The Old Covenant and The New
Presented by Dr. Daniel G. Samuels*
The Old Covenant
By Jesus of Nazareth
As published in New Testament Revelation 15
and Old Testament Sermon 5
The Covenant which God made with Abraham may not have been the first between the Deity and man, for spiritual men earlier in time and in different areas of the world became aware of His laws of righteousness and justice and sought to interpret them and make them known to their peoples. But the Covenant with Abraham has a special meaning to mankind because, rather than a groping towards God, it appears as a revelation by God Himself, and the forerunner of that New Covenant through Jesus which made available to man His Divine Love and Salvation.
The Old Covenant was a remarkable one. When he became conscious of the Divine call, Abraham was in the sunset of a long life. How much strength, courage and determination God gave him is shown by his obedience to that call -- a call that meant long periods of arduous and dangerous traveling undertaken by an old man of seventy-five, from Ur of the Chaldees to the land of the Canaanites, nearly a thousand miles away. The task which God had entrusted to him seemed hopeless, to raise up a people devoted to an invisible Deity of righteousness, justice and mercy, and who demanded that these things be practiced by those who worshiped Him.
It was impossible to teach the Chaldeans, Canaanites, or other peoples of that time in that area, to seek God. The benefits and blessings of the land which God in His Love and Mercy bestowed upon His children of all races were attributed to local agricultural and fertility gods like Baal, Melcart or Ashtaroth, and accompanied by immoral rites of worship. Their offerings to these gods were the first fruits of the fields and the firstlings of the living creatures -- not excepting their own first-born, who were slaughtered or "passed through the fire" to insure the fertility of fields and wombs. The people of these lands were addicted to these horrible practices of human sacrifice. Unable to teach them to trust in Him, or with another plan of salvation in view, God sent forth Abraham, His willing servant, to a distant land and there raised him up as father to a race that would turn from the bloody ceremonies of the heathens and walk in His Ways of justice, righteousness and mercy.
Abraham's binding of his son, Isaac, to an altar, and the latter's being saved by an angel of God from sacrifice at the hand of his father is not, therefore, a narrative depicting the test of Abraham's faith in God, as Bible commentators so erroneously think. Abraham's faith in God had been put to the test again and again by the rigors and hardships which he had faced and borne for months and months in the slow and exhausting trek from his native Ur, to begin, at his old age, a new life at the call of a God he could not see but whom he knew in his heart was the living King of the Universe. The saving of Isaac, then, was not a test at all, but the undeniable proof, stamped with the authority of God Himself through His angel, that He had turned away His countenance from human sacrifice and demanded true worship in obedience to His statutes of righteousness, justice and mercy.
And when Abraham had faith, he had faith that God did not wish him to sacrifice his son Isaac, and thus he carried out that faith in works by sacrificing an animal instead. For Abraham rebelled against the customs of the times to sacrifice children; for had he placed Isaac on the altar, it would have been not out of obedience to God, but in obedience to the sacrificial rites and ceremonies of his day. For God, through his messengers, had revealed unto Abraham not to bring his son Isaac to sacrifice, and such was Abraham's faith in God that he obeyed with works, and broke with the religious customs of the time. And this was Abraham's real faith and obedience to God, for God never tested anyone in such a manner; for God is not brutal, as He is so often depicted in the Scriptures, but a kind and loving Father who, through Abraham, was able to bring about in that area of the world the cessation, in time to come, of that horrible practice.
* The second mortal instrument chosen by Jesus, whose work was supplementary to that of Mr. lames E. Padgett.
The New Covenant
By Dr. Daniel G. Samuels
This writer feels that an even more distressing misunderstanding beclouds God's bestowal of the New Covenant. In His own good time, the Messianic prophecies which appear in Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah, whereby He would provide a new heart for His children by the outpouring of His Spirit, were brought to fulfillment with the advent of Jesus. And as Abraham revealed God's righteousness and justice to a people that sprang from his seed, and as Moses made those God-given attributes the Holy Torah of Israel, so Jesus revealed the greatest of all of God's gifts -- His Divine Love, which, when shed abroad in the hearts of men by earnest prayer for that gift, would transform human souls into Divine souls filled with the very Essence and Nature of the Father.
Jesus, manifesting God's Love obtained in abundance through earnest prayer, was indeed the son of God. For the availability of God's Divine Love came with Jesus, the Christ, who first received that Love, and in such degree that while yet in the flesh he became a Divine soul identical in nature with that of the infinite Soul of God. Thus Jesus, the living possessor of the Father's Love, taught that this Love was available to all mankind, demonstrating its power through his miracles of healing, and preaching salvation through prayer to the Father for its possession. This was the mission of Jesus, and it still is.
Nowhere in the Old Testament, essential as God's promise of New Testament fulfillment, do we find that Jesus had to die asphyxiated on a cross so that His Father, who had just revealed Himself in Jesus as God of Love, could satisfy a supposed sense of wrath for human sin. Some cults, mistaken in their understanding of the old Hebrew offerings, would thus make the loving Father the executioner of His own son, a ritual He had strikingly condemned in the case of Abraham. And in accordance with that mistaken conception of the Hebrew offerings -- a conception never advanced by Jesus or the Apostles themselves, but by later pagan converts to Christianity -- Jesus' blood, in a manner very similar to that of the pagan mystery cults, is supposed to immediately cleanse man's soul of all his evil thoughts and deeds and desires, doing vicariously that which man himself does not make the effort to do, and making his soul fit to live with God.
The mistake, however, lies in the erroneous idea that the Hebrews thought there was efficacy in the shed blood of sacrificed animals. If they said that "life was in the blood," it was a scientific view devoid of any religious implications. The Hebrew system, as overwhelmingly demonstrated by the great prophets, who brought the unchanging word of God to their people, uncompromisingly stresses forgiveness of sin through turning to God and forsaking evil thoughts and ways. And in this way, only, could sins be forgiven. The offerings of animals in the Temple of Jerusalem were simply an outward act to show that man's heart was turned to Him, and that he was walking in the statutes of His Torah of righteousness, justice and mercy. With the Babylonian captivity, the Hebrews learned that man could walk in God's ways without a Temple or sacrifices, and that man's real offering to God, as expressed by Micah the Prophet, consisted in obeying His commandments.
Later, priestly insistence upon these rites and ceremonies were for national purposes only -- to keep the Hebrew "pure" and apart from the Gentiles; and the later pagan converts to Christianity, wedded as they were to their own ritualistic cults, adopted and blended those of the Hebrews with their own, and converted Jesus' religion of salvation through prayer to the Father for His Love into one of rite and ritual, with salvation to be had through blood and sacrifice, with Jesus himself the victim.
But just as no shed blood of pigeon or lamb could of itself save the Hebrew from sin, but the contrite heart of him who sought God, so no shed blood of Jesus (who in the early church doctrine takes the place of the animals) can blot out man's transgressions and make him pure in heart. No one can explain how Jesus' blood, gone back into the elements these two thousand years, can wash away man's sin; and some sects now consider the mass as merely symbolic. Something more than his blood is needed to turn man from evil and give him the new heart which the Heavenly Father promised His people and which he fulfilled through Jesus.
The new heart results from the transformation of the human soul into at-onement with the nature of God, brought about, not through outward sacrificial ceremonies which do not touch the heart, but through the work of the Holy Spirit in conveying the Father's Love into the soul of whosoever seeks it in earnest prayer. This revelation of the Father's plan for man's salvation, first made known by Jesus in his mission on earth, and rendered incomprehensible in the gradual formation of the temporal church, has now been printed by the Church of the New Birth in True Gospel Revealed Anew By Jesus in four volumes.
There are, of course, two clear references in the prophetic books of the Hebrews: Isaiah's verses on the Suffering Servant, and the statement in the Book of Daniel that the Messiah was to be "cut off." The first of these, impartial students of the Scriptures agree, represents Jehovah's afflicted servant, Israel, who, purified through suffering, is to find glory in showing mankind the way to God. The second is a direct reference to the assassination of Onias III, the high priest of the Temple in the days of the Maccabees, about 171 B.C. Other Messianic allusions refer to the "branch" of David, to Cyrus the Great, the Persian monarch, who proved well disposed to the Hebrews, and to Zerubbabel, the Judean governor in the late sixth century B.C. None of these last mention in any way a tragedy in the life of the Messiah.
These bald statements, while historically true, do not, however, write finis to the matter by any means; and this writer sincerely believes that these references to the coming Messiah form a pattern in which God, through His prophets, revealed to mankind His foreknowledge of events to come -- not because it was fated or predestined to be so, but because they were the natural outcome of conditions in which man's heart was hard and unregenerate.
Thus, Jesus was crucified not for man's sins but because of them; because mean spirited and evil men, crystallized in their materialism, were the chief priests at the time; because a narrow and fantastic legalism, devoid of heart and human feeling, was stifling real Judaism and its love to God and fellow men; and because this deplorable state sat well with a cynical Roman procurator in power, one who "made a deal" to placate the priests and their hirelings and liquidated at the same time the "King of the Jews," one he thought might be a source of civil unrest and sedition.
Jesus went to his death, not so he could be a willing sacrifice in a bloody ritual, condemned by God, but because, faithful to his God, he refused to recant or deny his mission that he was the Christ, possessor of the Father's Love and Nature and that he had been sent by the Father to teach man the Way to that new heart through the only way man has of coming to the Father -- through earnest prayer and the longing of the soul.