Chinese tradition honored Self-reliance. It is a good character that let people to do things and make decisions by themselves, without needing other people's help. Many people believe the spirit of Self-reliance helps them achieve success. The students who passed the exam will be proud of their scores. The wining Olympic athletes will be proud of their gold metal. They deserve it. But how about the people who failed? A student failed his College Entrance Examination would have lost college experience. An athlete failed in one race will not only gain nothing from the event but even more pitiful is the years of training and hard work were wasted. In these sad situation, when you face an unsolvable problem, Self-reliance is meaningless.
1. Old covenant:
We all have these kind of painful experiences. In the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet points out the Israel people were in the same situation. They failed their covenant with Lord. A covenant is like a contract, as we made with each other, both sides must keep the promises otherwise it will break. The old covenant was made in this way. We read in Exodus 19, after three months the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. God made the covenant with all Israel people. God said in verse 5 to 6, Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. God the creator of the whole world, came to these people, saved them from the slavery, made them be His royal priests and a holy nation.
This contract is great. Image a student who failed in college admission get an offer from the best college in another day. He will full of joy and grateful to accept the life-changing offer to be a proud, honor college student. But, the student must do one thing, he had to promise to behave like a college student. He had to use all his strength to live like college students. He needs to obey all the rules that required as an honored college student. Otherwise, he will fail again and been kicked out to the college. That is, we called a two-way contract, both sides had to keep the promises.
Likewise, In the old covenant, God does the all great things for Israel people. Expect them to keep His covenant, to be His royal people. But they failed. They failed so quickly. In Exodus 32, God said, they have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”. Actually, during their days in wildness, even in the time of the Judges, the time of kingdoms, these chosen people failed God many times. Thus, the two-way covenant was broken, not on God's side, but in Israel side.
2. New covenant:
Although the old covenant was not able to save, God did not give up. In Jeremiah 31:31-32, God revealed His great plan to us. There is a new covenant. God will set a new covenant with His people. And this covenant, God said it will not fail.
How could this happen? Remember, in the previous covenant, it is not God failed but people failed God. Actually, at the end of this passage, God revealed the reason for the new covenant: GOD WILL FORGIVE OUR SIN. In Hebrew 10:10 we know clearer about His forgiveness: 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. The new covenant was based on pure God's work. He sends His Son Jesus to overcome sin and get forgiveness for all. Therefore, the sin which caused all people to break the covenant was solved, not by ourselves but by God alone.
What people failed and can't do, God showed a new way. In Jeremiah 31:33-34, God keep explained about the great new covenant He is going to establish with His people.
The Old Convent was written on the stone and scroll. We can lose or reject it because of our sinful nature. But the new covenant is write in our inner being. We will have a new nature that does not like the old one which always reject God's law but instead to love God's law. In 1 John 3:9 Apostle John told us: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. Remember it does not entail a new law; it is the same law that Jeremiah has repeatedly accused Israel people of rejecting or ignoring. But God will change us, by His great love and power, He will give us a new heart, a new nature.
This new nature inside us will not just keep the Law but to know God. Keep the Law is not the ultimate goal of all Christian. God want us to have an intimate relationship with Him. As the kids grown up, the knowledge they learn about their parents will help them love their parents more. In the same way, In God's kingdom, everyone, from lest to the great will know God. There will be an intimate relationship between God and His people. God reveal Himself to us. What a great news it is.
If we compare these two different covenants, we will find how precious and great love that God toward us. When we were failed in God in every way, God did not forsake us. Instead, He promised a saving grace to deliver us out of the pitfall. The Old covenant reminds our sin and hopeless, the New covenant promised the great salvation. May God keeps His word in our heart, let them draw all God's people to near Him and know Him. Amen.