Our pastor is preaching through Hebrews – so deep, so rich! For the past two weeks we have been diving deep into why the “new” covenant is better than the old. Today as I think about the scripture and theology, I am processing this “new” covenant from Hebrews 8.
The New Covenant comes from a better place!
We have such a high priest, one who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. So this one too had to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. The place where they serve is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, just as Moses was warned by God as he was about to complete the tabernacle. For he says, “See that you make everything according to the design shown to you on the mountain.”Hebrews 8:1- 5 NET
In my Bible reading plan, I read several chapters in Exodus today where God meticulously describes how to build the tabernacle, design the furnishings, and make the priestly garments . His purpose – so that He can live among His people. But for a holy God to live among an unholy people, there had to be a plan. Moses is on the mountain with God, and God emphasizes that the people must follow His instructions to a T! God even fills Bezalel with the Holy Spirit for understanding, knowledge, and craftsmanship to make the artistic items of gold, silver, bronze, and wood (Exodus 31).
Let them make for me a sanctuary, so that I may live among them. According to all that I am showing you—the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings—you must make it exactly so. … Now be sure to make them according to the pattern you were shown on the mountain.Exodus 25: 8, 9, 40
But notice what the writer of Hebrews says. “The place where they serve is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary.” Even with all of the skill, the detail, the plans, the earthly sanctuary was but a shadow of the TRUE tabernacle, the heavenly tabernacle, the tabernacle not made by hands of men, but by God Himself!. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high! He is both King and Priest, ministering to us from the very presence of God. And what is this ministry … Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
Praise God, Jesus is praying for us today! My prayer, dear Lord, please answer the prayers that Jesus prays for me today!
The New Covenant is based on far better promises.
But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, no one would have looked for a second one. But showing its fault, God says to them, “It will not be like the covenant that I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not continue in my covenant and I had no regard for them,” says the Lord. … When he speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear.Hebrews 8:6-8a, 9, 13
The Old Covenant is based on the Law. It originated at Mt Sinai, with Moses as the mediator. God comes to dwell with His people in the Tabernacle, His glory fills the Holy of Holies.
Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, “Thus you will tell the house of Jacob, and declare to the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I lifted you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. And now, if you will diligently listen to me and keep my covenant, then you will be my special possession out of all the nations, for all the earth is mine, and you will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you will speak to the Israelites.”Exodus 19:3 – 6
We know that this covenant was limited. The High Priests had to sacrifice every year for the sins of the people. And the people failed miserably at keeping the law – doing what was right in their own eyes. This Old Covenant was but a shadow of things to come, foreshadowing the coming of Christ, our Great High Priest.
Hebrews explains the better promises of the New Covenant …
- I will put my laws in their minds
- I will inscribe my law on their hearts
- I will be their God and they will be my people
- They will all know me from the least to the greatest
- I will be merciful towards their evil deeds
- I will remember their sins no longer
You can hear the idea, “I will be their God and they will be my people” echo all throughout the Old Testament. It was a central theme in the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David. What is different in the New Covenant is the dwelling of God with man. No longer a curtain between the people and the presence of God, instead, He takes from us our heart of stone, puts within us a heart of flesh, writes His law on our hearts and dwells within us by His Spirit!
A favorite description of the New Covenant is found in Ezekiel –
I will sprinkle you with pure water, and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative, and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations. Then you will live in the land I gave to your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.Ezekiel 36:25-29
“No longer was it enough to expect God to ‘circumcise their hearts’ in the graphic metaphor of Deuteronomy 30:6. Much more radical surgery is needed now. So … God proposes a heart transplant. He will remove the heart of stone, which has made Israel hard, cold, unresponsive and dead to God’s words of command or of appeal. And he will implant in its place a heart of flesh—flesh which is living, warm and so”, and which, in Hebrew idiom, speaks of close kinship and intimate relationship. God will transform Israel’s whole mindset and fundamental orientation of will, desire and purpose. The purpose of such transformation is wholehearted obedience.”Knowing the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament. (2006). Christopher Wright
Key to the transformation is that God will “take the initiative” – he chooses, empowers, equips – “for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.” (Phil 2:13)
So much shouting ground … !
Who is a God like you?Micah 7:18-19
Who forgives sin
and pardons the rebellion
of those who remain among his people?
Who does not stay angry forever,
but delights in showing loyal love?
Who will once again have mercy on us?
Who will conquer our evil deeds?
Who will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea?
The Lord is compassionate and merciful;Psalm 103:8-12
he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love.
He does not always accuse,
and does not stay angry.
He does not deal with us as our sins deserve;
he does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve.
For as the skies are high above the earth,
so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers.
As far as the eastern horizon is from the west,
so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good.
There is mercy with the Savior,
there is healing in his blood.
But we make God’s love too narrow
by false limits of our own,
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.
For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind,
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple,Frederick W. Faber, 1862
we should rest upon God’s word,
and our lives would be illumined
by the presence of our Lord.