Limitations Of The Old Covenant

The Law . . . can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.
–Hebrews 10:1

What were the limitations of the old covenant? The writer of Hebrews talked about that in 10:1-4. First of all, the old covenant was a shadow and not the substance. Hebrews 10:1 says, “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.” Notice how he described the Old Testament. He said it was “a shadow of the good things to come.” That Greek word literally means “a pale outline.” Recently, Amy and I were all dressed up for a special event, and we decided we wanted to have our picture taken. The person behind us said, “Pastor, let me take the picture for you.” It happened to be the governor of Mississippi. He was a very nice man, a great governor. He said, “I have to warn you that I am not a very good picture taker.” And he was right about that. He took a picture with our iPhone, but he moved the camera and the image was fuzzy. You could barely make us out. It was a pale outline, a fuzzy outline, of who we are. That is what the Old Testament Law was. It was just a fuzzy outline of the promise of Jesus Christ.

The writer said the Law was “not the very form of things.” The Greek word for “form” is “eikon.” An icon is a perfect representation of something else. That is what the Law was. You may wonder, “Are you saying the Law was evil?” No, not at all. The Law served two distinct purposes for the Old Testament. First of all, the Law was a reflection of a future promise. It was a shadow of something better that was yet to come. The Apostle Paul used that same imagery in Colossians 2:16-17, which says, “No one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” He was saying, “Do not get hung up on Judaism and the Old Testament.” There were Christians in Paul’s day who wanted to go back under the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament. They wanted to go back under the Sabbath restrictions. They wanted to celebrate all the Jewish holidays. And Paul, who was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, was saying, “Forget all that stuff. That is old, that is ancient, and it is a shadow of something better yet to come–Jesus. Those things are the shadow. Jesus is the substance.”

Imagine you come home from work one day, and your kids are playing in the front lawn. As you walk up the sidewalk, the setting sun casts a shadow of you onto the sidewalk. Your kids see the shadow, and they see you. Which do you want them to hug: the concrete or you? Obviously, they are not going to hug the concrete, because that is just a shadow. That is not the real you. You are the real you. It is the same thing with the Old Testament. The Old Testament was just a shadow of Jesus Christ, who was to come. Now that Jesus is here, we no longer need the shadows.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Why The Old Way Is The Wrong Way To God” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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