|image from www.ram-il.org |
What is not in the mind of God? This is one of those somewhat goofy questions, such as “What can’t God do?” Yet, there are some things that are not in God’s mind.
Under the Old Covenant, recorded in the Old Testament, the sins of human beings were defined by the law. Not only individuals, but families, and entire nations were held accountable for breaking that law. Grandchildren were held accountable for their grandparent’s sins. When God decreed that a nation should die because of sin, not only the warriors, but women, children and animals had to die as well. The law is unquestionably harsh. But something better was on the way.
The prophet Jeremiah, around 500 BC, recorded the word he received from the Lord, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel.” Jeremiah spoke about a time when the law would not be the primary way that God dealt with people, but that he would put the “law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” At that time he prophesied people would only be held accountable for their own sins, and that God “will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
This is part of a lengthy prophecy, and we are not left to wonder what it means. The writer of the book of Hebrews goes into a detailed explanation. As the young church began to recognize what Jesus’ death and resurrection meant, they could hardly contain their enthusiasm!
It became crystal clear that the sacrifice of Christ’s blood was the final sacrifice that God would require. The priests would no longer need to kill animals. The letter to the Hebrews says, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (The “we” refers to anyone who recognizes that one sacrifice as the only requirement needed to satisfy God).
It goes on to quote most of the Jeremiah passage, including that line, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” So, for those of us who have chosen to live under the New Covenant, our sins are not in the mind of God. He chooses to forget them. Gone.
So, does this make any difference in the way we should live? You bet!
We now have confidence “to enter the Most Holy Place.” This is a reference to the temple, where the priest would come into the very presence of God. Only the High Priest was allowed to go there, once a year, to receive forgiveness for the sins of Israel. But now, because our sins are not in God’s mind we are invited to “draw near to God.”
Sounds pretty ordinary to those of us who have been going to church our whole lives, but this was astounding stuff to a nation who had been used to death sentences for things like touching the Ark of the Covenant. They were used to hearing that no one could see the face of God and live, but now we are told that we can boldly go right up to the throne of grace to receive mercy.
And there’s more. We don’t have to carry around a guilty conscience. Whenever we do something wrong, we don’t have to wait for a whole year (which they had to do under the Old Covenant) to be forgiven. We can get up after each time we fall down, dust off our knees, and keep moving forward.
Pretty good consequences just from something that’s not in the mind of God.