Welcome back to our study of the book of Hebrews, today we’ll finish chapter 8 as we zero in on Hebrews 8:7-13. But before we go on ahead and dive into these verses , let’s quickly review what we talked about last week. Let’s recall that the writer of this letter was addressing primarily Jewish believers who were going through very difficult times, they were being persecuted as a result of their faith in Christ. So the temptation again was to go back to the old system , established under Moses. In the beginning verses of chapter 8, after his introduction of Melchizedek and his superior ministry in comparison to the Levites , the writer established via scripture that Jesus was indeed a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. One of the questions that I believe he was answering was the location of the tabernacle where Jesus was ministering. In the first six verses, we discovered that Jesus was performing his high priestly ministry in the true tabernacle in heaven, the one that served as a pattern for the inferior tabernacle on earth. In today’s presentation we are going to talk about the better promises of the new covenant.
The Better Promises Of The New Covenant
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says:[a]
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
God is the one who established the first covenant, and He is also the one who declared it weak and inadequate, incomplete through the words of Jeremiah the prophet in Jeremiah 31:31-34. God anticipated that His people would not quite understand the weakness and incompleteness of the old covenant and its purpose, which was solely intended to lead them to the new covenant pioneered by Christ. So He spoke sobering words through the prophet Jeremiah, which I believe we should look at thoroughly.
- Verses 8-9
God wasn’t pleased with His people under the old covenant, therefore He established a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Before we look at the old covenant, we need to answer a couple of questions. Verse 8 seems to disqualify gentile believers; the verse seems to convey the idea that God is only interested with the Jewish nation, as if gentiles were excluded. Is that so? I can say confidently that this isn’t the case and let’s lean on Scripture for our answers. The Lord chose the Jewish nation so that through them other nations will come to know Him. See Romans 1:16, Romans 2:17-20, Romans 3:1-2, 29-30. When God made the covenant with the Jewish nation, the main purpose was so that all other nations would also come to faith through them, believing in the true God. We see plenty of examples like this in the Old testament- Naaman the leper ( 2 kings 5, commander of the Syrian army came to believe in the God of the Hebrews). The queen of Sheba came to believe in God when she saw the wisdom of Solomon, see 1 Kings 10:9. Moses’ own wife was a gentile ( she was Ethiopian). Joseph had an Egyptian wife. So I’m saying all this to say that gentiles were always in the mind of God. While Israel was His chosen nation directly , the gentiles were also chosen indirectly. They were included in the promises of God indirectly. God chose the Jewish nation that they might lead the remnant of the world to Him. Now that we’ve cleared this, let us look at the old covenant and what it entailed. God made a covenant with Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai, it is recorded for us in Exodus 19. I want to zero in on verses 5-6
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
When God revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, we read the following reaction from the people of GOD, it is recorded for us in Exodus 20:18-21
18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[d] and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
They were afraid and didn’t want to develop an intimacy with GOD. Moses enjoyed a one on one intimate relationship with God, he longed to be in the presence of GOD but the people were terrified and loathed what Moses desired because of their dread of God. This is the natural reaction of unholy people before a Holy God, fear. But God was also revealing His love and grace to them and they missed it and remained far off. They promised to keep his covenant and obey him but 40 days after Moses went to meet God in order to receive the tablets of stone on which the law was engraved, the people completely forgot their promises and engaged in idolatry and committed sexual immorality. They broke the covenant, the same people that promised under fear that they were going to wholeheartedly serve God completely dismissed Him. And the consequences were dire, many lives were lost. And that pattern of making promises and breaking them was a recurring thing with the Jewish nation. What do we learn from this? The law of God was perfect and good yet people couldn’t keep the law under the old covenant. Why? Because the law was powerless to save, therefore God promised to make a new covenant because people under the old covenant were doomed to fail due to its weakness.
- Verse 10
Now that the writer proved to his readers that the old covenant was indeed weak and temporary, he is now presenting the new covenant with better promises. But before look at these promises, we need to look at when the new covenant was established. That is very crucial. Let’s go Luke 22:19-21
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[a] 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.
Jesus inaugurated the new covenant, so the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:31-34 was in Jesus. Those words came to pass when Jesus lifted up the cup in front of His disciples and declared that the cup represented the new covenant God was making with His people through the precious blood of JESUS. This is incredible and the argument of the writer is concise, clear, Scriptural , valid and cannot be rejected. Now let’s look at the promises of the new covenant.
Under the old covenant, even though people had the law, they couldn’t keep it because of the sinful nature as we saw in Romans 7, therefore they came under judgement. In the new covenant established by Jesus as we saw in Luke 22, God Himself ensures that His laws are inserted in the people’s minds and written on their hearts, not on external tablets of stones, in order that His people might obey and keep His word. And as a result of their obedience, God promises to now regard them, HE says “ I will be their God and they shall be my people”. In the old covenant, when people disobeyed, God said He showed no concern for them. The best way to interpret verse 10 is a close look at Ezekiel 36:26-27
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules
All these promises rest on God not the people, because of the powerlessness of the sinful nature. We read the following in Romans 8:7:
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
The writer is now telling his original listeners and us ultimately that this new covenant has far better promises and we’ve talked about the first promise. Can you imagine listening to these words for the first time. 2 Corinthians 3 tells us about the glory of the new covenant, ( Read it).
- Verse 11
There is an immediate application of this verse and it refers to the day when both the house of Israel and Judah shall be reunited and shall rejoice in the promised kingdom. In that day, there shall be no need to share the Gospel because everyone will know the Lord personally, we can also look at Acts 1:6-7 ( as supporting verses ). But I think it is possible to also consider another indirect application to this verse. Edifying one another is good and recommended. But we need to take the word of God very seriously. The next promise tells us that under the new covenant, the people have no need to be taught by one another to know God. This isn’t implying disregarding the fellowship of believers, the need of preaching, evangelizing, sharing the word of God and exhortation. To better understand this verse, let’s look at 1 John 2:20 and 27
20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” and 1 John 2:27 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”
See, the Spirit of God Himself has come to dwell within us, God is now tabernacling in His People, our body has become the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. And He is the one who discloses the knowledge, truth and love of God to us and through us. In other words God Himself has become our teacher. It is the Spirit of God who enables us to love and know God, for the Spirit of God loves the things of God. It is overwhelming and causes us to be filled with worship. This is what God has done through Jesus.
- Verse 12
Another promised attached to the new covenant is the promise of forgiveness. The law could not forgive because it wasn’t given for that purpose. Through the law, we were supposed to see the sinfulness of our sinful nature. The law was supposed to point us to Jesus Christ. To look at the purpose of the law, let’s go to Galatians 3:19, 24-25.
The only reason why the people of God would someday be in an unbroken fellowship with Him is because God would not hold their sins against them anymore because of Christ’s sacrifice. He is the propitiation and expiation for the sins of the people. This is why the new covenant has better promises, it is just one thing after the next. All because of the goodness and grace of God.
- Verse 13
Since God mentioned a new covenant, that automatically meant that the original covenant was going to eventually come to an end and be replaced. God is the one who declared it in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and this whole chapter was dedicated to proving that.
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