While in Albuquerque in July 2009, my family and I briefly visited the Petroglyph National Monument. The Native American symbols etched in the volcanic rock of central New Mexico made that site impressive. Those of us in the Twenty-First Century cannot interpret some of the symbols accurately because we do not know their context. Even so, some of the symbols are easily recognizable. For example, depictions of tropical birds demonstrate contact between the aborigines of North America and Mexican and Central American natives. Another recognizable theme, thanks to the interpretation provided by descendants of the petroglyphs’ creators, is that of the flute player. The flute player represents the rituals of ancient man to secure the life giving rain in this arid region. A problem with such petroglyphs, though, is that they are not portable. That is to say, in order to appreciate them you must visit them, as they are unable to come to you.
This was also the nature of Moses’ Law. Moses came down from Sinai bearing two stones inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Of course, there was likewise commentary concerning these commandments, which God gave Moses and he recorded faithfully in the Pentateuch. This was a more portable copy but was still not easily accessible to all those in that covenant relationship with God. If you recall, the second copy of the Law that Moses had not broken as well as Aaron’s budding staff and a container of manna were stored in the mysterious Ark of the Covenant. By the time God allowed a faithful remnant to return to Judea from Babylon, the Ark was missing. Gone, then, was the original Ten Commandments written about in much of the Pentateuch. It is true that copies of the Pentateuch had become more readily available during captivity as the focus of Judaism switched from centralized Temple worship to synagogue worship. Each synagogue had a cabinet called “the Holy Ark” which contained a copy of the Pentateuch and other Old Testament writings. The attendant of the Nazareth synagogue handed Jesus such a copy of the Scriptures to read aloud as recorded in Luke 4:15-21.
The limitations that had become clearly visible as the Mosaic Age wore on caused God to reveal the intention He had possessed from eternity. In Jeremiah 31:31ff, God declared that He would change the covenant. God would make a new covenant (i.e., New Testament) with the faithful Jewish remnant and Gentiles as well. Unwritten in stone, this covenant would be superior to the first since God would write the new covenant directly upon the hearts of men and women. As such, the New Testament is portable. As Paul said, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). In other words, it is within the mind of man. Just as Jesus promised the Samaritan woman in John 4 that true worship would one day be disconnected from an actual physical location (i.e., Jerusalem), so too has God’s covenant become disconnected from the rudiments of stone. Faithful men, inspired by God’s Spirit, recorded the mystery of God for us in a book that has become so commonplace within the United States that practically every home possesses at least one copy of it.
As such, we need not “teach every man his neighbor” (Jeremiah 31:34). No, this does not do away with the obligation to teach. Jesus told us to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15-16). This fact about the New Testament means that done away is the need for a priestly class to instruct men and women concerning the way of God. Each man and woman would, with the New, have access to that covenant and would become personally accountable to it (cf. John 12:48)
Do you have God’s covenant in your heart? If not, why not pick up a copy of it today and internalize it so that you may receive saving faith (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-10).