5 Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, NKJV)
Through Moses, the Lord repeatedly exhorted Israel “to be careful to observe” His commandments (Deut. 5:1, 32; 6:3). Was careful obedience only reserved for Israel because God commanded them from Mt. Sinai (Deut. 4:13-14)? No, the Lord God has always expected people to obey His commands, promising blessings to the obedience and warning the disobedient of punishment (Gen. 2:16-17; Exod. 20:5-6). God’s desire and expectation that we obey Him remains true under the new covenant, the gospel of Christ. For instance, Jesus expects those who call Him “Lord, Lord” to do what He says (Luke 6:46). We must do the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). But “to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:8-9). No wonder Paul commended Timothy for carefully following “good doctrine” from the apostle (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10). God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience. This truth abides forever.
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18–19, NKJV)
The “former commandment” is “the law” given at Mt. Sinai to Israel. God annulled (set aside, abolished) that law because it was powerless to perfect (complete) the one who comes to God. The law served its purpose of identifying sin (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19). It sought to rein in Israel’s sinful conduct by teaching her holiness and the divine blessings that come from obeying God (Deut. 4:13-14; 8:1). But that covenant was temporary and “made nothing perfect” (Gal. 3:19-25). The law did not have the power to redeem souls from sin; it could not save the lost (Heb. 10:1-4, 11). It was a “shadow of the good things to come” in Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:1). Christ and His gospel (not the “former commandment”) bring a better hope to those who draw near to God for forgiveness. We dare not go back to the law of Moses to justify our worship and service to God today. To do so forfeits the grace that is in Christ (Gal. 5:3-4; 1:6-9). Remember, we are not saved by the “shadow” (the first covenant) but by the “substance” of the covenant of Christ (Heb. 10:1-4, 10-12).
22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— (Acts 13:22–23, NKJV)
God gave Israel Saul when they wanted a king to be like the nations around them (Acts 13:21; 1 Sam. 8-9). Saul’s inadequacies as king became apparent as he did not keep God’s will and led Israel into rebellious disobedience (1 Sam. 13:8-14; 15:1-23). Therefore, God raised up David to be king of Israel, a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). Unlike Saul (who disobeyed God’s commands), David would accomplish God’s purposes; He would “do all My will” (Acts 13:22). But David was but a type of his descendant – Jesus – whom God raised up to be Israel’s Savior-King. God made a covenant with David to his seed upon his throne (2 Sam. 7:13-14; Psa. 89:3-4, 35-37; 132:10-11). Paul declared God kept His promise to David by resurrecting and exalting Jesus (Lk. 1:32-33; Acts 2:29-31). From Christ’s throne goes forth salvation – the “sure mercies of David” – to Israel and the whole world (Acts 13:24-26, 32-38, 46). We do not look for a reign of Jesus on earth for a thousand years. That is the stuff of misplaced hope from misunderstanding the Scriptures. David’s seed is on His throne now, sending the sure mercies of David to all who come to Him for eternal life (Isa. 55:1-5; Matt. 11:28-30).
13 And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. 14 Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. (Malachi 2:13–14, NKJV)
Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, and the one God who sanctions it (Gen. 2:24; Mal. 2:14; Matt. 19:6; Rom. 7:2). Men and women have corrupted God-designed, God-approved marriage in many ways, from multiple spouses, to adulterous remarriages, to same-sex agreements (Gen.4:19; Mk. 6:17-18; Rom. 1:24-28). The men of Israel dishonored their wives by divorcing and taking other wives (Mal. 2:16). By this, they dishonored God, who blessed their marriages. Honor for marriage includes respecting and maintaining its moral purity and exclusivity (Heb. 13:4). It includes following the position God set marriage in the parent-child structure. God’s arrangement is leaving parents – forming a “one-flesh” marriage (covenant approval by God) – then bearing children (Gen. 2:24-25; 4:1). Following God’s righteous order exalts a nation, “but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:4–5, NKJV)
Jesus was not a son of Aaron. Being from the tribe of Judah, he could not be a priest according to the law of Moses. That law “had to be changed” for Jesus to “become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:11-14; 6:20). Since the priesthood has indeed changed (Jesus is now High Priest), the law has also changed. The new covenant of Christ is now in force, dispensing redemption and arranging our new life in Christ, including acceptable worship. The old covenant tabernacle worship (offered by the sons of Aaron) served as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things accomplished by our High Priest, Jesus (Heb. 7:24-28). But, even the wilderness tabernacle (the shadow of the “true tabernacle” which is the church, Heb. 8:1-2; 10:21) was built according to God’s revealed pattern. We believe God-given patterns for worship still matters to God (2 Tim. 1:13). The new covenant of Christ contains a pattern of worship to follow (Jno. 4:23-24). We must see that we follow it. What pattern do you follow when you worship? Is it the new covenant pattern, or the commandments of men (Matt. 15:8-9; Col. 1:21-23)?
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. (Romans 4:11–12, NKJV)
God commanded circumcision of Abraham as a “sign of the covenant” He made with him (Gen. 17:1-14, esp. 10-11). The apostle calls attention to that historic moment. Like a seal marking authenticity, Abraham’s circumcision served as a sign or indicator “of the righteousness of the faith which he had” while still uncircumcised. This distinction is notable and confirms the blessings of Abraham are offered to all (Jews and Gentiles). It also confirms that faith is the means of justification, not the works of the law of Moses (Rom. 4:13). Verse 12 says Abraham is the father of those who “walk in the steps of the faith” he had before circumcision. Walking is active. Thus, faith is active – it involves steps. Faith obeys God, just like father Abraham. He did not earn the blessings of the covenant through keeping law. He was sinner, saved “by grace, through faith” (Rom. 4:1-5). His (obedient) faith expressed his trust in God, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness. Obedient faith is the only kind of faith that saves us (Jas. 2:17, 20-24).
2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! (Psalm 150:2–5, NKJV)
The question is posed, “Why shouldn’t we use instrumental music to worship God today? After all, they were used by Israel in the Old Testament.” Yes, they were. Scripture says king Hezekiah “stationed Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, they were commanded “according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets” (2 Chronicles 29:25). But, we do not live under the authority of the old covenant. We hear and follow Christ for our approved worship, not Moses and the prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-2). We would not think of binding the Levitical rituals of worship, including animal sacrifices, today. Yet, king Hezekiah did along with the instruments he set in place (2 Chronicles 29:26-36). If Hezekiah’s trumpets and stringed instruments are allowed in worship today, then so are his animal sacrifices and associated offerings. We are content with the musical worship Christ revealed and approved in the new covenant. It repeatedly says to sing praises to God, but never to play praises (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). That’s enough.
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11–13, NKJV)
The fleshly circumcision that identified Israel as God’s covenant people was an operation performed “in the flesh by hands” (v. 11). Removing the foreskin was a foreshadowing of the “circumcision of Christ,” which is “the putting off of the body of the sins of flesh” – the operation God performs when a sinner is “buried with Him (Christ, jrp) in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12). Baptism is an action of faith in the power of God that saves the sinner and raises him or her to spiritual life in Christ (Colossians 2:12). Whether you are a Jew or Gentile in the flesh does not matter. In this gospel age, one is not a child of God until the circumcision of Christ occurs in the heart, as the sinner is buried with Christ in baptism and God forgives his or her sins by the blood of Christ (Colossians 2:13). That is when the sinner rises from spiritual death to walk in newness of life.
11 “Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” (Genesis 9:11–15, NKJV)
God keeps His word. Always. The rainbow in the clouds reminds us of the covenant God made with humanity, to never again destroy the world with a flood. We know skeptic scoffs at the notion of a worldwide flood. But, recall they also scoffed at Jesus on the cross (Matthew 27:39-44). Such mockery does not deter us (2 Peter 3:5-7). Also, please notice that God established His covenant with Noah and his descendants. That covenant was unconditional. Today, God’s covenant (the new covenant of Christ, Hebrews 8:6-13), contains conditions we must meet to obtain its blessings of salvation (Acts 10:34-35). Meeting God’s conditions is not a negotiation, nor is it earning the blessing. God is Sovereign, and has established His covenant. God says He will bless us when we obey Him. God keeps His word. Always.
46 “How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire? 47 Remember how short my time is; For what futility have You created all the children of men? 48 What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” (Psalm 89:46–48, NKJV)
Yes, none of us will escape death. Long before 19th-century Australian poet Francis Duggan penned “Death the Great Equalizer,” the preacher Solomon wrote a similar, inspired refrain (Ecclesiastes 9:2-3). The imminence of death drove the psalmist to beg God to act with swiftness and remember His covenant with David, and remove the reproaches that had befallen Israel because of her sins. God did just that, by sending His Son, Jesus Christ (Luke 1:67-79). We are compelled to get right with God by knowing the reality of death, and the truth that God keeps His covenant. The covenant of Christ offers mercy to sinners who believe, repent and obey the Son (Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 16:15-16). But, it also contains the warning of sure wrath against those who “do not obey the truth” (Romans 2:8). Death is certain. Your money, fame, popularity, pleasure, or anything else of this world, will prevent your death. Thank God, Jesus overcame death (Revelation 1:18). He will save you, if you will come to Him (Acts 4:12).