Hebrews 8:8-13

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 8, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“But God found fault with the people and said: ‘The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’
By calling this covenant new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”
-Hebrews 8:8-13

The previous section of Hebrews 8 explained how God has given us a new covenant and made Jesus the high priest over it. Hebrews 8:7, right before today’s passage, says, “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” That leads into today’s passage about the covenant that God had made with Israel.

The author explains the need for the new covenant by saying in verse 8 that God found fault with the people. He then provides a long quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34 that makes up most of today’s passage (verses 8b-12). This section from Jeremiah explains the old covenant that God had made with His people, which is important in order to understand why a new covenant needed to be made.

At the time that Jeremiah wrote this, the once-unified nation of Israel had been divided into two nations for many years. Ten of the original tribes made up the northern kingdom of Israel, and the remaining two southern tribes became known as Judah. Jeremiah is looking for the unification of these two nations back to one nation with whom God will make this new covenant. Jeremiah looked forward to the day when the two nations would become one again and they would receive this new covenant from God.

In verse 9, Jeremiah explains the old covenant. God had made the previous covenant with them when He led them out of Egypt, that He would bring them to the promised land. He told them, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (Exodus 19:5). Shortly after that in Exodus 20:1-17, God gave them specific rules to follow for that covenant; we know them today as the Ten Commandments.

So of course, the nation of Israel followed these commandments perfectly, right? Definitely not! Israel did not remain faithful to God’s covenant. While they broke all of His rules, the primary offense was idolatry because all of the commandments can be traced back to idolatry (as Charlie Wolcott explained in depth in this blog post series). Because Israel remained unfaithful, God says that He “turned away from them.” But fortunately, God did not ignore them forever!

Fortunately, things begin to look a little more promising for Jeremiah and the nation of Israel. In verse 10, we see the terms of the new covenant that God will establish with Israel. This covenant is for the united nation, no longer divided. Jeremiah then goes on to explain four major differences between the old and new covenants.

The first difference is that the new covenant will be dynamic rather than written in stone (literally). It will be written in the people’s hearts and minds. The old covenant was external to the people – written on the stone tablets that God gave to Moses. The new covenant would represent people not legalistically following a set of rules but being transformed by God and His presence so that His commands would be written in their innermost being.

The second difference is that the new covenant would be a close relationship between God and His people. It was not new for God to be in relationship with the people; Exodus 6:7 says, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.” But after Jesus came to earth, lived His life, died, and was resurrected, God could have a new and closer form of relationship with His people. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God would be able to be known by His people in ways that they could not know Him before. The relationship between God and His people would grow deeper.

The third difference is that everyone who is a part of this new covenant will know God (verse 11). God will no longer be able to be known only by a few people, such as the priests and the high priest of the old ways of Israel, but all will have the opportunity to know Him. Everyone is able to join in this new covenant and have personal knowledge of God.

The fourth difference is that sins are forgiven through the new covenant (verse 12). Because Jesus came and was the perfect sacrifice for all of humanity’s sins, the new covenant that has now been established truly does forgive sins so that God will remember them no more. Under the old covenant, sacrifices had to be offered routinely for the people’s sins; under the new covenant, all sins are now forgiven for those who are a part of it. Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection took care of all sins forever!

After this long quotation from Jeremiah, the author of Hebrews summarizes it for his readers in verse 13. Because we now have the new covenant, the old covenant is obsolete, outdated, and will soon disappear. The people should no longer look to the old covenant because there is one that is much better! The old covenant is no longer useful or even relevant because of the work that Jesus has now accomplished.

This new covenant is still in effect today. How do you become a part of this new covenant and get its benefits? Simply have faith in Jesus Christ and the saving work that He accomplished for all of humanity! We no longer need a high priest to perform ritual sacrifices for our sins; Jesus already did that. Because of God’s grace, He allows us to be part of this new covenant through faith in Jesus Christ. The new covenant is so much better than the old one, and for that we should all be praising God!

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