So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.
—2 Kings 25:21b
Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
This has been a heartbreaking week of Bible reading. Generations of evil kings wrought suffering on the land; now larger, neighboring empires have wrought more evil, more suffering, destruction, and finally, exile. It’s no wonder the scribes turned to the Book of the Law as they wrote this history, searching for answers. Which of us would not cry out “Where are you God?! Why has this happened?!”
In a way, writing and editing Kings is an act similar to Josiah reading Deuteronomy out loud to the people: a brokenhearted attempt to rediscover the will of the Creator and, in their suffering, turn their hearts back to God.
It’s easy for us, so many years later, to read this devastating conclusion to the kings and their kingdoms, then flip to Hebrews and rejoice upon reading that Jesus is “the guarantor of a better covenant.” After all, the old covenant failed, right? Humanity cannot follow God’s laws so Jesus has done it for us.
Well, yes. Those things are true, and we should certainly rejoice. But that isn’t the end of the story, not yet. We’re not off the hook, allowed to live our lives however we like. Rather, we submit our lives entirely to Jesus. Unlike the exiles who were forced to submit to a foreign empire, we voluntarily give over the rights to everything—our days, time, energy, possessions, and identity—to Jesus. We belong to Him now. We’ll do whatever He asks.
And what has He asked? Well…it’s quite similar to what He asked of the children of Israel, actually: Love God with everything you have. Love your neighbor. Take care of strangers. Love and pray even for your enemies. Feed anyone who is hungry; give water, shelter, and provision to anyone in need; visit people in prison; provide healthcare to anyone who is sick. Remember that the suffering, sad, and brokenhearted people are the ones God considers blessed, not those who are wealthy, comfortable, and powerful. Be humble. Pray. Trust in God, not in your earthy power, position, or possessions. Did I mention love? So many commands to love anyone and everyone. Be merciful. Forgive. Serve each other. Bless people when they speak badly about you. Do good to people who do bad things to you. Sell what you have and give to the poor. Give to anyone who asks something from you. If you realize you’ve offended someone, go to them and make it right.
Oh, and teach everyone in the world to follow these instructions, too.
This is the better covenant. This is what it means to declare that Jesus is the only way to God, who died for our sins and was raised to new life.
Whatever king, kingdom, or empire governs us, we submit to the Lord. We follow Jesus now.
Questions for reflection and discussion: Have you submitted your life to Jesus, or to an earthly empire? Which of Jesus’ instructions do you rejoice in following? Which are hard for you? How can your Christian community grow in following Jesus?