The New Covenant Made the First One Obsolete (Hebrews 8:13)

“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” ( Hebrews 8:13 )

Right now we have a whole generation of children growing up that are not familiar with some of the things we grew up with. Take a VCR for instance, most have seen one but in all likelihood have never used one. A record player would be another good example; enough advances have been made in this area that most children probably have never ever heard of one. In fact today’s generation of kids do not know what the world is like without video games, computers, iPads and smartphones. The point is that advances in technology have made obsolete items of those that were once commonplace in our homes and lives.

The same is true with the Covenants. The intent of the New Covenant was to completely replace the first because it was aging and obsolete. After all, God found fault and set about to establish the new one based on better promises ( Hebrews 8:6-7 ). We are not to live under a hybrid of the two Covenants mixing both Law and grace. We solely live in the Covenant God instituted through Jesus Christ because the Old Covenant is out of use and annulled and ready to be dispensed with altogether.

God went to great lengths to bring about this New Covenant so that it would be completely different than the first. To start with, He set up Jesus as our new High Priest, who was not from the earthly priestly line ( Hebrews 7:14 ). This in in itself would nullify the first agreement. Secondly, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell on the inside of believers so that the laws and precepts of God are a part of their new creation ( Hebrews 8:10 ). Next, the Holy Spirit reveals God to people so that we can be fully acquainted in all His ways ( Hebrews 8:11 ). And lastly, our sins are completely wiped out, forgiven and forgotten ( Hebrews 8:12 ). These things are vastly different than what the Israelites experienced under the Covenant of Law. This is why we should fully embrace our Covenant by understanding and living it.

The New Covenant is so superior that it is meant to fully replace the first. Just like in the example of the record player and VCR, advancements in our Covenant make the first one obsolete and showing its age. It was retired a long time ago and is useless in comparison to the agreement we have through Jesus Christ.

This is an exciting and amazing truth! We are truly blessed to be a part of this wonderful covenant of grace based on better promises and guaranteed through Jesus Christ. God saved the best for last. The first is ready to disappear but our covenant will be a lasting and eternal memorial to our wonderful and faithful God.

The New Covenant (Hebrews 8:10-12)

“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 ).

God Found Fault with the People Who Did Not Remain Faithful to His Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-9)

“For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers 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” ( Hebrews 8:7-9 )

I’ve struggled in the past while reading these verses because what stands out to me is the last statement saying, “they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord” (vs. 9). The Amplified puts it this way, “for they did not abide in My agreement with them, and so I withdrew My favor and disregarded them, says the Lord” (vs. 9 AMP). These statements seem so foreign to the God I know. It is hard to imagine Him ever saying these things. Setting out to reconcile this idea in my heart has brought wonderful revelation of what this passage is truly saying.

The key lies in the idea that the first covenant was flawed because of mankind’s inability to keep it, not because of God. This is why he found fault with the first covenant and brought about a new one. The first covenant was based on blessings and curses ( Deuteronomy 28 ). It was not like the covenant that God made Abraham and it is certainly not like the covenant that God made with us through Jesus. It was behavioral based. If they kept the commandments they received the blessings listed in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy. If they disobeyed the commandments they received the curses listed. It was all spelled out, the Israelites were well aware of the terms when they agreed to it ( Exodus 24:3 ).

Of course mankind, being one hundred percent flesh at that time, couldn’t live up to it’s rigorous guidelines. In fact the Israelites are the ones who turned away from their part of the agreement first. This released God from His part, although He always remained faithful to it. This passage in Hebrews is a quote from Jeremiah 31, with a slight difference near the end, “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them” declares the LORD” ( Jeremiah 31:31-32 ).

The relationship that Israel and God had, was akin to the marital relationship. The covenant agreement was a marriage agreement. Israel continually prostituted themselves with other gods even though the Lord was a husband to them. This led the Lord to give them a certificate of divorce ( Jeremiah 3:8 ). This did not annul God’s relationship with them, it merely made an allotment for Him to usher in a new covenant to include those outside the nation of Israel. Even though He divorced them, he told them to return. so He could establish a New Covenant with them still declaring himself as their husband. “Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” ( Jeremiah 3:14-15 ).

He did in fact give us this Shepherd, who is the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of his being ( Hebrews 1:3 ). Jesus brought with him an understanding and revelation of God that was previously unknown ( John 1:14, II Corinthians 4:6, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:1-3 ). In the first covenant, it was the Israelites themselves who caused all their suffering. God wanted to protect us from that because we could never live in the weakness of the flesh, which is why he sent Jesus to usher in a new covenant and give us the Holy Spirit so we could be born again not fashioned after the flesh but after the Spirit of God himself ( II Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:24 ).

The entire point is this; the first covenant had not been without defect. The weakness of the covenant was the people themselves. It wasn’t that God just disregarded them withdrawing His favor on a whim. God found fault with the people because their behavior showed how they choose everything else before God. The people broke the covenant agreement, not God. He is stressing in verse 9 that the New Covenant He ushered in will not be like the previous covenant. In other words, it will not be left to mankind to keep it, the covenant will entirely be dependent on God himself to bring it to pass, to ratify it and to uphold it for all eternity. Mankind can freely enter into it, but our behavior does not affect the terms or the outcome. This is why God found fault with the first in order to usher the second. Then He based the entire thing on His character and His ability to keep it. This is an amazing truth!

Jesus’ Covenant Is Superior, Founded On Better Promises (Hebrews 8:6)

“But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises” ( Hebrews 8:6 )

Jesus is the mediator or guarantor of the Covenant of grace. This covenant is far superior in every way imaginable to the Covenant of Law. This is because it is founded on better promises and backed by an oath between God and Jesus that it will be lasting and eternal ( Hebrews 7:21 ). In fact, King David himself looked forward to this covenant and congratulated the recipients, pronouncing a blessing on them “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” ( Psalms 32:1-2, Romans 4:6-8 ).

The better promises on which  this covenant is founded rest solely in the Lord Jesus. It is superior because of this, and unlike the first, it is not based on cause and effect. In other words, God is not limited in his interaction with us based on something we do or do not do. In fact, chapter 8 defines the differences of the New Covenant. First He put his laws in our hearts and minds so that we can be familiar and intimate with His ways and precepts ( Hebrews 8:10 ). Secondly, He makes us His people, declaring that He will be our God ( Hebrews 8:10 ). Third, He reveals himself to us so that we do not need someone to tell us about God, we can experience Him for ourselves ( Hebrews 8:11 ). Lastly He has forgiven our sins and goes a step further declaring that he will also forget them entirely ( Hebrews 8:12 ). We have these amazing things as New Covenant believers, which is why our covenant is far superior than the previous one. This is what David saw and why he pronounced a blessing on us ( Psalms 32:1-2, Romans 4:6-8 ).

To highlight our wonderful covenant it is important to understand that the Old Covenant of Law was based on blessings and curses. Deuteronomy 28 lists both. The chapter starts out with these words spoken by the Lord, If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God” ( Deuteronomy 28:1-2 ). He then gives the list of blessing that were theirs by obeying Him. However it was conditional, “The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways” ( Deuteronomy 28:9 ).

In the same way, curses would befall the people when they were disobedient. “However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” ( Deuteronomy 28:15 ). The list of the curses is immense and disastrous. This is why the New Covenant is so wonderful, because He placed His laws and precepts inside us and gave us the Holy Spirit to teach us to follow and obey ( I John 2:20, 27 ). This was not the case under the law of the Old Testament, they were subjected to the whims of the flesh. The Law strengthened sin against them arousing the desire for disobedience and the curses it brought ( Romans 7:10 , I Corinthians 15:56 ).

In the New Covenant, Jesus became a curse for us so we could have all of the blessings described in Deuteronomy 28 with none of the curses, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” ( Galatians 3:13-14 ). You can see how our Covenant is superior in every way. We receive all of the blessings and none of the curses. all because Jesus became the curse for us to redeems us from the Law.

In the same way our mediator is also far superior. Jesus is the Mediator of this Covenant just as Moses was the mediator of the Covenant of the Law. However Jesus has acquired a better ministry because he resides over it as a son not a servant. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast” ( Hebrews 3:5-6 ). Not only do we have a better and more advantageous Covenant based on nobler and higher promises, but we have a Mediator that is far superior in both title and position than that which was previously given. This is why the Old Testament Patriarchs looked forward to the time we enjoy because God has done a work through Jesus Christ that is unparalleled to anything they experienced. This is why God enacted the New Covenant making the first one obsolete ( Hebrews 8:13 ) so that we could be the people of God enjoying all of the blessings He bestows on us.

A Copy and a Shadow of What is In Heaven (Hebrews 8:5)

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” ( Hebrews 8:5 )

Growing up, my brother liked to build model planes. He would spend hours constructing a model patterned after a real plane. In fact, after the glue dried and the decals were applied the model looked very much like the real thing.

Old Testament temple worship was just like this. It was based on a pattern of the real thing that took place in the heavenly tabernacle. Moses was shown the entire thing when he met with God on the mountain ( Exodus 25:40 ). Then God instructed Moses to recreate this tabernacle and its practices on earth with a warning to make it exactly as he was shone.

This speaks to how detailed God is. The tabernacle, set up according to what takes place in heaven, was to serve as an illustration helping the people understand. The earthly system was a copy and a shadow of the heavenly system. It wasn’t a means in itself; it was a model or replica of the true system. It looked like it, it functioned like it, but it was merely a pattern and foreshadowing of the real thing. This is why Moses was told to make it exactly according to what he saw, because it was simply a model.

The main point the writer is making in Hebrews 8 is that Jesus, our High Priest, entered into the heavenly tabernacle to perform His priestly duties ( Hebrews 8:2, Hebrews 9:11 ). The model portrayed by the earthly priests, in the earthly tabernacle, is based on the pattern of the true tabernacle in heaven. The Levitical priesthood was given so we could visualize everything Jesus did there. Everything we learn from the Levitical priest is a foreshadowing to Jesus and His priesthood. God gave us these examples to teach us so we would have complete understanding of this true priesthood.

Just as the planes my brother built as a child helped him visualize how the real planes looked, they were never a substitute for the real thing. In the same way, we can gain a lot of understanding by looking at the earthly system as long as we understand that it is merely a copy and a shadow of the true system in heaven where Jesus resides seated at the right hand of God the Father because His work is perfect and complete.

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Juli Camarin

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