I’m going to be quoting extensively from a classic book by Andrew Murray called “Two Covenants.” Try Alibris or Amazon for a copy of your own. I’m a great believer in classic books that have stood the test of time and Andrew Murray’s books fall in that category.
I italicized key points within Murray’s Two Covenants I want to emphasize in this lesson.
Two Covenants by Murray is available online at www.worthychristianlibrary.com.
Chapter II: The Two Covenants: Their Relation
Let us try and understand why there should have been two, [covenants] neither less nor more. The reason is to be found in the fact that, in religion, all intercourse between God and man, there are two parties, and that each of these must have the opportunity to prove what their part is in the Covenant. In the Old Covenant man had the opportunity given him to prove what he could do, with the aid of all the means of grace God could bestow.
That [Old] Covenant ended in man proving his own unfaithfulness and failure. In the New Covenant, God is to prove what He can do with man, all unfaithful and feeble as he is, when He is allowed and trusted to do all the work. The Old Covenant was one dependent on man’s obedience, one which he could break, and did break (Jeremiah 31:32). The New Covenant was one which God has engaged shall never be broken; He Himself keeps it and ensure our keeping it: so He makes it an Everlasting Covenant.(Murray, “The Two Covenants: Their Relation” Ch.2)
“not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them says the Lord.” -Jeremiah 31:32 NKJV
Chapter III: The First Covenant
The law took men into its training, and sought, if I may use the expression, to make the very best that could be made of them by external instruction…
And yet, as a whole, Scripture represents the Old Covenant as a failure. The law had promised life; but it could not give it (Deut. iv.1; Gal. iii 21(p.20-21)…
The two great lessons God would teach us by it are very simple. The one is the lesson of SIN, the other the lesson of HOLINESS. The Old Covenant attains its object only as it brings men to a sense of their utter sinfulness and their hopeless impotence to deliver themselves. As long as they have not learnt this, no offer of the New Covenant life can lay hold of them. It is when a man sees that, as little as he could raise himself from the dead, can he make or keep his own soul alive, that he becomes capable of appreciating the New Testament promise, and is made willing to wait on God to do all in him…Accept its teaching, that all your efforts are failures. (Murray, “The First Covenant” Ch.3)
Chapter IV: The New Covenant
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” -Jer. xxxi.. 33, 34.
It was given to Jeremiah in this passage to foretell what would actually be the outcome of the Redeemer’s work. In words which the New Testament (Hebrews viii.) takes as the divinely inspired revelation of what the New Covenant is of which Christ is the Mediator, God’s plan is revealed and we are shown what it is that He will do in us, to make us fit and worthy of being the people of which He is the God.
Through the whole of the Old Covenant there was always one trouble: man’s heart was not right with God. In the New Covenant the evil is to be remedied. Its central promise is a heart delighting in God’s law and capable of knowing and holding fellowship with Him…At Sinai the tables of the Covenant, with the law written on them, were of stone, as a lasting substance…When the Old Covenant with the law graven on stone had done its work in the discovering and condemning of SIN, the New Covenant would give in its stead the life of obedience and true holiness of heart. The whole of the Covenant blessing centers in this– the heart being put right and fitted to know God: “I will give them an heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God; for they shall return unto Me with their whole heart” (Jer. xxiv. 7)…The promise, “They shall be all taught of God,” will be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit’s teaching. God will speak to each out of His Word what he needs to know.
He can only fulfill His purpose as the heart is willing and accepts His offer. In the New Covenant all is of faith. Let us turn away from what human wisdom and human experience may say, and ask God Himself to teach us what His Covenant means. If we persevere in this prayer in a humble and teachable spirit, we can count most certainly on its promise: “They shall no more every man teach his neighbor: Know the Lord, for they shall all know Me.” The teaching of God Himself, by the Holy Spirit, to make us understand what He says to us in His Word, is our Covenant right. Let us count upon it. Do let us turn our hearts away from all past experience of failure, as caused by nothing but unbelief; do let us admit fully and heartily, what failure has taught us, the absolute impossibility of even a regenerate man walking in God’s law in his own strength, and then turn our hearts quietly and trustfully to our own Covenant God. Let us hear what He says He will do for us, and believe Him; let us rest on His unchangeable faithfulness and the surety of the Covenant, on His Almighty power and the Holy Spirit working in us; and let us give up ourselves to Him as our God. He will prove that what He has done for us in Christ is not one whit more wonderful than what He will do in us every day by the Spirit of Christ. (Murray, “The New Covenant” Ch.4)
LET’S TAKE A BREATH BEFORE WE GO ON
I realize I could have saved the chapter that follows for next week but that would be selfish of me because, hopefully, you are beginning to really get a glimmer of the wonderfulness of what this New Covenant is all about. Truly God’s glory is seen throughout His Word. The reason I want you to take a breath before we do this last chapter for this week is because, to me at least, this chapter is where it all began. The book of Ezekiel 31: 26-27 is where my frustration and despair at my lack of holiness – no matter how hard I tried – ended, and my rest in God and His precious faithfulness began. I finally began to truly understand the depths to which I could trust Him.
Chapter VI: The Everlasting Covenant
“They shall be my people, and I will be their God. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me.”
– JER. xxxii. 38, 40.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.” Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them: it shall be an everlasting covenant with them.”
–EZEK. xxxvi. 26, 27, xxxvii. 26.
(Murray, “The Everlasting Covenant” Ch.6)
Finally, I began to understand! All the years of guilt and frustration were ended. I went back to the beginning. I came to the Lord as a sinner. He came to me as a Savior Who completely cleansed me of my sins. He did it all then. Why was I trying to complicate it by self-effort, thinking now I could change me? How much simpler to admit, whenever necessary, that I had sinned, come to my Savior and be cleansed again? After all, now I had a new heart. It wasn’t the heart of stone that tried unsuccessfully to follow the 10 Commandments. No, it was a soft heart of flesh that could now hear the Spirit He had put within me. I knew I was failing to obey those 10 Commandments as much as I dearly wanted to, but now He’s promising me that He will cause me to walk in His statutes and that I WILL keep and do His judgments (Ezekiel 36:27). He will not leave me in the lurch and stranded but has promised to keep this covenant eternally. It is His doing not mine. He cannot fail. When I began to understand this, my life changed. When I sinned – and the prompting of the Spirit was faithful and gentle in that regard – I would immediately repent. After He cleansed me, I would pray, “Lord, cause me to walk in Your statutes.” And He has. Great is Thy faithfulness. He has done what I could not do by myself. The Potter has changed the clay. If He doesn’t yet like what He sees, He’ll do what is necessary to make it a vessel of honor.
Continuing with Andrew Murray’s commentary on the Everlasting Covenant…
Chapter 6 cont’d – The Everlasting Covenant
In every covenant there are two parties. And the very foundation of a covenant rests on the thought that each party is to be faithful to the part it has undertaken to perform. Unfaithfulness on either side breaks the covenant. (Editor: This might be a good time to refresh your memory with the original teaching at the beginning of God’s “cutting a covenant” with Abraham).
If a New Covenant were to be made, and if that was to be better than the Old, this was the one thing to be provided for. No New Covenant could be of any profit unless provision were made for securing obedience. Obedience there must be. God as Creator could never take His creatures into His favor and fellowship, except they obeyed Him. The thing would have been an impossibility. If the New Covenant is to be better than the Old, if it is to be an everlasting Covenant, never to be broken, it must make some sufficient provision for securing the obedience of the Covenant people.
And this is indeed the glory of the New Covenant, the glory that excels, that this provision has been made. The New Covenant provides a guarantee, not only for God’s faithfulness, but for man’s too! And this in no other way than by God Himself undertaking to secure man’s part as well as His own.
Listen to what God says in Jeremiah of the two parts of His everlasting Covenant, shortly after He had announced the New Covenant, and in further elucidation of it. The central thought of that, that the heart is to be put right, is here reiterated and confirmed. “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good.” That is, God will be unchangeably faithful. He will not turn from us. “But I will put My fear into their hearts that they shall not depart from Me.” This is the second half: lsrael will be unchangeably faithful too. And that because God will so put His fear in their heart, that they shall not depart from Him. As little as God will turn from them, will they depart from Him! As faithfully as He undertakes for the fulfillment of His part, will He undertake for the fulfillment of their part, that they shall not depart from Him!
Listen to God’s word in Ezekiel, in regard to one of the terms of His Covenant of peace, His everlasting Covenant. (Ezek. xxxiv. 25, xxxvi 27, xxxii 26): “I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.” The one supreme difference of the New Covenant; the one thing for which the Mediator, and the Blood, and the Spirit were given; the one fruit God sought and Himself engaged to bring forth was this: a heart filled with His fear and love, a heart to cleave unto Him and not depart from Him, a heart in which His Spirit and His law dwells, a heart that delights to do His will.
Here is the inmost secret of the New Covenant. It deals with the heart of man in a way of Divine power. It not only appeals to the heart by every motive of fear or love, of duty or gratitude that the law also did. But it reveals God Himself, cleansing our heart and making it new, changing it entirely from a stony heart into a heart of flesh, a tender, living, loving heart, putting His Spirit within it, and so, by His Almighty Power and Love, breathing and working in it, making the promise true, “I will cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments.” A heart in perfect harmony with Himself, a life and walk in His way God has engaged in Covenant to work this in us. He undertakes for our part in the Covenant as much as for His own.
This is nothing but the restoration of the original relation between God and the man He had made in His likeness. He was on earth to be the very image of God, because God was to live and to work all in him. This is the exceeding glory of the New Covenant, that by the Holy Spirit God could now again be the indwelling life of His people, and so make the promise a reality: “I will cause you to walk in My statutes.”
Let me say to every reader who would fain be able to believe fully all that God says: Cherish every tender urging of the conscience and of the Spirit that convinces of sin. Whatever it be, a hasty temper, a sharp word, an unloving or impatient thought, anything of selfishness or self-will, cherish that which condemns it in you, as part of the schooling that is to bring you to Christ and the full possession of His salvation. The New Covenant is meant to meet the need for a power of not sinning, which the Old could not give. Come with that need; it will prepare and open the heart for all the everlasting Covenant secures you. It will bring you to that humble and entire dependence upon God in His Omnipotence and His Faithfulness, in which He can and will work all He has promised. (Murray, “The Everlasting Covenant” Ch.6)
So we are back to the one Word thought: Selah ( pause…and calmly think of all that). Normally I would not request comments of you. However, can we make this an exception? Have any of you been familiar with this fundamental doctrine before? If not, what kind of an impact has it had on you? My 20 year old grandson surprised me by his knowledge of it, but then, he went to a marvelous Christian School. Has anyone ever heard it preached from the pulpit?
My three late teenage and early twenty year old grandchildren read these lessons and suggested I view the video below. It is less than ten minutes long and worth the time – might even be a good family video..
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I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Hannah Hall, Michelle Arrington, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, J.P.Wilhelm, and Tracy Yoder. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.
Murray, Andrew. “Two Covenants”. Worthy Christian Library, Worthy Network. l Nov 1898. Web. Accessed 20 Dec 2017. http://www.worthychristianlibrary.com/two-covenants-by-andrew-murray-2/