A remark in a recent video sermon by an American Anglo-Israel advocate was unsettling. He made a statement in an off-hand way that “Christians are still under the Old Covenant because the New Covenant is not here yet.” This is quite apparently a source of confusion for some believers today. Perhaps he and his little group of followers see this as a convenient justification for obeying some of their favorite precepts of Old Testament law, but they forget that one cannot pick and choose what they want to obey under the Old Covenant, and ignore the rest. Yet this is just what many people, both Jews and Christians, do in both the Old and New Testaments.
My reply to this, in short, is that we should thank God that we are NOT still under the Old Covenant and its very involved and restrictive requirements. Jews, in fact, have perpetually been aware of this and developed through the centuries various schemes to avoid some of the Old Covenant’s most rigorous constraints, all while imagining themselves to be strict followers of torah commandments.
Not long ago, a visitor to our church enthusiastically told me that she closely follows the teachings of a certain rabbi on his internet site. This rabbi very strictly follows all of the torah, or Old Testament laws of God, she claimed. I replied, “Oh really? Does he perform the daily sacrifices of lambs every morning and evening?” She was confused about what that was, because the rabbi never mentioned such a thing, and she had never read all the way through the Old Testament for herself.
The “daily sacrifices,” or tamiyd in Hebrew, were daily, regular sacrifices performed every day of the year, and required the sacrifice of a lamb both morning and evening. Numbers 29 tells about the special offerings to be made on the first day of the seventh month, New Year’s day on Judah’s civil calendar, and then adds in verse six, “These are in addition to the burnt offering of the new moon and its cereal offering, and the daily burnt offering and its cereal offering, and their drink offerings, according to the ordinance for them, for a pleasant and soothing fragrance, an offering made by fire to the Lord.” (Amplified Version) The prophet Daniel mentions the daily sacrifice five times (Dan. 8:11, 12, 13; 11:31; 12:11).
The rabbis, of course, contend that sacrifices were eliminated after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 A.D. by priestly decision, but upon what authority do human priests or ministers presume to change the Word of God? Under the Old Covenant both worship and sacrifice were to be performed only in the Jerusalem temple, but the temple’s destruction did not cause worship to cease, so why an end to sacrifice? The Samaritans, in fact, continued sacrifices elsewhere for several centuries afterward. Indeed, a strict obedience to the Old Covenant would require a host of blood animal sacrifices with a minimum of two lambs slain daily, morning and evening. Not even supposedly Orthodox Jews today want to be part of such an arrangement! Nor will such a totally obsolete system be revived in the Millennium as Dispensational-Futurists strangely contend.
The real reason that sacrifices have permanently ceased was due to Christ’s sacrifice for sin and the institution of the New Covenant. Hebrews 7:27 tells us, “He has no day by day necessity, as [do each of these other] high priests, to offer sacrifice first of all for his own [personal] sins and then for those of the people, because He [met all the requirements] once for all when He brought Himself [as a sacrifice] which He offered up.” (Amp) Salvation and forgiveness of sins is a valuable free gift for all who believe in the Messiah Jesus Christ.
In comparison, the restrictions meted out under the Old Testament are numerous, arduous, and expensive to perform. Old Covenant Sabbath Day constraints were so onerous that the rabbis during the middle ages developed an unbiblical escape theology called the “Eruv” or “Erubh,” which is a line strung around each city (in New York City composed of heavy duty fishing line on light poles 18 feet high) within which they have decided that the Old Covenant Sabbath law does not apply. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (5-12-2017, A15) reported that the costs of maintaining the New York City Eruv “exceed $125,000” annually and are contributed by Orthodox congregations such as Yeshiva University and Chabad of the Bowery. Any small break in the fishing line (Eruv) renders it invalid, requiring Rabbi Moshe Tauber of New York to regularly drive an estimated 25 miles around the city following the line to ensure there are no breaks. A local company, Spectrum on Broadway, performs repairs according to the rabbi’s instructions.
All of this is necessitated because of Old Covenant laws restricting Sabbath activities. According to the same Wall Street Journal article, “During Shabbos, which runs from Friday sundown to Saturday night, religious Jews aren’t permitted to carry objects outside the home, as that would constitute work. No bottles of wine and casseroles when visiting friends, not even prayer books and tallit bags. The eruv becomes a lifeline for Orthodox families to be out and about on the holiest day of the week. Under cover of the eruv, which symbolically extends one’s residence into the public domain, carrying and pushing are kosher. This means parents can walk with baby carriages and strollers. Ditto for those guiding wheelchairs or walkers. The mingling of private and public space reflects the definition of eruv, a Hebrew word for ‘mixture’.”
The eruv system is predicated upon the dubious notion that God’s laws do not apply in one’s own home and therefore the entire city can be assumed to be an extension of a personal residence through the medium of a line strung around the city. There is of course no basis for such a stratagem in the Word of God, but the alternative is too onerous for modern men and women to bear. Do we really want to place ourselves back under the Old Covenant and its requirements?
Thankfully, we are freed from the Old Covenant by the sacrifice of Christ, for “he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” (Heb. 8:6) While it is true that our bodies are yet mortal, and we have not yet been transformed into our eternal condition, yet we have the earnest of our inheritance because Christ has already conquered death for us by His sacrifice for sin. His sacrifice instituted the New Covenant as He explained, “This cup is the new testament or covenant [ratified] in My blood, which is shed (poured out) for you.” (Luke 22:20, Amplified Version)
Hebrews 8:13 tells us, “When God speaks of a new [covenant or agreement], He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether.” (Amp)
Let us inform others of this good news, that the Old is gone, the New has come!