Ever thought it strange that about three quarters of the Bible is marked as 'OLD'? Why be bothered about old stuff?
Last night I was left stunned when reading a chunk from the 'New' bits. 'If the first covenant had been faultless' Hebrews reads, 'there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.' (8:7)
My thoughts raced away. Though the basic sentiment is preschool - new is better than old - this implies that the first attempt wasn't good enough. It says God's first covenant wasn't faultless. You what!?? God's covenant, God's word, it had faults??!
Maybe quotes from Leviticus, for example, should carry a health warning: handle with care, they've been rubberstamped 'old', they weren't good enough, they've been surpassed.
What the flip is going on here? Why would God not get it spot on the first time around?
Let's turn our thoughts to the Bible's bigger, overarching narrative. Let's turn towards the end of the Old Testament.
Cos the Old sets the stage for the New.
As a direct consequence of the inadequacies of the old covenants, the book of Lamentations is as dark as it comes. 'Jerusalem's streets,' it begins, 'once bustling with people, are now silent. Like a widow broken with grief, she sits alone in her mourning.' From amongst the rubble of destruction one onlooker writes, 'I have cried until the tears no longer come.' (2:11)
Interwoven amongst prophecies of the dark times described in Lamentations, Jeremiah offers hope. 'The day will come' says the LORD, 'when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves a wife.' (31:31-32)
The old covenants WERE drenched in the deepest, most intimate, passionate love but the relationship broke down. It all ended in devastating heartbroken grief. Nevertheless, surrounded by rubble and screams of grief, the onlooker in Lamentations declared, 'I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends.' (3:21-22)
Cos you see, the dawning of a new day carries most impact, significance, joy and euphoria when it ends a time of the utmost pain and suffering.
To quote U2, 'There's always pain before the child is born.'
I call this the Istanbul phenomenon. Liverpool winning the European Cup in 2005 wouldn't be half as europhic, exciting or memorable if they hadn't been 3-0 down at half time.
Fans had to experience the pains of the first half, to fully appreciate the joys of the second.
And it's the same with the Bible.