Deuteronomy 28:1–68, 2 Corinthians 7:1–7, Psalm 41:1–13
In the Old Testament, the covenant God made with His people was about their faith in Him and their obedience because of that faith. In other words, if they genuinely believed, they would behave accordingly — and God would bless them for it. These verses give a general idea of how this was communicated. The first one is about the blessings . . .
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:1)
After more description of blessings for obedience, such as good crops and protection from their enemies, the text describes the curses for disobedience . . .
“The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me . . . . The Lord will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways. And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you.” (Deuteronomy 28:20, 28–29)
In the new covenant, God still promises blessing for obedience, but the blessings are not necessarily about power or protection from harm. Instead, the reward for obedience is a deeper knowledge of God, a greater righteousness, and a richer holiness in our relationship with God and with others. In contrast, obedience to the old covenant could easily slip from a loving response to God into a “if I do it, I’ll be blessed” – which is not what God had in mind. His people are supposed to obey Him because He is who He is, not for selfish reasons.
Obedience in the new covenant is motivated by love for Jesus Christ. A quote from God found in the OT says, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:16–18)
The very next verse is the response to those words: “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
God’s redemptive power is at work. Because of Jesus Christ, Christians are being restored to the image of God in which human beings were created. The ruin of sin has been forgiven and is being reversed by the power of God. We have the life of Christ and the Holy Spirit living in us. Our minds are changed; we don’t want to sin as we used to, but want to be holy people. This isn’t about escaping a curse, but about serving a loving Lord who took our curse upon Himself and died for us. He is worthy of our praise and our very lives. The new covenant is new because it isn’t about what we do, but about what God has done for us, and about the fact that He has changed our lives so we want to do His will.
The psalmist said, “By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.” (Psalm 41:11–12)
For him, the old covenant was a reality. For me, the new covenant is about God delighting in His Son. He also delights in His children because of what Jesus has done. He protects us because of Jesus, upholds us because of Jesus, and sets us in His presence forever — because of Jesus. The old covenant had a threat of curses. The new covenant set us free from that curse and gave us Jesus so we can faithfully obey the voice of our God.