I just love saying paradox. It’s fantastical, but not campy.
So I’m working through Hebrews for Backwards (due out, I hope by Chanukkah). I had skipped over it for a number of reasons which amount to laziness. The book was getting longer than I thought it should be; I didn’t intend it to be exhaustive, and I thought there should have been enough tools laid out that a reader could understand Hebrews without help. But the bottom line was I have not understood it, and I didn’t want to face the potential pitfalls.
Fortunately, God showed me those were not good reasons. It was like securing a building but knowing one door was unlocked.
The big problem for me has been 8:13, “In that He saith, a new [covenant], He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old [is] ready to vanish away.” Now I read that and immediately know that the understanding I have of those words is false. Covenants do not decay. The same doctrine that says the old covenant (which they say is Moses) has faded away, is the same doctrine that claims the even older Abrahamic covenant is not faded, and that the New Covenant is forever. Can you imagine the conundrum if God makes a New New Covenant?
I wrote a book so I wouldn’t have to deal with that on a blog. But today is the Eighth Day Assembly. The Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) is biblically only seven days long. Leviticus 23:39-42 says paradoxically that the feast is seven days long with a Sabbath on the first day and the eighth day.
Eight is the number of new beginnings. The eighth day is the first day of a new week after a Sabbath cycle. The Eighth day is the beginning of a boy’s life as a circumcised male. In the feast, YHVH says that the dwelling in booths (seven days) is because YHVH made our fathers to dwell in booths when they came out ofEgypt, but He did not tell us what the eighth day was for. It seems to hint of something . . . new . . .
So I again I’m facing down New. So I go back to the beginning. Paul, or another writer, of Hebrews is quoting Jeremiah. The word in Hebrews for New is actually “kainos” which has the idea of freshness, but not the word “neos” which has the idea of age. In other words, the “new” does not necessarily mean recent. What about the original? Does that line up with the Hebrew from Jeremiah? The word there is חדשׁ, chadash meaning new or fresh. If that sounds familiar, it did to me too. Chadash is from chadash (different vowel points), which means new or rebuilt. The same root word as chodesh, as in Rosh Chodesh (head of the month or in practice new moon). The reason new moon is understood is because it’s the head (rosh) of the rebuilding/new. Well what rebuilds on a monthly basis? The moon!
That seems an important clue. If you do a search for chadash, you find it refers to a “new” king, a “new” meat offering, a “new” store, a “new” wife, a “new” house. Now what do you notice about all of those? When the moon rebuilds each month is it a different moon? Is it something entirely unlike the previous moon? Or is its light made new? Can a new king be a rock? A dog? A rocking chair? Or does a New King have to be a man with authority? Can a new store of wheat be made out of clay? How about marbles? Or perhaps cotton? Perhaps cotton candy? No, it kind of has to be wheat even if it is new wheat. A new wife? Can she be a kitten? How about a car? Can your new wife be a cheeseburger? No, she kind of would have to be . . . much like an old wife. A human female of consenting age.
The point is that new in the chadash sense is yes something different, but something the same. A fresh expression of something that has already been. Have you ever wondered why God makes multiple covenants, and yet, when He speaks about his covenants, He always says “my covenant” not “covenants”. In fact the plural of covenants only appears in the New Testament in the context of epistles to gentiles who had grown up as strangers to the understanding of a covenant.
I put to you that like the moon, there is only one covenant that God has made. And like the moon, it goes through cycles of building, waxing, and rebuilding. And if you think about this in the yearly perspective, in each building and waxing, different things are happening below. With Aviv certain crops are growing under the moon’s construction and decay. In Ethanim/Tishrei, something else is growing under its light.
In this case, yes the New Covenant does “replace” the Old Covenant, but at the same time it is the Old Covenant. Just as Adam’s, Noah’s, Abraham’s, Moses’, and David’s covenant”s” were once new. And doubtless, doubtless, our New Covenant will itself one day be “old” and yet new. An aside, the futureJerusalem, Earth, Heavens, and even the names to the overcomers are all “new” in this same sense.
This is wonderful to meditate on. It gives the comfort that God is continuing to do things. Like the moon’s cycle God is never “finished” with us. The New never means the last. And yet, the New is itself also the Old but made fresh. What we have known will return after the dark. Your son is still your little boy even when he is also a man. The moon that you see tonight will be different and yet the same one you have always known. God is doing something different, his relationship with you is always different, and yet the same.
When Paul says then the old covenant is made old and waxing, he’s really saying its about to be made new. What a mystery that is? And yet we’ve seen it before. Abraham’s covenant was about faith, and yet did not Adam and Eve’s covenant build on faith? Moses taught about clean and unclean animals and the Sabbath, but did not Noah know of unclean animals, and the Sabbath show up on day 7 of creation?
Each building of the moon brings back the old shadows on its cratered face, but also new ones and the light on it is different. God is a creator, a builder, an artist. He does not scrap his work and start over with something we have never known. He adds layers, and new expressions, to the original, and with each one . . . he makes the old, new.