Not long after we were married, my wife and I were given an Amstrad 8512 PC. We must have been, so we thought – or liked to think – the envy of our friends. The little monitor with a screen that shone a mixture of green and black when switched on, exemplified the cutting edge of technology. It was a great machine. For the first time I began to type up my sermons. Until then I was limited to scrawly handwritten notes. Letters took on a whole new air of professionalism, especially if it was a letter of complaint – name printed at the bottom and the signature added afterwards. To misquote the late Neil Armstrong, it was one small step for mankind, one giant leap for a newly married couple.
Those days seem far away now. Amstrad PCs are museum pieces and their originator is now better known for his tv appearances than his technological breakthroughs. Good as our Amstrad was as a word processor, it would be completely lost in today’s cyberworld. Itunes, iPlayer, Google, livestreaming and so on are from a wholly different era. However good our first computer was in its day, it’s now obsolete. At best it’s now retro cool – but I doubt it!
In the book of Hebrews chapter 8, the writer makes a startling statement about the covenant God made with his people through Moses. He says it is obsolete:
“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear “ (v.13)
That must have come as quite a shock to some of those who heard this letter read out. How could anyone say something so shocking about the covenant God made on Mount Sinai? How could anyone, by implication, criticise the very law of God? Certainly, Jesus’ death and resurrection had changed everything, but you can’t just write off a substantial piece of God’s revelation?
It’s not hard to understand why some of the people in the early church wanted to hold on to the law in the way they did. In its time it marked an incredible breakthrough. Even apart from the ten commandments, which effectively became the foundation of the legal systems of Western society, the law was so enlightened. Even some of the parts that are quoted as being primitive were very advanced. For example, people sometimes cite the saying an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, as an example of God endorsing revenge. Far from it. It was a way of saying that justice should be appropriate and fitted to the crime and not be excessive.
However, what the law could not do was deal with heart issues. Expecting the law to change people’s hearts was as realistic as expecting to catch up on missed tv on iPlayer using our dear old Amstrad. It’s just not going to happen. It never had the capacity to perform that kind of function and never will. The law never had the capacity to change our hearts. And never will.
We live in a new covenant. We live under grace. Paul says we have died to the law (Romans 7.4). We are free from it. It has no hold over us. We are in Christ.
The mistake that we make sometimes is that we go back to the law. We judge ourselves by the law and we allow Satan to condemn us using the law. We allow him to remind us of past failure and present failure. And we allow him to restrict us and kill our joy by presenting that failure in terms of the law. We need to remind ourselves and our enemy that he is working with a system that has been made obsolete by the blood of Jesus. It’s as obsolete as a twenty year old computer.
We are in a new covenant. A covenant of grace. One of God’s law written on our hearts. One of complete forgiveness. One of peace with God. A covenant that guarantees us intimacy with God. One that is not based on our failure (See Hebrews 8.7-12).
The law was great in its time, but we are in a better covenant. So let’s live in it. Let’s dare to believe it. The old covenant is obsolete. It’s not even retro cool. Upgrade to grace. It’s there waiting for you.