Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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He takes away the first

old or new

by Dennis Pollock

There is a simple thought from the book of Hebrews that has been tremendously helpful to me as I have navigated through the many seasons of my life. It is this: "He takes away the first that He may establish the second…" (Hebrews 10:9). In its context this is talking about the Old and New Covenants. The sacrifice of animals must give way to the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. However there is a more general meaning in this as well. If you walk with Christ very long you discover that this taking away the first and establishing the second is one of the fundamental ways of God. This is a part of His modus operandi. If you live very long you are likely to experience this again and again.

The reason for this has to do with the fact that God is the God of the new:

  1. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)
  2. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  3. "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


Our Lord Jesus compared the covenant He would establish to new wine, saying, "…new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved" (Luke 5:38). New things demand change. There is no way you can experience something new without making some adjustments to the old. Most people prefer the old and familiar to the new and unfamiliar. Jesus tells us: "And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better' " (Luke 5:39). New often implies letting go of what we've been holding on to. And God is very much involved in these transition processes.

Jacob

An example of this principle is found in the life of the patriarch Jacob. In Genesis we read of Jacob leaving Canaan and journeying to Padan Aram where he found lodging with his uncle, Laban. This was at his mother's request, who feared he would be killed by his brother Esau if he didn't leave home. She, and no doubt Jacob himself, figured it would be only for a short time. She tells Jacob: "Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. And stay with him a few days, until your brother's fury turns away. (Genesis 27:43,44). Those "few days" turned out to be twenty years! In his new home Jacob acquired two wives, 12 sons, many slaves and much livestock. In spite of his father-in-law's trickery he  became a rich man and seemed to be content to stay there the rest of his days. But this was never God's plan.

The Bible tells us: "Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, 'Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has acquired all this wealth.' And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before." (Genesis 31:1,2). A new situation was emerging. Jacob was losing favor with his in-laws. This was more than just a matter of people getting on each others' nerves; God was about to bring about a major change in Jacob's life. God's grace that kept Jacob in good relations with his in-laws was lifting. This grace had kept Jacob where he was for twenty years, but now that the time had come for Jacob to leave, that grace was being withdrawn. God still works this way in our lives. He gives grace for a season and for a reason. But when that season is nearing its end and that reason no longer exists, the grace will begin to lift. Where there was blessing and abundance in the past, there is now scarcity and difficulty.

Suddenly God speaks to Jacob: "Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you" (Genesis 31:3). Only after Jacob notices that he has lost favor with his in-laws does God speak. At this point Jacob is very much ready to listen to such a word. When God tells us to move or change or leave something that has been precious to us, and things are going great for us, we have a hard time hearing His voice. So often He prepares us to hear His instructions by allowing things to start falling apart. There was no way Jacob could return to Canaan until he had first left his uncle in Padan Aram. There must be a leaving before there can be an entering. Israel must leave Egypt before they can enter their promised land. The disciples must leave their families and businesses before they could follow Christ. We must die and leave our earthly lives before we can enter heaven.

My wife, Benedicta, had a small business in Nigeria for around ten years. From time to time she had a sense that God was calling her to serve Him in ministry. Finally the call got so loud she shut down her business and began to make preparations for full time ministry. It seemed like a foolhardy decision. She had few connections, little money, and not much of an idea just how she would do it. Still she tried to be faithful to what she felt was the voice of God. It wasn't easy. In Nigeria there are no welfare programs; there is no government assistance or food stamps. When you are out of money you are out of luck. Beg on the streets or go live with a relative. As her small savings quickly ran out she was more than a little concerned. But before she was entirely broke an American evangelist came to town who had been praying for  a wife (me!). We developed a friendship, and I bought her a cell phone and began to call her every day. In about six months we were married and today she has preached and taught believers in many nations throughout the world. God took away the first and established the second.

When our streams dry up

The Bible has many different examples of this. Moses must be stripped of his royal position in Egypt and spend 40 years herding sheep in the desert before he can become Israel's anointed deliver. David must flee for his life from King Saul and live out in the wilderness with a bunch of malcontents before he can return after Saul's death and become king. In both cases God took away the first that He might establish the second.

ElijahAfter prophesying that Israel would have no rain, Elijah was told by God to go and hide himself by a brook in the wilderness. It was no five star hotel, but Elijah had what he needed. Ravens dropped him bread and meat twice a day, and the brook provided water to drink. This went on for a while until Elijah adjusted to his new and rather Spartan lifestyle. Then one day a major problem arose for the prophet. The brook began to dry up. During the terrible drought, this was not good. Then we read that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, and God told him to go to a certain widow's house where he would be provided for. The prophet's days of living by himself out in the wilderness were over. It was time for a new season.

We all have our little brooks, those streams of blessings that we enjoy and depend upon.  We give God permission to take anything He wants from us, but not that. Anything but that! But of course God refuses to recognize our "out of bounds" markers. He will often dry up our precious brooks, brooks which we have enjoyed for a long time and grown very fond of, in order to prepare us to hear Him when He tells us it's time to move. It's time for a new season of our lives.

Jesus made reference to this when He said: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1,2). Pruning is God taking away the first that He may establish the second. When grapevines are first pruned, it appears that the vinedresser has really butchered them. It seems almost cruel. Yet in reality he has done the grapevines the greatest possible favor. The first must be cut off that it may give way to the second, where the fruit abounds.

The worst part of the process is when the old has been taken but the new has not yet arrived. This was what Israel complained about so much during their wilderness treks. The melons, leeks, onion, and garlic of Egypt were gone, but all the promises of milk and honey, pomegranates, wheat and barley, vines and fig trees were not yet realized. All there was, was this boring, never-changing manna! It is in the special in-between time where faith becomes most necessary. Here is where our gaze upon the Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd must never waver. Here is where the battle is won or lost. Can you wait, can you believe, can you recognize that He who brought you out of Egypt is faithful and mighty to bring you into Canaan?

The disciples were in just this position as they endured those three days between Jesus' death and resurrection. While Jesus had been with them, life was great. The Master had supplied all they needed. Miracles abounded, multitudes were fed, demons were made to flee. There was no question to which Jesus could not respond. No situation was too difficult, no challenge too fearful. But now He was gone, His lifeless body lying in a tomb. What were they to do now? This made absolutely no sense. The old was so good, it was impossible to imagine anything new that could be an improvement. And yet Jesus had told them, "It is to your advantage that I go away."

On the third day after the cross, the new thing God was doing arrived precisely on schedule. Jesus was raised from the dead. A New Covenant was revealed that was infinitely superior to the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant had condemned but the New Covenant forgave and justified. The Old Covenant depended upon man but the New Covenant was totally God-based. And whereas before Jesus could only be in one place at one time, now He through His Spirit could be with every believer at once. This risen Christ announced, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." And on the Day of Pentecost the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to do the works of their Master.

Fresh Grace

Because God orders our lives in seasons, there must of necessity be transitions from one season to the next. Often there will be the need to let go of the old in order to embrace the new. And we need to recognize that the grace God often gives in certain areas in our lives comes with its own expiration date. As we reach the end of God's particular purpose, the grace that sustained us in the past will begin to lift and we must be prepared for a fresh word from the Lord and a fresh direction.

As we traverse the difficult paths and winding roads of our lives, we need a Shepherd to lead us in wisdom and safety. Jesus is that Shepherd! With every new season, every dangerous transition, every new Goliath to challenge and intimidate us, Jesus is more than enough for us. In Jesus Christ there is a constant supply of fresh grace. But we greatly err if we try to hold onto yesterday's grace, when God is providing us a fresh and different grace for today. The Bible tells us: "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16). Grace for today and grace for tomorrow, grace for our seasons of want and grace for our seasons of plenty, grace for our youth and grace for our old age. His mercies are new every morning.

And one final thing about the first and the second. In your own life, just as with the Old and New Covenants, you will find that the second is infinitely superior to the first. By the time God has finished establishing the second, you will find yourself saying, "He does all things well."

Best of all, there is one grace God gives that never lifts and is never withdrawn – the grace of salvation through Jesus Christ. The new birth has no expiration date. We will enjoy that grace throughout the endless ages, for He is able to keep that which is committed unto Him until that Day!

For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.

     

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