Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

The New Covenant

Do you ever find yourself wondering about all of the translations of the Bible we have today? How's a person to know which ones are right and which ones aren't? If you've read any of my writings you know that I'm partial to the King James Version, for a number of reasons that I'm not going into here, but even so I try to dig into the biblical languages for clarification and understanding.

Of course, Satan has been using the lie that scriptures have been translated so many times as to be unreliable for generations now. But make no mistake, it is a lie.

First, did you realize that the part of the Holy Bible that we call the Old Testament, the First Covenant, exists today in exactly the same form as when it was first written. Moreover, the original language of the Old Testament is still a living language spoken today as the first language of an entire people. The  First Covenant was originally written in Hebrew by Jews, and today is still written in Hebrew by Jews.

More specifically, a Jew that writes the Holy Scriptures is called a 95&2 (sofer; translated scribe). And believe me when I tell you that they take extreme care to make certain that every copy of the Holy Scriptures they produce is identical to every other. The .*95&2 (soferim, or scribes) not only have to write each word verbatim, they have to write each character verbatim. It is not sufficient that they make certain to write an ! (aleph) where there is supposed to be an ! (aleph), but when they write the ! (aleph) they must make certain to write each stroke of the pen in the correct order. If the first stroke is supposed to be the upper * (yod), and they inadvertently write the leaning & (vav) first instead, then they have made an error and the entire page must be destroyed in accordance with their laws. Understand that I do not know the correct order for the strokes of an ! (aleph), but that's not the point. The point is that even though the error would have been undetectable, it was nonetheless an error and the page would no longer be acceptable.

This is only one example of the extreme care that goes into producing a copy of the Holy Scriptures. I couldn't begin to outline all of the rules to which they must adhere. Both the paper and ink must be made of the proper materials in the prescribed manner. The pen must be approved and of the proper size (relative to the height of the characters). And these are only a couple of the details they keep.

But the scribes aren't the only ones in Judaism who revere the Holy Scriptures. Once a copy of the Holy Scriptures is produced, it is sanctified and can no longer be touched by human hands. This is why they use a $* (yad; literally "hand," a type of pointer) to touch the actual parchment. And when a volume has become so worn as to be unusable, is is destroyed and buried with reverence in accordance with Jewish law.

You might think that I am now about to go off on a tare over the way we treat our Bibles in comparison. You might think I am going to go off about the way we mark in our Bibles, or toss them on tables or leave them on shelves to collect dust. And if you think this you are wrong.

No, instead something else occurs to me. Why did God go to such great lengths to ensure that the Jewish people could trust the integrity of their Holy Scriptures, but we've had more new translations in my lifetime than I can keep up with. Even in the preservation of the language, God seems to have done so much more for the Jews than the rest of us.

There was an excavation at the Western Wall in Jerusalem which uncovered one of the oldest (lowest layer) original stones to be laid. It was a stone that was cut and placed by men who were subject to the rule of Solomon himself, men who very possibly saw King David with their own eyes and heard him speak with their own ears when they were children. On this stone was found an inscription, and Israeli school children today can read that inscription as easily as you or I read a street sign. Compare this to our school children trying to read Shakespeare, English from a mere few hundred years earlier.

Does any of this seem fair? Before you answer that question, let me point out that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. You see, God has given us something infinitely better than a sofer. God has given us the Holy Spirit.

In John 14: 26 we read that the Holy Spirit will teach us. We no longer need a priest to intercede with God on our behalf and we have no need of a sofer to guard the Word. Instead we have the Word to intercede for us, and the Holy Spirit to teach us about the Word.

Of course, this is what God promised. We call the Christian portion of the Bible the New Testament, or the New Covenant, as did Jesus at the Passover feast where He ordained the sacrament that we now call the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26: 26 - 28, Mark 14: 22 - 24, Luke 22: 19, 20). But long before Christ partook of that Passover, God made this promise through His prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31: 31 - 34). He promised to make a new covenant, not one like the first, but one wherein He would write His law in our minds and in our hearts. He promised a new covenant wherein we would have no need for teachers (rabbis) because we would all know Him personally.

And in Hebrews 10: 14 - 17 we read that He kept His promise through the blood of Jesus the Christ, and that the Holy Spirit would be our teacher, witnessing to us of the Truth. This is why Jesus told us to ask freely for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11: 9 - 13; See also Matthew 7: 7 - 11). "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." In both passages, Luke 11 and Matthew 7, Jesus goes on to emphasize that whosoever asks receives, whoever seeks finds, and whoever knocks has the door opened for him. That is, of course, so long as he does not ask amiss.

In James 4: 3 we read that some ask and receive not because they ask amiss, that they may consume it upon their lusts. Certainly this applies to those who pray for material wealth and a posh lifestyle. But it applies to more than just that. Consider the man who asks for wisdom and understanding, just so he can impress everyone around him. He too asks so he can consume it upon his lust, his pride. Oh, to be sure there are doubtless many ways to ask amiss.

Consider, for example, he that asks without faith. In James 1: 5 - 8 we read again that anyone who asks for wisdom will receive it liberally from God, unless he asks without faith. Of the man who wavers in his faith, James writes, "For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord." If you ask but then doubt that God will give, you are wavering in your faith. And then there are other ways to waver in you faith.

There is a short story entitled The Monkey's Paw. It's a tale of a magical severed monkey's paw that grants wishes to its owner. Unfortunately, in granting those wishes it always does so in the most horrific and terrible way possible, inevitably causing the person asking the wish to lament having done so. Have you ever asked the Lord for something, and treated Him like the Monkey's Paw when you did? See if this sounds familiar.

Dear Lord, we need rain. Please send us rain, but please just send us the rain and no damaging wind or tornados or severe storms with it.

Maybe this sounds a bit more familiar.

I would really like to surrender to God's will unconditionally. But what if I do and then He asks me to go to Africa as a missionary? Or what if He calls me into the ministry? I don't know if I want to do something like that.

Have you ever been hesitant, one might say wavering, about surrendering to God's will? Have you ever asked God for a blessing, only to immediately start adding caveats to try and counter every way you could think of that His answer might go wrong? Well, to quote James again, "For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord."

Go back and read the passages in Matthew 7 and Luke 11 again. "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

When you ask God for a blessing, don't expect that blessing to be a curse in disguise. When you ask God for a blessing, expect the blessing as surely as your child expects food when he tells you he's hungry. Oh to be sure, if you are truly a Christian then there will be times when God will purgeth you (John 15: 1, 2). There will be times when you will be brought low and things will just go against you. And when these times come, and they will,  then give thanks to God (I Thessalonians 5: 18), not out of gratitude but out of obedience to His will, trusting Him and Him alone. Nonetheless, when you ask God for a blessing, expect the blessing and not a curse.

Likewise, when you surrender to God's will, do so unconditionally. Do not expect Him to then use your submission against you. The Devil or some evil man may deceive you, trap you, in an effort to force you to do something you don't want to do. A stage hypnotist may lull you to sleep just so he can make you do embarrassing things. But this is not God's way. Do not expect this of God.

When you surrender to God's will, do so knowing that God will have only your best interest at heart, and that He will not try and coerce you to do something you don't want to do. How can I say that with such confidence you ask? Because God promised as much. Read Philippians 2: 13. God won't try and make you do something you don't want to do. He will make you want to do His will.

If God is going to call you to the mission field, then He will change your heart so that the only thing you will want will be to get into that mission field. If He wants you to preach, then you can bet that you will want to preach. Haven't you noticed that you just can't keep a person from doing what they really want to do. It's human nature. People find excuses not to do the things they don't want to do, and ways to do the things they want. It even makes sense to our limited understanding that God does better by making us want to do His will than by simply telling us to do so.

Maybe you're worried that surrendering to God will mean having to give up a lucrative career, and it might. But don't worry that God will drag you from it screaming and kicking. He will change your heart so that you either want the career less, or something else more. At some point you may have to step out on faith. He may want to take you out of that lucrative job, and it may be hard to leave. You might need strong faith to leave your comfort zone, to leave what you know. But you can rest assured that as hard as it might be, it will be what you want to do. And if that time comes, ask God for the strength to do His will, but ask without wavering.

There is one final point I would like to address. Note that Philippians 2: 13 says that God will work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. And yes, that means that whatever God wants of you, He will make you want as well. But take care to note that the passage does not say that everything you want to do is what God would have you to do. This is an important point, so allow me to reiterate. God will make you want to do His will, but that doesn't mean that everything you want is His will.

Never deceive yourself into believing that God would have you divorce your spouse to find happiness with another. You may very well want to, but that is decidedly not God's will. God will never want you to do anything that is contrary to His Word.

Okay, that's a pretty extreme and obvious example. But not every case will be so obvious. You may want to do something and genuinely not know if it's God's will or not. So just ask. As surely as you can ask and receive, as surely as you can knock and have the door opened, you can ask that God keep those doors closed that He doesn't want you walking through. Just ask without wavering, trusting Him to keep you in His will.

So when you pray, pray without wavering. Ask for a blessing and don't expect a curse. Submit to His will and don't expect Him to be a tyrant. And finally, always pray that His will, not yours, will be done.

John 14: 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Matthew 26: 26 - 28 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Mark 14: 22 - 24 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Luke 22: 19, 20 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Jeremiah 31: 31 - 34 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Hebrews 10: 14 - 17 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Luke 11: 9 - 13 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Matthew 7: 7 - 11 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

James 4: 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

James 1: 5 - 8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

John 15: 1, 2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

I Thessalonians 5: 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Philippians 2: 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.