holy God.
The chosen nation of Israel through the rest of the Old Covenant times would follow the Lord and be blessed, then turn cold to their God and fall into hard times, be under the control of other nations. In the ending times of the Old Covenant the love of God was lost from the hearts of the church leaders who used their own intellect to manipulated Godís laws to their own viewpoint, advantage. The Lord grew of tired of man wandering from the intent of His laws. Out of frustration with man the Lord promised a New Covenant with man where He would write His commands into manís hearts. This covenant started while Israel was under control the Roman Empire. The church had broken into many factions, some believe as many as 24. The Bible talks about 4 of these groups.
The Sadducees were a group of elitists who did not believe in the after life, only in the glory of the nation as the ultimate goal. They were the ruling church party with the main leadership roles under their command. This leadership group eventually demanded the crucifixion of Jesus, for they believed it was better to have one man die than put the nation deeper in oppression of the Roman government.
The Pharisees were a larger group. They believed in Heaven. Many in this group were famous for trying to earn their salvation through the law, the works they did without having the most important element, the love of God in their hearts. This group also had some who were God pleasing.
The Zealots would not bow down to any foreign government. They were fighting a gorilla war against the Roman government. They also believed in the after life.
The Herodians were those who supported the Roman rule and were despised by all other Jews. The Pharisees even worked the Herodians, their adversaries, in an attempt to destroy Jesus when they asked Him if they should pay Roman taxes.
The New Covenant of grace began when Jesus Christ became man. It was finished when His death atoned for the sins of all who believe. His resurrection assures us that we will also rise to eternal life in Heaven. We have been set free! We are not under the law, but the grace of Jesus Christ. We are free! Free, because at Christís death the robe at the Holy of Holies split allowing all to go directly to Jesus for forgiveness of all sins. Free, for we do not have to go through any church rules or rituals to be saved. We are free! Our sins are now forgiven by grace. Grace simply means that Jesus lovingly, willingly and freely forgives all who believe in Him and repent of their sins. We are free! There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. There is nothing the church can do to save us. There is nothing any other individual can do to save us. We are free! We no longer can bargain with God for anything, for there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, Jesus Christ has done it all. Our redemption is complete and it is a free gift. We are free, free to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, or free to reject Jesus and follow the world. We are free, free to choose between Heaven and Hell.
The Old Testament contains the Old Covenant. It tells the beginning and the history of mankind. It tells about Godís promise of a Savior. It is very beautiful in parts with prophecy, poems and good advice. It is also very earthy, with murder, seduction, incest, adultery, and deceit at the heart of other stories. It contains the written commands and ceremonial laws God gave Moses. The people lived under these laws, memorized, recited, and lived by them for many centuries. They were looking for a strong leader to come, a Messiah, that would crush their oppressors and set them free to reign as a nation once more. They were not looking for a Savior that would die to set them free from their sins, or would teach them how to love and care for all. When Jesus was being transfigured three disciples saw the magnificence of Jesus as well as Elijah and Moses standing with Him. Peter wanted to build three tents, one for each of them. But God, in a majestic voice from Heaven above, told the disciples He was proud of His Son, to listen to Him. Listen to Jesus, not Elijah, not Moses. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. When it is fulfilled the Old Covenant law given through Moses will be no more. The New Covenant is coming through Jesus Christ. Listen to my Son, listen to my Son, Jesus will tell you the answers to live for the Lord.
There are many today who still believe the law, especially the Ten Commandments are the underpinning commands of the believer. Yet even if it were possible for one to keep the Ten Commandments perfectly today, one would still not see Heavenís gates. For no one will enter into the Kingdom of God without love, first for his God, then for his fellow man. We are not under the law, we are under the love of Christ and His grace. Those that live strictly by the Ten Commandments will die by them for there is no saving merit in them. The Ten Commandments are but a mirror to show many, not all, of the basic sins we commit, to let us know that we are sinners and without Christís grace doomed to Hell. We adhere to these laws out of fear, and one will never bond to the Lord out of fear, only out of love. Love that want us to obey our Masterís wishes and be sorry when we fall short of what He would have us do. The Holy Spirit opens our hearts to love and accept Jesus, freely giving us the faith to follow our Lord. The only thing we have the power to do is reject our Lord and Master. Listen to My Son in whom I am well pleased. Below is what our Lord would have us follow :
- Jesus told us in Matt. 22:37-38, ďLove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.Ē Our love for God must be the greatest and strongest love we have in our lives, that we put our Lord first in everything we do. That we submit to our Masterís will in everything we do. That we obey His commands doing everything He would have us do and abstain from everything He would not have us do.
- Jesus told us in Matt. 22:39, ďAnd the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.Ē We try to love others as Christ loved us, to let our Saviorís love shine through us so all may see how great the love of Jesus Christ is. We are to love our enemies and do good even to those who do bad to us.
- Jesus told us in Matt. 22:40,Ē All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandmentsĒ. The other commands include:
- That we should have no other gods, nor worship, bow down, or call upon any other idols, heavenly beings, statues, or anything else in heaven or earth.
- We should gladly do to the best of our ability the job our Master has given us. We should support those called for specific work by the Lord, both with prayers and sustaining them with their physical needs so we can Matt 28:19, ď Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.Ē
- Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Do not curse by calling down the anger of God on anyone. Do not use His name carelessly or by swearing an oath to prove you are telling the truth where a simple yes or no will do. Do not swear falsely by His name.
- Do not lie. Tell the simple truth. Honor your pledges as God has honored His
- We should worship our God in fellowship with other Christians gladly hearing and learning His word. Every day should be dedicated to Christ. Each can worship anytime they desire, as long as all understand that one day has no merit over another. Our Lord told us where two or three of you are gathered together I will be there also.
- Honor your father and mother that it may be well with you and you will live long on the earth. Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly.
- Do not kill. He who hates his brother is a murderer. Do not have rage or anger. Do not endanger anyoneís life.
- Do not commit adultery. Do not commit fornication. He who lusts after another has already committed adultery in his heart. Neither the sexually immoral, adulterers, or homosexuals, will inherit the Kingdom of God. Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, that is detestable to God. Do not have incest or marry certain relatives. Do not have sexual relations with animals. Do not rape. God detests those who dress to look like the other sex. The Christian husband is to love and treat his Christian wife as Christ loves and treats His church. The husband must be willing to give his life for his wife, always putting her and his childrenís welfare above his own. The Christian wife is to love and submit to her Christian husband in all Godly endeavors. She is to dress modestly showing her inward gentleness and beauty, not outward vanity of sexuality, clothes, makeup, or jewelry.
- Do not steal. Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Theft, deceit, swindling, and greed are evil. Steal no more but work to give to the needy.
- Give to him that asks of you and from him that would borrow from you turn not away. Help others as we would like to be helped.
- Do not bear false witness against they neighbor. Slander is evil. Do not pervert justice, do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Speak not evil of one of another. Do not have bitterness or malice. If anyone sins against you, go and discuss his fault between you and him alone. Be kind and compassionate.
- Do not desire your neighborís wife, nor covet any of his possessions. The world causes man to envy intensely. Having food and shelter be content with what you have.
- Forgive others as Christ forgives us. For if we do not forgive others Christ will not forgive our sins. Do not seek revenge, for revenge is for the Lord, not man. Do not bear a grudge against your neighbor.
- The evils of drunkenness, crude talk, arrogance, pride, and foolishness keep a man from the Kingdom of God. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
- Do not practice sorcery, nor turn to mediums or spiritualists for you will be defiled by them. Do not cut nor tattoo your body.
- Do not take advantage of your hired man who is poor and needy. Pay him his wages when he needs them to live on.
- Obey government laws as long as they donít conflict with Godís laws
- If you commit the least of these sins you have committed them all. Any sin (disobedience) keeps us from God, no matter what the sin is. Jesus will forgive any sin, because they are all the same to Him. There are no big or little sins, only a sinner separated from Christ. We are forgiven by the intent in our hearts, whether we really love Jesus and are sorry for our sins.
The simplicity of grace lets the new covenant give man his freedom. Man is free! The old covenant is no more.
The other old covenant subject we are going to go over is tithing. Tithing is one of the most misunderstood concepts of giving in the church. There is a prevailing simplistic idea that tithing is just giving 1/10 of what one makes, that the first tenth is the Lordís. There is an underlying expectation that if one tithes the Lord will help them prosper, that one will receive back some, all, or more than they gave. But Biblical tithing is a ceremonial law to honor the blessings God had bestowed on the land. God promised to increase the yields on the land if His many laws on the land were followed. Let us take a look at a few requirements of tithing:
A tithe is 1/10 of all things grown on the ground or produced from eating the forage off the ground (i.e. cattle, sheep etc.)
The tithe is to be collected annually and a festival is to be held at a designated place to partake of the tithe. There were many rules on what could be eaten on the trip to the designated place. After the feast what remained of the tithe was given to the Levites (priests) who also had to tithe what they received. Every third year the whole tithe was given to the Levites for the poor and the needy.
If the tithe was converted to money an additional 1/5 was to be added. There were also rules on how tithes could be converted to money and then back to like tithes to make long trips easier. The law clearly allowed for strong drink to be purchased when the money was converted back to tithes.
Every seven years the land was to be rested, all debts were to be canceled and all servants and slaves to be freed . The year of Jubilee every 50 years all land that was not in town with walls around it was to revert back to the original owner.
The first fruits of the land were to be brought to the Lord and a sacrifice offered. Paul told us to stay out of the bondage of ceremonial laws, of special times, days, months, seasons and years. Tithing is intertwined with these ceremonial festivals.
Tithing is all part of the old covenant ceremonial requirement that Christ has replaced by grace. Jesus told others that it was good to tithe. Partly because they were under the ceremonial law of tithing law, partly because He would have all give to the Lord. But Jesus rejected those giving the tithe, if the more important ingredient of love was absent. That one should give willingly and cheerfully out of love, not because they were required to do so by law, or out of expectations of receiving an earthly blessing. Jesus once referred to a tithe of herbs grown, for even at this time the tithe was still produced from the ground.
The second reason tithing is part of the old covenant is for consistency of the Bible. In the old covenant man bargained with God and God gave him earthly rewards. In the new covenant everything is finished, eternal life is a free gift. Man no longer bargains with God for earthly rewards. Jesus promises to take care of us, that we should not worry. But Jesus gives us Heavenly blessings, those that will last forever as our rewards. Jesus and His disciples gave all that they had. Yet they had no place even to lie down their heads. The apostles gave all that they had, yet they received no earthly blessing as promised by the tithe. Paul even tells us to be happy with what we have and endure. The Bible is not arguing with itself, you canít mix and match covenants. The truth is that the two covenants have almost reversed themselves. In the old covenant a rich man would be considered blessed for leading a God pleasing life. But in the new covenant Christ said it was easier for a camel to crawl through the eye of a needle(small opening in a wall) than a rich man enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The rich are not blessed, but hampered by their riches. Christís disciples and the early apostles were not blessed with wealth and land. They were blessed with much greater treasures, blessings laid away in Heaven. We are under a new covenant, a much greater covenant.
The last reason tithing is part of the old ceremonial law is the most important of them all. It is the reason Christ would have us give. God does not need our money. God does not need our time or anything else we have or possess, except our heart, our love. With a blink of a eye God can create more wealth than the world will produce over its entire existence. With a single command God can have His angels do a million times the work man can do, a million times faster. God gives us everything we have, everything we need. Our Lord gives us the opportunity to share His gifts with others out of our love for Him, out of all the love our Master has shown us. This is what giving is all about. Not giving because we will get something back, or believe we are under a law that requires us to, but out of love for our Savior. That we love our neighbors as ourselves. If I were a father from a devastated country watching my child starve to death, I would hope that Christís love would permeate in a Christianís heart to help feed my child. In our great country one less computer game for the kids could provide the gift of life for a starving child. A little less fancy house could help some children get medical attention and clothes. A little out of the retirement fund could help a family become self sufficient. Look at your child, if the situation were reversed wouldnít you want, hope, even expect a Christian to help you out, have enough Christian love to keep your child from starving. We should love and help our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus said it was not how much you gave but why you gave. For the poor widow who cast but two mites in, gave more than any other. For the others gave out of their abundance, but she gave out of her poverty, and gave all she had to live on. Christ wants you to give cheerfully out of your love for him, your love for your fellow man.
Programs such as tithing are often initiated when congregations or larger groups are in need of money. When church needs for building, maintenance, salaries, equipment, or new programs are needed the response sometimes falls off. Members are told they should give a tithe as required by the Lord. This often helps the coffers out. The church believes the end justifies the means, and squeezing a little more out of the members is justifiable for they should be giving more anyways. But the leadership should look inward. Never take the joy out of giving. Whenever a specific need for a family comes, whenever there is a tragedy locally or far away, there is a quick and large response. People still want to help those in need. Leaders should never burden their congregations with debts that are hard to pay. They should never try and increase their membership to cover anticipated costs. They should learn to get along with what the congregation can afford, so we can always be cheerful givers. Remember giving is thanking the Lord for all He has done for us, all the gifts He has given us. We merely become an extension of the Lord by giving out of love to others, giving that which He has already given us.
We are free! We are in the new covenant of love through grace and not bound by the old covenant ceremonial laws. We are free! We give out of the love of Jesus Christ. Paul bests describes this freedom of love we have. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, nor is it proud. It is not rude or self seeking. It is not easily angered nor keeps any record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, never fails. Christís love sets us free. We are free!