ONCE upon a time there was a community of people who lived lives according to what seemed right in their own eyes. Sometimes what they did was indeed right but sometimes it was wrong.
Then a series of edicts came to them from on high. The people recognised the value of these, at least in principle, and so welcomed them. Let's call this set-up The Law.
Now, at least, the people weren't left to their own devices as to what was right and wrong. The only problem was that The Law didn't actually empower them to do right. However, built into it was a sacrificial system which pointed to forgiveness from the One who'd issued The Law. The idea of animal sacrifice for wrong-doing may seem a little strange to us but it didn't to those people. They saw it as the norm.
In fact we aren't so aloof from the idea of sacrifice. We think it somewhat admirable when a person takes the blame for someone else - for example the resignation last week of Lesley Douglas, controller of Radio 2, in lieu of presenter Jonathan Ross.
What we have reviewed here is often called The Old Testament.
Those same writings also speak prophetically of a day when someone would come with a better sacrifice than oft repeated animal sacrifices.
He would also bring into sharp focus the hitherto unseen One from on high. And finally this 'someone' would also issue a Law consistent with the first.
Rather than it being written on stone and so an external thing, now it would be written on the people's hearts, an internal thing - and that is empowering!
This is what we know as The New Testament and that 'someone' is Jesus.
In the same way that the people of old only became part of their Testament or Covenant (same thing) by welcoming it, we only become a part of the New Testament or Covenant when we welcome Jesus, its ultimate author and signatory.
Stephen Richards, Shirley Baptist Church