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Hebrews 8:6-13 – OT


Jeremiah 31:31-34 … a thought experiment* …

Listen up, you should know that the days of democracy and freedom in the United States are coming to a close.  It’s going to be very different around here.  The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are antiquated documents from a time bearing little to no relation to our own.  The men who wrote those documents, who argued for the freedoms you all enjoy, made some assumptions about you that have not proven sound.  In other words, you let them down.  They thought you would use freedom as a means to pursue virtue; you haven’t.  They thought that you could conduct yourselves in such a way that your way of life would become a beacon that led the rest of humanity to a better place; you couldn’t.  In retrospect, these were foolish and naive assumptions, rendering the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights deeply flawed documents unfit for serving as a foundation for rational government in today’s world.

A new government based on a new philosophy is in order.  Gone are the ridiculous assumptions about people being made equal.  Gone are the guarantees of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Gone is the ridiculous charade of choosing leaders.  Once rid of these outdated ideas and priorities, people will be able to live together in peace and security.  The US will dissolve and submit to a global hierarchy of regulators and experts.  There will be no need to petition the government or stand trial for crimes because the government will always know what you need and what you’ve done.  Utopia is coming.  The past is gone.

Now, I thought about leaving this to stand alone as my post today, but I didn’t think it worth the misunderstandings that might arise.  What I wanted to do, though, is capture some of the shock and offense that the Jews of the first century might have had in reaction to all this language about a New Covenant. 

Perhaps even in Jeremiah’s time, people would have been offended by the passages I link to above.  But definitely Paul and our author’s comments about a New Covenant being established to take the place of the old is offensive and shocking to Jews in a way that I don’t think most of us would readily grasp.  We think, ‘Oh, okay.  So they are being told that all the hoops they had to jump through are no longer needed.  That has to be good news.  At worst, they might feel a bit disoriented about what proper religion is supposed to look like, but that’s not too big a deal.’ 

But this ignores the fact that the Covenant of Abraham and Moses was more than a set of rules or religious rituals.  They form the very identity of the Jewish people.  What it means to be Jewish is to have this arrangement set out by God especially for you to interact with Him as His chosen people.  Jeremiah and Paul and our author are attacking the very core tenet of Jewish identity. 

What is more central to the identity of modern Americans than the enlightenment values of democracy, equality, freedom, and liberty?  We are not a nation based on common ethnic ties.  We are not a nation based on struggle against outside oppression.  We are a country whose very existence is justified by the principles enshrined in our founding documents.  To be an American is to represent this idea of mankind and human nature.  To insult these things and sweep them away is to destroy any concept of what it means to be an American.  Only thinking of the New Covenant language this way can, I think, give the modern reader (at least the modern American reader) the proper sense of how jarring and offensive this language is to the audience of Hebrews.


* Which means nothing in the following two paragraphs represents the real opinions or analyses of NatNav or anyone that the NatNav community considers a respectable thinker.

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