Old Covenant Israel was an earthly theocracy. That is, a temporal nation ruled by God directly and through men appointed by Himself through prophets, who would enforce His law as the civil, moral and religious law for all those in covenant with Him at that time. The natural children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Jews.
In this spiritual and civil economy, two things make it entirely different from the New Covenant age that we live in today.
1. The church effectively WAS the state in that age. All the power of the government was derived directly from God’s law as revealed to Moses. There was no legislative human branch authorized to change the law at any point. (This was the trouble with the pharisees. They ignored that)
2 “My people” refers to HIS people in a nation where EVERYbody, to a man, was under that covenant and therefore HIS people included EVERYbody in that nation AS an earthly people.
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This doesn’t mean that everybody was a truly redeemed believer in and servant of the LORD, because that’s not the kind of covenant it was and that’s the point. That covenant promised earthly temporal blessings and encompassed a temporal earthly people defined by human descent within the blood lineage of Abraham.
The NEW covenant, so clearly and gloriously prophesied in the 31st chapter of Jeremiah, 600 years before Christ (and directly quoted in Hebrews chapters 8 and 10), is specifically declared NOT to be like that earthly covenant:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”Jeremiah 31:31-34
The language God uses through my hero Jeremiah (ohhhhh what a sold out mighty man of God this guy was) portrays the translation of the Lord’s covenant work, from external symbols and types to internal and Eternal realities. How is this covenant to be different from the one they had been historically living under? His law, meaning His word and will, were no longer to be written rules and statutes that His people would be taught to live by in outward obedience by an outward priesthood, which law they broke constantly as he says.
No, under the new covenant, men (girls too), would be given new hearts where His law would live inside them, (by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit as would later be revealed). Here are the points that many folks miss. God says:
“…I will be their God, and they shall be My people….”
Wait a minute here!! Haven’t they always been His people and He their God? In that outward sense, yes, but from the start that never was the goal of God’s covenant with Abraham (Galatians 3, huge sections of Romans and the whole book of Hebrews for instance, make this clear). Remember when Elijah was running from Jezebel and hiding in the cave and complaining to God about the apostasy of his fellow Jews? The prophet felt like he was the only faithful servant of YHWH left in the land. The LORD told him that He had kept for Himself (make no mistake. HE’S the one who does the keeping) 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
The best scholarship has Israel numbering at least a million and maybe even a million five at that time. Within that huge mass of visible people living in that fleshly earthly covenant, only a small fraction were actually “His people” in their hearts and therefore His people in reality. Under the new covenant, EVERYBODY actually in that covenant are His people in their hearts. Everybody in this covenant with God is truly saved and every truly saved person is in this covenant. They ALL know Him. From the least to the greatest. As long as they are in that covenant. Not so with Israel. That covenant was outward and earthly and for an outward and earthly kingdom. Most of IT’S human members weren’t actually God’s people at all. Jesus kingdom is, just like His law, now within and in the midst of His Covenant people and not of this world written in stone. (Luke 17:20 and 21 and John 18:36 could use a post all their own)
As an aside, yes there WERE regenerate saints with God’s law on their hearts in the Old Testament age. (David for instance understood that forgiveness came by mercy and not actually by the sacrifice of animals. Psalm 51) They were saved by grace through faith looking forward to the payment upon their redemption, as we are saved looking back upon it, though they didn’t fully understand that at the time. (Hebrews 11) However, the prophets DID have some advanced understanding of the gospel of grace that was yet to come. 1st Peter 1:21 and Galatians 3:6-9 (another big topic)
The point is, that although ALL scripture is for our New Covenant instruction (2nd Timothy 3:16-17) it requires real, time consuming study and dedication to discern which trans-cultural principles and promises belong to both covenants and which were bound up with the earthly old one. However, even in those that ARE bound up with the earthly old one, there are still spiritual principles there for us living in the everlasting new one. Honestly? Once you have this proper framework in your mind for how to understand what’s going on with all this, it’s not very hard to determine what is what.
The problem is, in this modern church world where theology is built upon memes (not that memes are ALWAYS bad) and shallow shoddy paperbacks written by pretty much biblically illiterate celebrity conference speakers, most folks never get that framework in place and consequently go about proclaiming single verses like 2nd Chronicles 7:14 as if they carry straight across promises for Christians living in 21st century America. (Don’t even get me started on Deuteronomy 28) 21st century America is not theocratic covenant Israel. 21st century AmeriCANS are not His people and this is not our land. The New Covenant is not about land at all.
Therefore, any promise spawned from and written to God’s theocratic old earthly covenant, including this one, simply cannot be taken as a direct, in kind promise to Christ’s New Covenant spiritual bride. The “Jesus came to bring social justice to the world” and Word of Faith folks (not that they’re exactly the same), are among the most egregious offenders at this type of thing. Proof-texting pontification at it’s worst. Again. The problem is with the underlying set of principles that one brings to the text in the first place.
If God were to make America the greatest and most blessed and just nation of all time,(which He very well could do) it will be because He has secretly and sovereignly decreed it. Not because He has promised it as something we should expect and make our goal. No such promises can be found in the bible without conveniently lifting selected verses and short passages and coercing them into the service of a preexisting agenda.
Taking this election cycle as an indication, the United States of America, for a list reasons, has become one of the greatest false gods in the history of earth. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for our jealous God, who will not share His glory with another, to leave such an idol any longer dangling in front of the mesmerized church on this continent.