7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 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. (Hebrews 8:7–13)
We’ve been talking about how God has made a New Covenant. A Covenant is an agreement between two persons, like a contract, but more personal.
…a divine covenant is an agreement in which God binds Himself to carry out His personal promise to His people, to redeem them from sin and bless them forever. Faith and obedience are the marks of the person who experiences the fulfillment of the covenant. (John F. MacArthur Jr., Ephesians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody Press, 1986], 73)
In this text we find four provisions that God makes in the New Covenant.
First Provision: A Heart For Obedience
Second Provision: Belonging To God
Third Provision: Knowing The Lord Personally
Fourth Provision: Total Forgiveness Of Sins
We’ve seen the first, a Heart for Obedience, now let’s look at the second.
I. SECOND PROVISION: BELONGING TO GOD
Hebrews 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord;
I will put my laws into their mind,
and write them in their hearts:
and I will be to them a God,
and they shall be to me a people:
10 ὅτι αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη ἣν διαθήσομαι τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰσραὴλ μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας, λέγει Κύριος,
διδοὺς νόμους μου εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν αὐτῶν,
καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν ἐπιγράψω αὐτούς·
καὶ ἔσομαι αὐτοῖς εἰς Θεὸν,
καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μοι εἰς λαόν.
Our focus here is on the phrase, “I will be to them a God and they shall be to me a people.” Another way of saying that could be simply, “We belong to God.”
What does it mean to belong to God?
Look back at what God told the Israelites after they had been delivered from Egypt, the beginning of what we call the Ten Commandments:
1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (Exodus 20:1–4)
The Lord had delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, so now they belonged to him.
What does it mean to belong to God? There’s a number of things we could say, such as being his special people, being his children, and knowing that we will receive an inheritance.
But in Exodus, God follows up his declaration of being their God with an admonition to avoid idolatry.
People commit idolatry when they put something in place of God. They switch the real God for something false, whether it is a statue, money, fame, or whatever.
I found at least sixteen occurrences of the phrase (or something similar), “I will be their God” in the Bible. Look at a couple with me and see the connection of that phrase and idolatry.
A. Jeremiah 24
In Jeremiah 24, Jeremiah is reporting what God says about Israel returning from exile in Babylon; God says in verse 7,
7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. (Jeremiah 24:7)
Idolatry happens when we don’t give our whole heart to God; something else edges him out. We let ourselves belong to something lesser and inferior.
One hundred decoys were placed on the Izu islands of Japan to encourage endangered albatrosses to breed.
For more than two years, a five-year-old albatross named Deko tried to woo a wooden decoy by building fancy nests and fighting off rival suitors. He spent his days standing faithfully by her side.
Japanese researcher Fumio Sato, talking about the albatross’s infatuation with the wooden decoy, said, “He seems to have no desire to date real birds.” (World [February 20, 1999])
That’s what idolatry is! Switching the real for the false.
The Lord says that he will be their God because they will return to him with their whole heart. Evidently, part of what God means when he says, “I will be their God,” is that the people have given their whole heart to God and not to a worthless idol.
B. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
In the New Testament, there is 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6:14–16)
Look at the progression in verse 16, “what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” Answer: none. God does not share his glory with anyone.
Then the next phrase is, “For ye are the temple of the living God.” There is the link with idolatry—we are the temple of God and what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
Then verse 16 concludes, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” So once again, we have a link between idolatry and being God’s people.
We, if we are Christians, have a responsibility to avoid idolatry in order to maintain the purity of our belonging to God. So, if you belong to God, then you cannot have any part with idols. God is a jealous God and wants all of you.
II. HOW CAN WE AVOID IDOLATRY?
How can we avoid idolatry? One way is understanding what idols are and where they come from. Ken Sande, in his book, The Peacemaker, did an excellent job describing idols and how idols form in our lives. The first stage in making something an idol is:
A. I Desire
Some desires are inherently wrong, such as vengeance, lust, or greed, but many desires are not. For example, there is nothing innately wrong about desiring things like peace and quiet, respectful children, a loving spouse, more time with your grandchildren, a new computer, professional success, or a growing church. These are good things, and it is fine to want them and seek them in reasonable ways. (Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Third Edition. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004], 102.)
But what happens when that desire fails to be met? When your spouse isn’t loving, and your kids are not respectful, and when the money to get what you want isn’t there?
We could choose to trust God with those people and circumstances, but we often don’t. Instead, Sande tells us:
We keep fighting to achieve our desire, dwelling on our disappointment, and allowing our desire and disappointment to control our lives.
At the very least, this course results in self-pity and bitterness toward those who stand in our way.
At worst, it utterly destroys important relationships and draws us away from God. (Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Third Edition. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004], 103)
Notice the last phrase, “draws us away from God.” That’s the foundation of idolatry.
That is the undoing of “I will be their God and they will be my people.” It’s the undoing of our belonging to God. God is no longer your God when you are fuming over unmet desires—those unmet desires are your god!
B. I Demand
When we see something as being essential to our fulfillment and well-being, it moves from being a desire to a demand. “I wish I could have this” evolves into “I must have this!”
This is where trouble sets in. Even if the initial desire was not inherently wrong, it has grown so strong that it begins to control our thoughts and behavior. In biblical terms, it has become an idol. (Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Third Edition. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004], 104)
Sande lists two more stages, I judge and I punish, but we don’t need to go into them. What is important here is to see that idols develop from desires. Not all desires are bad, but all desires can develop into idols.
In ancient times, the desire for a good crop led people to carve wooden statues to pray to for rain. Today, our desires also develop into idols, even though they aren’t carved statues.
So what do we do? We need to remind ourselves constantly that we belong to God. He is our God and we are his people.
We also need to ask ourselves regularly if something is getting in the way of our relationship with God. Are we allowing ourselves to belong to something or someone else other than God?
1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight [i.e., the idols], and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith [i.e., we belong to Jesus]; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
As a believer, you belong to God (that’s a wonderful privilege!) and you are responsible to avoid idolatry or the worship of other gods because he is your God and you are his people. You belong to God.