“This is the covenant I will make with the house 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 a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘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.” ( Hebrews 8:10-12 )
A few weeks ago, a friend asked me about this passage of Scripture. As he was reading through Hebrews he came to these very verses, which puzzled him. As he read that no longer will man teach his neighbor he questioned why this was so and if we should not try to teach others from the scripture? I started to share that this wasn’t what this passage was saying. These few verses are a marvelous synopsis of the New Covenant that God instated through Jesus. Part of this is that we now have a personal relationship with the Father no longer needing someone to mediate that relationship for us. In other words, we do not need someone to teach us about God, instead God reveals himself directly to us.
The previous verses tell us that God found fault with the people and the first covenant so He brought about a new covenant based on His ability to keep it, not the people’s ability. Then He describes in a nutshell the main differences between the Old Covenant and the New. The differences are so drastic we cannot understand the new in light of the first. Not only is it completely different and far better, but it is also based on better promises and guaranteed by a better High Priest ( Hebrews 8:6 ).
Here is what the New Covenant has that the Old one never possessed. First, God writes his laws in our minds and upon our hearts. The Old Covenant Laws were written in stone. This is not the case with the New. God’s laws are now a part of us, not something external to accuse us, but they are written by the Spirit of God on the inside of us. Paul said the same thing, “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” ( II Corinthians 3:3 ). Since they are now written on the inside of us, they are a part of our new nature or you could say, they are now second nature to us. To go against God’s law is contrary to who we are in Christ. The New Covenant made it so we don’t have to strive to live according to God’s laws; we simply live by the Spirit of God and by doing so fulfill these laws in the natural world.
Secondly, He has declared that He will be our God and we will be His people. We will not need someone to teach us about God, He will reveal himself directly to us. In the Old Covenant, the people had a mediator to represent them to God and to relay to them what God spoke. Moses is a perfect example of this. He spoke to God on behalf of the people and He spoke to the people on behalf of God. The only time God spoke directly to the Israelites, they begged Him not to. They were consumed with fear and begged God to only speak to Moses on their behalf ( Exodus 20:18-19 ). The New Covenant, because of Jesus’ atoning blood, made it so that we could speak directly to God without fear and hesitation. He became a personal God to everyone who believes in Him. No longer do we need someone to teach us about God, instead God reveals himself directly to us teaching us by the Holy Spirit dwelling inside ( I Corinthians 2:10;16, I John 2:20,27 ). Isaiah prophesied about this very thing, “All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace” ( Isaiah 54:13 ).
Lastly the main difference between the two covenants is that God will not only forgive our sins but He will not remember them. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” ( Isaiah 43:25 ). The Old Covenant gave instructions for a yearly sacrifice for sin. This looked forward to the time of Christ but only served as a reminder of sin ( Hebrews 10:3 ). If you are constantly reminded of your sin then you will not experience peace or have confidence to approach God. This is why he ushered in a new covenant, because God could not have the personal relationship with us that he desired when we were so sin conscious. However, in the New Covenant God made it so that the issue of sin was completely and permanently dealt with once and for all. Because of it we have been made holy and acceptable to God ( Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14 ). Since we are holy and acceptable we can approach Him in faith knowing we are forgiven and God will never hold our sin against us ( Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:22 ). This is drastically different than what the Israelites experienced under the Covenant of Law.
No covenant was instated without blood. After the Commandments were read to the people and they agreed to the Covenant, many bulls were sacrificed on that day ( Exodus 24:3-8 ). In the same way, blood was required to solidify the New Covenant God made with us. So Jesus shed His blood for us ratifying the promise. Jesus is the one who was who made this all possible and left this world comforting us with these words, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” ( Luke 22:20 ).
We have a covenant guaranteed through Jesus that is far better than anything the Israelites experience in the Old Testament. Jesus is our mediator and His blood cleanses us, forgives us and makes it possible for us to experience and enjoy God the Father in a completely new and different way. Perhaps David said it the best “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him” ( Romans 4:7-8, Psalm 32:1-2 ).