“And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1:5–7 ESV)
The Israelites current situation (verse 7) was due to their disobedience to the covenant relationship that God had established with them. The Mosaic Covenant was given at Mount Sinai to the Israelites (Exodus 19:4-6) and it said that if they would obey then God would bless them. The Old Testament chronicles a people who consistently failed to obey God’s commands because they had defective hearts (their hearts were stained with sin and lacked the ability to fully obey). A major hope for the Israelites was the day when God would give them new hearts – hearts upon which His laws would be written (Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:16, 29:4, 30:6; Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36:26–27).But, we are no longer under this covenant (Rom. 6:14–15; 7:1–6; 2 Cor. 3:4–18; Galatians 3:15–4:7). He has written His laws on our hearts (Romans 2:25-29, 8:14; Galatians 5:16, 18, 25; Colosians 2:11; Hebrews 7:18-19, 8:8-12, 9:9, 14, 10:1, 15-18, 10:22). We do not live under performance based righteousness; we do not earn additional favor from God when we obey. Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly so God’s blessing toward us is based solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ – not on our performance or obedience to the law. The old covenant said, “If you obey then I will love and bless you”; the new covenant says, “you are loved and blessed because of the sacrifice of Jesus – now obey”. One attempts to earn favor with God, the other is a reflection that we already have God’s favor.