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The Hebrews Commentary Project

Contents:

Hebrews 8:6-13

  1. Jim McClarty
  2. Tim Clifton
  3. Kostas Sarantidis
  4. Maurice Bergeron
  5. Michael Cruz
  6. Donald E. Blind
  7. Kevin Hartley

Hebrews 8:6-13

8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

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1.Jim McClarty

INTRODUCTION:

In verse 8 of this week's passage we're going to run into two very specific terms - "House of Israel" and "House of Judah." These are terms which carry a vital historic significance. The misunderstanding or misapropriation of these terms has lead to all sorts of eschatalogical confusion and (to borrow Fred's term) "exegetical chaos."

In the commentary for Chapter 7:14-19, I laid out a brief history of Abraham's descendants. For clarity's sake (and, at the risk of being redundant), I'm going to repeat bits with a new emphasis on the significance of the two "houses."

The sons of Jacob, renamed Israel, were the progenitors of the twelve tribes. In Genesis 49 Jacob assigned blessings and cursing to each of his sons, saying, "Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days." So, his declarations have a prophetic character.

However, just prior to meeting with all twelve of the boys Jacob had a private counsel with his favorite son, Joseph, and the two grandkids, Ephraim and Manasseh. These boys were born to Joseph and his Egyptian wife. Jacob could barely see and when the boys were brought to him, he hugged and kissed them. Knowing his dad was about to bestow blessings on the boys, Joseph made sure his eldest son, Mannaseh, was at his father's right hand. But Jacob deftly switched his hands and put his right hand on Ephraim's head. He began the blessing, "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."

At that point Joseph realized the wrong boy was about to receive the birthright and he grabbed Jacob's hand, directing it to Mannaseh. He said, "Not so, my father; for this is the first born; put thy right hand upon his head." But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know! He also shall become a people and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations." The passage continues: "And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh; and he set Ephraim before Manasseh."

Then, when it came time to hand out blessings to the 12, Jacob cursed his eldest son, Reuben, who had slept with his father's concubine. The next two, Simeon and Levi, were similarly passed over because "instruments of cruelty are in their habititations."

It was the fourth son, Judah, who received the first blessing. It was the Messianic blessing:

Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

The next boys in line - Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, and Naphtali - were each given specific descriptions, but no real blessings. But, the second youngest, Joseph received a very special blessing - the birthright promise handed down from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob"

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel): Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.

This fact is reiterated in 1Chron.5:1,2:

Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he difiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler: but the birthright was Joseph's.

It's stated again in Psalm 60:7 - "Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver."

Just as Abel was preferred over his elder brother Cain, as Isaac was preferred over the firstborn Ishmael, as Jacob was preferred over the older twin Esau, and as the New Testament is preferred over the Older Testament, so Joseph was preferred over all his elder brothers, and his youngest son Ephraim was preferred over Manasseh.

Now, the Abrahamic promise which constituted the birthright, the deal which God made with Himself and swore on Himself, was repeated several times, with new addendums added with each retelling. The list of promises which make up the Abrahamic covenant include:

  1. The physical descendants of Abraham must become as numerous as the dust, stars and sands, until they are virtually, if not literally, uncountable. (Gen.13:16, 15:5, 17:2, 22:17, 28:14)

    [Let me see if I can head this first argument off at the pass - I know that Abraham's spiritual seed are those who follow after his faith. But, that lineage did not demand a physical descendant to make it happen. The promise of earthly, physical lineage is in sight here, because it all hinges on the promised child Isaac - "For in Isaac shall thy seed be called". (Gen.21:12, Rom.9:7, Heb.11:18) So, there is a decidedly physical element to this promise.]
  2. Not just a single nation, but multiple nations must come from these descendants and many kings over these nations. (Gen.17:4-6, 18:18, 35:11)
  3. These covenantal promises will continue generation after generation, and God will be a God to the descendants everlastingly. (Gen.17:7)
  4. The land of Canaan will be an everlasting possession of the descendants of Abraham. (Gen.13:14-17, 15:7, 15:18-21, 17:8, 28:13, 35:12)
  5. They will spead abroad to the north, south, east and west. (Gen. 28:14)
  6. The descendants of Abraham will be a blessing to all the families of the earth. (Gen.12:3, 18:18, 22:18, 28:14)
  7. God would curse those who curse the descendants and bless those who bless the descendants. (Gen.12:3)
  8. They will possess the gates of their enemies. (Gen.22:17)
  9. It is an everlasting covenant. (Gen. 17:7)

These are very important details. Every one of these promises must eventually be fulfilled and completed. The very faithfulness of God rests in these promises. And, here's the really, really important question....

Who ended up with these promises?

All Israel? Nope.

Judah? Nope.

Dan and Naphtali, or even Zebulun? Nope, nope and nope.

Ephraim did.

It is impossible to say that these promises are all complete and finished until we are able to prove conclusively that they were completed in Ephraim.

So, let's ask....what happened to Ephraim????

The nation of Israel was gathered in the land of Cannan, and God alotted particular parcels of land to each tribe (except Levi). Initially the nation didn't fare very well. Being only one generation away from Egypt, with each tribe operating autonomously under local judges, "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6).

As a nation they were united initially under their first king, Saul, but the zenith of their unity was during King David's reign. Nevertheless, in 1Kings 11 we read that David's son, Solomon, loved many strange, or foreign, women. That rebellion against God's clear prohibition turned his heart toward the foreign gods. So, in verse 11, God declared He would rip the kingdom from him and give it to his servant. But, for David's sake, God would not do it until the kingdom had passed to Rehoboam, Solomon's son. And, also for David's sake, God left one tribe under the posterity of David's family - Judah, "for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen" (v.13).  Ending a time of peace and prosperity, God stirred up the enemies of Israel.

Meanwhile, Solomon had made Jeroboam, a mighty man of valor, "ruler over the house of Joseph" (Notice the use of the phrase "the house of…"). After Jeroboam left Jerusalem, Ahijah the Shilonite, a prophet, met up with him and ripped his brand new garment off his back. Ahijah ripped Jeroboam's garment into 12 pieces and said,

Take thee ten pieces; for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee. But he shall have one tribe for my servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. (11:31-32)

In verse 37 God identifies the ten-tribe Northern Kingdom as "Israe.l" By contrast, in verse 39 God declares, "And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not forever." Well, sure enough, there was a revolt against Solomon's son. "So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day" (12:19). The tribe of Benjamin ended up siding with the Southern Kingdom because Jerusalem was in their territory. Those two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, along with the Levites who served in the temple, became known as "The House of Judah" (12:21). Meanwhile, the Northern Kingdom was called "The House of Israel," in which was the primary tribe of Ephraim. There was also a mount of worship called "Mount Ephraim." Sometimes the terms "Israel" and "Ephraim" are used interchangeably, as in 2 Chron.25:7 and Hosea 5:3. The Northern Kingdom is sometimes called "Samaria" after its capital, just as the Southern is called "Jerusalem."

Almost immediately after taking over the rulership of Israel, Jeroboam apostatized. Fearful that the children of Israel would bond again with their brethren, he took away every vestige of the old religion and replaced it with false idols (1 Kings 12). In His anger, God brought Assyria down on Israel and took them into captivity. Eventually, even Judah fell into King Sennacherib's hands (2 Kings 18:13). After Sennacherib was killed by his own two sons (19:37), the prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah of Judah that God would deliver them and defend Jerusalem for His own sake, and for the servant David's sake (20:6), but in that same chapter comes the threat of the Babylonian captivity.  2 Chron. 32:22 tells us God kept his word and saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

During the Assyrian captivity, Sennacherib placed foreigners in Caanan to live. After his death, when Assyria was falling to Babylon and Judah was freed, the house of Israel never returned to their homeland. They became marauding bands in Central Asia and scattered, as God had said, in all directions. Layard's archaeological digs at Nineveh and the discovery of the Behistun Rock have produced the ancient names given to the tribes of Israel, confirming what the Bible says. In fact, Israel fought as mercenaries with Assyria against Judah (Is. 7:2, Is. 9:21). So, a great animosity grew between the two houses (Is. 9:21).

It's important to recognize that God saw the twelve tribes as two individual nations right from the start. In Ezek. 23, God likens them to two sisters even while they were in Egypt. Ezekiel wrote:

Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother: and they committed whoredoms in Egypt: they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity. And, the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters, thus were their names: Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah. And, Aholah played the harlot when she was mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbors. (Ezek. 23:2-5)

So Israel was scattered to live among the Gentiles and they remain scattered to this day. They are not only geographically lost, but they are culturally and religiously lost. From the start they abandoned their "Israelitish" heritage. Don't look for them to be keeping Hebrew holidays or continuing Hebrew forms of worship. They adopted the cultures and practices of their hosts, starting with Assyria. Don't expect them to look like Hebrews, physically. They've intermarried and lost their identity, and don't forget that Ephraim and Manasseh were half-Egyptian going out the gate.

The Southern Kingdom, The House of Judah, was kept by God and constantly restored despite Assyrian, Babylonian, Grecian, and Roman occupation and oppression. God kept his promise to Judah and delivered the Messiah to the House of David. He came to His own, but his own received Him not. In fact, these are the only people ever called "Jews" - the house of Judah. No member of the house of Israel/Ephraim is Jewish.

[By the way, that fact means the restoration of the nation Israel in 1948 is not in any way a fulfillment of the Abrahamic/birthright promise. They're the wrong tribes. The people currently settled in Jerusalem are Jewish, keeping Jewish customs and continuing the Jewish heritage….they are descendants of the House of Judah.]

In Jesus's day at least some of the House of Israel could still be geographically located. We know that because when Jesus gathered his apostles, "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mat.10:5-6). When a Canaanite women came to Jesus seeking mercy for her daughter, Jesus replied, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  So, even as He walked among the House of Judah, who sought to kill Him, He declared His ministry was to the House of Israel.

My point is that the Jews are not carrying the birthright, only Ephraim is. That's why the book of Hosea has so much to say against Ephraim, who, wherever they are, are also carrying great promises of restoration…a restoration that has yet to be accomplished, but which comes into focus in this week's Hebrews' passage.

Thus endeth the introduction. :-)

THIS WEEK'S TEXT:

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. (8:6)

The subject of this verse is obviously Christ, the one "who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (v.1). The next proof the author offers up as to Christ's superiority over the Aaronic priests is the fact that He oversees a better agreement between God and the people He shepherds, and that agreement is based on infinitely better, long-standing promises.

The priests after the order of Aaron had conditional promises as the basis of their acceptation before the Lord, but even the slightest variation could result in death. The Better Covenant is without condition because it is based on the finished work of the One who sat down.

The recipients of the Sinai covenant quaked in fear as the voice of God commanded their obedience. The recipients of the Better Covenant "come boldly to the throne of grace," beckoned by the loving voice of the Captain of their souls.

The Old Covenant said "Do it and live. Fail and die." The Better Covenant says, "Live. It's all done."

The Old Covenant contained promises from God to the people who couldn't live up to their end of the deal. The Better Covenant is based on promises God made to His Son - a people, an inheritance, a bride.

That is truly a ministry which "excels."

 

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. (8:7)

Some commentators have misrepresented this verse to imply God found fault with the first covenant, itself, so He deemed it necessary to create a second one, but that's not where the fault lay. The law was righteous, holy, and just. The fault was with the people who were placed under its jurisdiction. They failed to keep the law and fell under its curse.

Now God would have been completely justified if He had abandoned the Israelites after their rebellion. God could very well have cut them off completely and held them accountable for their sin. He'd have been nothing less than righteous in so doing. They were at fault, and they deserved to be judged.

But that's not what God did! Instead, He instituted a second agreement! Despite their sin, despite their rebellion, despite their utter failure, He - determined to save them from themselves and make them trophies of His grace - instituted a newer, better covenant.

 

For finding fault with them... (8:8a)

That's my point. God found fault with them and could have judged their failure. But, oh no, He had promises to fulfill; He had a birthright hanging out there. If He had utterly turned His back on Israel He would be negating His own promises to His own elect people: "For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel, mine elect...." (Isa.45:4).

So, He started over with them -

 

...he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: (8:8b)

Okay, now we're into the thick of it. The author is quoting from Jeremiah 31. He is making the point that the promise of a New Covenant was written down way back before the Babylonian captivity, even as the house of Israel was beginning to scatter. His original audience of Hebrews should have been well familiar with this history, and, he wants to point out the fact that even their own Scripture (the Old Testament) contained this irrefutable promise of redemption for Judah and Israel.

The particular promise the author quotes (the longest quotation of an Old Testament text in the New Testament) is the summation of Jeremiah 30 and 31. Now, he pulls just that section which deals directly with his particular argument; to wit - Christ being the mediator of a newer, better covenant promise. But, the entire section has to do with this very subject: the new covenant to Israel and Judah. The first century Hebrews may have been familiar with the promise's existence, but they probably hadn't realized that the New Testament in Christ's blood was that "one-and-the-same" covenant come true.

I'm going to take the time to overview Jeremiah's declaration because it's just so worth it!

Jeremiah 30:1 starts with God promising "For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." If that sounds familiar, it's part of the birthright promise.

[Notice that Jeremiah is writing this "post-David." So the familiar argument that Israel settling in Canaan under Joshua and having a time of peace was the complete fulfillment of the "land promise" is undermined by Jeremiah. He sees it as future, and, as we'll see, as part of the New Covenant.]

After that, God predicts a time of travail, called "Jacob's trouble." It's a day like no other. (v.7) But, despite Jacob's, or Israel's, pains they will be delivered out of it. God will break off the bonds of their servitude and they will never again be slaves. But God will raise up David (!) to be their king, and they shall serve God (v.9).  Despite their rebellion, God calls them His servants and promises to save them from afar (v.10).

"For I am with thee; though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished" (v.11). God goes on to describe the punishment. He declares they have a wound and an incurable bruise. No one can bind them up or offer healing medicine. God says He created the wound because of their iniquity. but all the nations God used to afflict them will be destroyed, (v.16). "For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds" (v.17a).

God declares he will gather them again and their cities will be rebuilt on the rubble and heap of the old ones. They will be thankful and joyous..."and they shall be not a few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small" (v.19). They will have their own nobility and their "governor" will come from the midst of them. God will cause the leader to "draw near," because no one has ever engaged their own heart to approach God (v.21).

He follows that up with the important declaration, "And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God" (v.22).

Who's he talking to? Israel! Not "spiritual" Israel, or the church that "replaced" Israel. These are Israel's promises! But, wait, I'm just getting warmed up. There's a bombshell coming.

After two verses describing God's fury and fierce anger against His enemies, He reiterates - "At the same time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people" (Jer.31:1).

That's twice now. All the families of Israel are holding this promise. Not just the "elect within Israel," but "all the families of Israel." Keep going. It gets better! How is it that they'll be recipients of such marvelous restoration?

"Thus saith the Lord, the people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness, even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest" (v.2).

Grace. But, not just that...

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee. Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel.

God has categorically declared His "everlasting" love for Israel, and though she played the harlot, He will make her as a virgin.

He goes on to say that Samaria will be fruitful (v.5). Now, however we may understand "spiritual" Zion (which the author of Hebrews will certainly introduce), there is no such spiritualization of "Samaria" in the New Testmant. That's their land, and it still has promises attached to it.

From Mount Ephraim they will go up to Zion to worship God. Verse 7 and 8 speak of the great regathering from the "coasts of the earth."

But, look very closely at verse 9. God is going to tell us why all this will happen:

They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

God is going to do it because He is their father, and Ephraim (!) is His firstborn (!!!). The birthright from God is going to land on Ephraim. By grace, because of everlasting love, the Everlasting Father is promising to keep his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and His firstborn, Ephraim. And, it's going to be accomplished as part of a New Covenant:

Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. (v.10-11)

As a shepherd, He will redeem and ransom Jacob. Sounds like familiar language, eh? We're building to the New Deal.

[May I point out again, by the way, that this hasn't happened....yet. And, the appearance of the gentile church hasn't in any way either fulfilled or negated these promises. Claiming that this whole thing is "typological" just gets us in more trouble, because it's impossible to satisfy the claims of these verses in any other body of people than Israel. Calling ourselves "spiritual Israel" does not undo Ephraim's firstborn status or define in what way we may consider ourselves "Jacob."]

The next few verses proclaim praises and joyfulness. Weeping is turned to gladness, mourning is turned to comfort. The people are satisfied with God's goodness. Starting at verse 18 Ephraim submits to the Sovereignty of God - "turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God." In verse 19 Ephraim repents. God responds, "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still. Therefore my bowels are for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord" (v.20).

The next several verses describe the time of restoration for the land of Judah. God promises to satiate every weary soul and replenish every sorrowful soul. It's a wonderful promise. After that are promises of rebuilding and replanting, and the people will not be held accountable for the sins of their fathers. "In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children's teeth are set on edge" (v.29). Every man will be held accountable for his own iniquity.

And, that brings us right up to verse 31: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah."

I went through that entire exercise to make one primary point: The New Covenant was not made with anyone other than Israel and Judah. It was made because God will most assuradly keep His birthright promise to Ephraim.

To simplify: Gentiles were never under the first, or old covenant. To them, it's kind of pointless to talk about a "new" covenant. To a Gentile, there's only "one" covenant - the one they were "ingrafted" into contrary to their nature - the Covenant made with the people who were under the first covenant. The gentile church, by the astounding grace of God, is brought into the blessings which were promised to Israel.

Now the fact that Israel hasn't attained those full blessings is of no consequence. They hadn't attained them for hundreds of years before Christ's death, either, but that doesn't change the fact that they will, and must, attain them! (We'll address that point when we get to Hebrews 11:39-40.)

The promises were made to Israel long before Christ died and put His testament into effect. I, personally, didn't take part in it until nearly 2,000 years after Christ died, so I'm not concerned over the fact that Ephraim is still awaiting their participation in it. The timing is God's business, not ours.

Okay, finally, back to Hebrews - which is actually a continuation of Jeremiah.

 

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. (8:9)

Notice how specific the text is, here. God wants to make sure we understand which two covenants are being contrasted. The New Covenant is not over and against the promises made to Abraham. They are opposed to the Law given after the Exodus, and the New Covenant will not be of the same nature and character as the Sinai Covenant because they failed to keep that one. Re-instituting that law would be of no value; Israel had already come short of it, and God had scattered them in response.

 

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: (8:10)

In contrast to the Old, Sinaitic covenant where God's laws were written on tables of stone, this time God will write His commands in their minds and in their hearts. It's true, you can't change a man from the outside. Only a rebirth from the inside will bring true repentence. Notice, too, it is God who does it. Just as He changed every Christian believer and wrote His words in our mind and hearts, God will convert Israel the very same way. And, the third time, He states He will be their God and they will be His people.

 

And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (8:11)

(I know this is getting tremendously long, but I have to talk about this verse for a moment.) To the "everything's fulfilled" people, I ask that they look closely at this text. Most such teachers attempt to say this verse is complete in the contemporary church, but, is it really? I mean, aside from the fact that it's Israel's promise, can we really say the current church age satisfies this verse?

Paul tells us God has provided gift ministers: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Why? To spead the gospel and teach the saints. Or, what about the Ethopian eunuch who Philip was sent to? He didn't understand what he was reading from Isaiah, saying, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" Can we really say, even in this day and age, there is no more reason to tell men, "know the Lord" or that from the greatest to the least every neighbor and brother knows Him?

The obvious answer is: that's still coming. It hasn't fully happened in the church and it hasn't happened in Israel. It will...but, it hasn't.

But, continuing Jeremiah's thought - which is God's thought - why is it they all will be so familiar with the Lord?

 

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (8:12)

Oh, man! This is really important! The people who want to advance the ideas that God is finished with Israel, and that He has relegated them to merely typological status, say God is responding to their sin and stiff-necked rebellion. But, so what?!! The same God who has been merciful to you and forgotten your sins has promised to forgive and forget Israel's sins! The same God who chose you, chose them! The same God who elected you, elected them!

And, if He is faithless to them, how can you feel secure that He'll be faithful to you?

That, by the way, is the end of the Jeremiah quotation, and I must make plain the fact that the Hebrews author brings that promise of Israel's and Judah's redemption into the New Testament without interpretation or "spiritualization." He declares it and lets it stand. It's as true in Jeremiah's day as it is in the first century as it is in 1998. The promise of a New Covenant is Israel's. It must have been thrilling and overwhelming to his Hebrew audience. Think about it! The long awaited promises made to the fathers were as certain as the appearance of Christ and the institution of the New Covenant of Grace. What terrific news that must have been to them!

But, I can't leave Jeremiah without quoting the next three verses of that passage:

Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.

However we construct our theology, it must be able to encompass these verses. To say Israel is cast off or finished or simply typological is to deny the clear word of Scripture. To say God is finished with "national Israel" is to shake your fist at this passage. To say everything's fulfilled and God will not return His attention to Israel, His beloved, His elect, His firstborn, is to assert that time has ceased.

 

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (8:13)

The author lets logic prevail. Inasmuch as God has used the term "New covenant," it's obvious He considers the previous one to be old. That's God's own terminology. Now, says the author, that old one is about to be done away with utterly and completely. In fact, it's going to dissappear.

That's why we are "New Covenant" people. That's the only covenant we've ever known. By the time we were brought into a covenant relationship with God, the first covenant didn't even exist.

*************************************************************************

CONCLUSION:

In light of our knowledge of Ephraim's promised inheritance, it's difficult to see how anyone could support the notion of Israel being replaced by the church in God's redemptive plan. While it is true the church has been blessed to receive some of the promises Israel has yet to attain, that does not in any way preclude God completely fulfilling every "jot and tittle" of His promises to the people who hold the birthright.

That's really the heart of the matter. It's not enough to claim the church somehow supercedes Israel. Proponents of such a notion must be able to categorically identify Ephraim and prove that Ephraim's inheritance and "forever" promises have been negated by God, and there's not a verse in Scripture to support that notion. In fact, it's replete with declarations to the opposite effect - Israel's restoration.

Ephraim also poses a problem for the "everything's been fulfilled" folk. Unless they can prove Ephraim and Judah have been reunited in Jerusalem and their hearts have been renewed, there's still something left to be done. The "promises made to the fathers" include the Ephraim birthright in its entirety. Until every facet of the promise is complete, God's not finished.

As for the notion that we're "obsessed with Israel," we're in good company. God seems pretty committed to them, too. Without a full understanding of Israel's history of rebellion and redemption it's impossible to understand God's saving rebellious sinners like us. Without understanding God is committed to them because of His word of promise, we cannot fully grasp God's commitment to us and our promised inheritance. If God could turn His back on "Israel, mine elect" (Is.45:4), then what assurance is there in our own election? Israel is a type and shadow, but they are also beloved by the Lord.

They are the firstborn of the covenant of grace. The fact that Israel hasn't responded yet has nothing to do with it. They are blinded, but not permanently, and, just as you didn't see the grace of God before He opened your eyes, Israel will remain ignorant until the fullness of the Gentiles is brought in. Then, just as He opened Gentile eyes, He will open Israel's eyes. Otherwise, His word is no good, and He doesn't keep his promises.

But, as I've said with overmuch repetition, that's not the way our God works.

POSTSCRIPT:

Thank you for your patience and endurance with this lengthy submission. I didn't even get to mention Ezekiel's valley of dry bones:

Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD. (Ezek 37:11-14)

Or, the wonderful love story of redemption in the book of Hosea.

But, I'll leave that for another time.

Jim McClarty
mcclartyfam@juno.com

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2. Tim Clifton

"And they shall be my people, and I will be their God." Commentary on Hebrews 8:6-13.

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. (8:6)

        Christ is better. Now we will see that His ministry is better. He is the mediator of the New Covenant, or the covenant of grace as opposed to the covenant of works. What is a mediator? The word is used 6 times in the Bible. It means "one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant." Jesus has intervened between us and God, and thusly has restored the peace and friendship we call reconciliation. We will now see that all the promises we hold so dear, like the cross and the blood and being 'in' Christ, are really promises of the New Covenant. It is the means, and Jesus is the mediator that will take us all to glory.

 

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. (8:7)

        The first covenant was not faultless, because of the wickedness of the people. It, of itself, was precious, but the conditional nature of it made it no more than a schoolmaster to lead us to something better. It was a light to the people, but compared to the nature and scope of the New Covenant, it was a flashlight compared to the light of the sun!

 

For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: (8:8)

        The first covenant could be summed up with "If you obey, you shall be my people, and I will be your God." The New Covenant could be summed up with "And they shall be my people, and I will be their God" (Jer. 32:38). There is nothing conditional; there is no chance for the wicked hearts of men to corrupt the promises; and it is all of God. All the doctrines of grace and the sure promises of salvation, sometimes called 'Calvinism,' are a direct result of the unconditional nature of the New Covenant. All theology, in it's heart and soul, depends on knowing the difference between the two covenants, and all believers should surely take time to carefully study this covenant as God has laid it out in many Scriptures of the Old as well as the New Testaments. Note that it is with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. But, as we will soon see in the Scriptures, that will mean a circumcision of the heart in the economy of God.

 

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. (8:9)

"because they continued not..."   What they did do was to blaspheme and shame the Name of the Lord their God. God will clearly say the New Covenant is anchored in the depths of His own will, and it will have nothing to do with any merit in His chosen people.

Observe Eze. 20:43,

And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.

Then compare it to Eze. 36:22,

Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.

What verse Eze. 36:22 is talking about is the New Covenant that is spelled out in part in vs. 26 and 27:

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Note that God Himself will 'CAUSE' us to walk in His statutes. We have far more than a written code that we could never hope to keep anyway; we have a relationship with Christ that stems from the heart! Because He will do it, we will continue!

          Matthew Henry on this Ezekiel summary of the New Covenant rightly concludes:

Note, All that have an interest in the new covenant, and a title to the new Jerusalem, have a new heart and a new spirit, and these are necessary in order to their walking in newness of life. This is that divine nature which believers are by the promises made partakers of.

 

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: (8:10)

        Jeremiah 31 is quoted here in verse 10. I believe a correct understanding of this covenant is absolutely critical to understanding the entire New Testament, so I will show some (and there are more) passages that are key to understanding the mission and ministry of Christ.


And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (Heb. 8:11)

        Jesus, in John 6:45, in making His only appeal to the Scriptures is defending what some call the reformed faith or the Sovereignty of God, mentions they shall all be TAUGHT of God. This is enough, for it is one of the parts and promises of the New Covenant. Observe again:

        In other words, if you have your ears on, you will hear. If you been taught of God, you will, and you must, come to Christ. "Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." It is the sure promise of the New Covenant.

 

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (8:12)

        As we have seen above, God, for His own Name's sake, gives us a new heart, and takes away all our sins. The cross is in sight here, and the blood of the Lamb of God, which Hebrews will shortly expand upon. Jesus put it this way to all who are under this covenant and enjoy it's total forgiveness from sins: "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28). Again, testament and covenant are the same Greek word with slight variations of object in focus. Anyone enjoying the unmerited favor of God, through the shed blood of His Son, is part and parcel of the New Covenant, and outside of that blood there is nothing to wash away your sins.

        "...for all shall know me" leads logically to the Gentiles. All of these promises are clearly to Israel. Many of them go on to discuss restoration that, at least in part, seemingly hasn't happened yet. And, as we will conclude, the New Covenant will not come to total fulfillment, at least by some reckonings, until the end of Revelation. I believe the rule for the Gentiles would be this: no New Covenant means no Christ, no cross, no blood and no forgiveness of sins. These are ALL parts of this covenant. It is clear God adds Gentiles into this covenant, takes the middle wall down, and sees them as part of the Israel of the heart (that is the new heart of the New Covenant). Observe:

Jacob, and Israel, but also for a light to the Gentiles. They are grafted into the promises of the same New Covenant by the grace of God, so we can say that we 'also' have Christ in us, the hope of glory! Jesus is the light of the whole world, and not only Israel. This is the true meaning of John 3:16, and being born again, regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost to all believers in the New Covenant are one and the same as the Old Testament promises = the sure and mighty promises of God. Thus Jesus is most assuredly "A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:32).

 

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (8:13)

        May every Hebrew (and every Christian) who reads this verse know assuredly that the old has no place alongside the new. It is old and inferior. It is replaced by a better one. It is relegated to the throwaway pile. It cannot save, but the New Covenant does just that with all the assurance of the promises of God. To the new we might say, 'the zeal of the Lord hath performed this.' It moves us from a codified stone to a fleshly and living relationship written IN US. "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart" (2 Cor. 3:3).

        As for waxing old, the earth can be added to that list. There may be a sense of the New Covenant that is yet future, and that might be seen in two passages:

        In summary, ye must be born again because, without the new heart and the Spirit within you, you are not part of the New Covenant of God. Then, 'the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.' Christ came to be the testator of this covenant, and the rest of Hebrews will lift it up again over and over. God does it all; He caused you to come to Him, and He will surely keep you by the same promises. "Nevertheless he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known" (Psa. 106:8).

In Christ, Tim Clifton
Tclifton@hotmail.com

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3. Kostas Sarantidis

Hebrews 8:6-13:
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. 7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 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. 9 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. 10 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. 11 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. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." 13 By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (NIV)

        There are some textual variations in verses 8, 11 and 12, but none are significant enough to warrant our attention, except that some comment will need to be made about verse 8.

        When I first looked at this passage this week, I thought this is a self-explanatory passage of Scripture; it doesn't need any commentary, and my first inclination was not to submit one. But as I started writing, I found more and more difficulties and challenges. It is very possible some of the things I've written below are completely off-the-wall and plain wrong. I would appreciate feedback from any who feel I've misinterpreted or misapplied anything.

        Most of this passage is a quote of Jeremiah 31:31-34. The covenant spoken of in Jeremiah is presented here as fulfilled, or mediated, through the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 8). The proof that it is superior to the old covenant is demonstrated by the quote from Jeremiah. Not only is the new covenant superior, but there was something "wrong" with the "first covenant" (verse 7).

        What was wrong with it? God found "fault" - and here two translations are possible: "God found fault with them and said . . .", or "God found fault and said to them. . ." (verse 8).  The TR and critical text both have the accusative autous and thus support the first translation, while the Majority Text has the dative autois for "them" and thus supports the second translation (although the verb MEMPHOMAI can take a noun in the accusative and the dative, so even the Majority Text can be translated as, "God found fault with them").

        But is that all there is to say about who or what God found fault with? Verse 7 uses the Greek word AMEMPTOS to describe the possibility that the first covenant was "without fault." AMEMPTOS derives from MEMPHOMAI, so it would appear the sense of verses 7-8 might be this: The first covenant was not faultless. Indeed, God found fault with it, and therefore spoke the promise of Jeremiah 31:31-34.

        One can be "blameless" or "faultless" (AMEMPTOS) with regard to the Law, as Paul claims he was (Phil 3:6), and yet still be all wrong before God - because He has found fault with the Law itself, with the very covenant which was mediated to the Fathers. Is there anything inherently wrong with that first covenant so that God would find fault with it? Scripture doesn't say that there is. What it does say is that the covenant mediated by the Lord Jesus Christ is superior. Why does God find fault with the first covenant? Because it is not the covenant mediated by His Son! God's highest pleasure is in His Son. Therefore He had something better in mind than the first promises He gave to Israel. The "better promises" (verse 6) are the ones which the Lord Jesus brings.

        The writer of Hebrews has gone into considerable detail to exegete the superior priesthood and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. After he has convinced us of this, he is able to say this ministry of Jesus is as much higher than the old as the new covenant is better than the old. In all these comparatives, we are not to imagine it is ever a comparison of degree, but rather of content. As much as Jesus is superior to the angels (1:4) and to the old covenant priests, so is the new covenant superior to the old one. The contrast is one of complete and total superiority and transcendence. This is how the writer of Hebrews has been making all his comparisons from the very opening of his letter. Just as Jesus is ontologically and completely different and superior to the angels and the priests of the old covenant, so is the new covenant completely different and superior to the old. It is NEW, not a revision or updating of the old.

        So if the new covenant is so completely and starkly superior to the old one, how could God not "find fault" with the old one? To raise an objection is just as pointless as the objection in Romans 9:19 (with the same Greek verb). And if God found fault with the first covenant, how could He not also find fault with the people? People and covenant go together. Thus, MEMPHOMENOS in verse 8 can be translated in either way mentioned earlier.

        What is the meaning of the statement about a "place" being "sought for another" covenant in verse 7? Who was doing the seeking? Is there a connection here with 11:14 and 13:14, where a related Greek verb is used? Perhaps, but would the people have been seeking for another covenant? There is no evidence of such a search. Would it then be God who was seeking? The verb is in the passive and could be taken to be a divine passive, thus making God indeed the subject of the seeking. In John 8:50, God is represented as seeking (the same Greek verb as in Heb 8:7) the glory of Christ, or watching over the glory of Christ. Just as God was the one who safeguarded the glory of His Son, so He also safeguarded (sought, watched over) the "place" for a second covenant. And that place is presumably the body of Christ. I don't know if this makes sense; I have no other explanation.

        The biggest exegetical challenge of our text is verse 13. If the old covenant is "obsolete" why is it only in the process of disappearing? Is this something that lends itself to a preterist hermeneutic? Is it a prophecy of the imminent destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, thus requiring that Hebrews was written before 70 AD? I see nothing inherently wrong with employing a preterist hermeneutic for this verse. It works.

        But questions arise concerning the Jeremiah quote. I can't help but be challenged by the language of the prophecy, especially verse 11. Can we say the recipients of this promise (whoever they are) know the Lord and need no teacher? Do they ALL know Him? Of what group can this be said? Can it be said of the Church? Can it be said of Israel or Judah? And who would "the house of Israel" and "the house of Judah" be? Is this a promise to ethnic Israel still to be fulfilled, as some futurists might perhaps say? Yet, the prophecy is explicitly presented as being fulfilled in Christ, or 70 AD at the latest! Is the promise to the Church (the new man)? But how are we to define "Church" in the context of this promise, since surely not everyone in the church knows God and needs no teacher!

        Clearly the plain sense of the entire passage requires that Jeremiah's prophecy of a new covenant be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the mediator of this new and better covenant. But how this prophecy is realized in a specific group of people is a lot tougher to determine, at least for me. The new covenant is "founded on better promises." Clearly these promises must be those of an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I wonder how many people in the church, the body of Christ, know about these promises.

        In doing a word search on "promises" I came upon Romans 15:8 and I looked at the following verses. In Rom. 15:8, Christ becomes a servant to the Jews in order to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs AND so that the Gentiles will receive mercy and hope and rejoice with God's people (Rom 15:9-12). The "better promises" must be these promises to the Gentiles. Note then how Rom. 15:14 seems to fulfill Heb. 8:11, as in Paul's vision the Christians in Rome are complete in knowledge and are competent to teach each other - not for one to teach others, but for the Roman believers to teach each other out of their fullness of knowledge!

        Did the Roman church have the fullness which Paul prayed for the Ephesian church (Eph. 4:13)? It's unlikely that Rome was any closer to the "stature of the fullness of Christ" than Ephesus. There is always a tension between what has been fulfilled in Christ and what is realized in His body, the church. It is the only way I can make sense of the Jeremiah prophecy. And this also allows me to make some further sense of Heb. 8:13. Is the old covenant ever completely gone? It's old, it's aging, and it's obsolete - but it is always in the process of disappearing, never completely disappears until the coming of the Lord in glory. The temptation of the Law is too strong, and I dare say that verse 11 will never be realized in the church, because the church never will attain to the stature of the fullness of Christ, until Christ returns. The "soon" in verse 13 is a timeless expression (as in Rom. 13:11 and Phil. 4:5), and does not have to be interpreted in the manner of preterist hermeneutics. Until the Lord comes, the time will always be "at hand," the Lord will always be near, and the old covenant will always be in the process of disappearing!

Kostas Sarantidis
ksarant1@maine.rr.com

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4. Maurice Bergeron

Hebrews 8:6-13

Heb. 8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

 

...better promises. (8:6)

         Thank God these promises have their fulfillment in Jesus Christ! Note, it is to the Hebrew Christians that Christ is declared as having obtained a more excellent ministry.

For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. (2 Cor. 1:20)

...for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 6:16b-7:1)

Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore. (Eze 37:26-28)

 

Better Covenant. (8: 6-10)

        This is not an improved old Mosaic covenant, as the one He made with their fathers, but a new covenant; nor is this new covenant a second administration designed to improve upon the Mosaic covenant, for Jehovah God is loud and clear when he plainly states this new covenant is "Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt" (Jer. 31:32).

        Consider the text the Spirit points back to:

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer. 31:31-33)

Questions:

  1. Why would some teachers instruct those of us who are in Christ and who come from Gentile stock to obey the rule of the Mosaic Covenant which was given to create a body politic called Israel?
  2. Why would the same teachers instruct those of us who are in Christ and who come from Hebrew stock to obey the Mosaic covenant which was given to create a body politic called Israel?
  3. Would the same teachers instruct those pre-70 A.D. Hebrew Christians to remain under the Mosaic covenant and work within the framework that remained of the body politic? Thankfully these early Hebrew Christians were ignorant of modern Covenant Theology, otherwise they may have attempted to preserve the religious establishment and reform the body politic. Wasn't that what the Judaizers were attempting to do? If you think this is too far-fetched, think again! As with the Judaizers' false gospel, Christ ends up being just an added ingredient to help maintain the good standing of the Mosaic covenant and the body politic.

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. (Gal. 4:21-25)

        If Jeremiah 31:31 has been fulfilled, then some teachers are foolishly attempting to maintain a defunct covenant in spite of the clear teaching of scripture. The simple truth is that there no longer abides a Mosaic Covenant for anyone to keep. Jer 31:32 clearly teaches us the fathers broke the covenant they had made with God.

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: (Jer. 31:32)

If the fathers had not broken the Mosaic covenant, there would be no need for the "better promises," and the messenger of this present covenant could have stayed home in the heavenlies. Think these things through carefully, for if the Mosaic covenant is still alive and well, then Christ has not come and the New Testament scriptures are fiction, for He himself has replaced the old covenant with the new.

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 3:1)

Here the first messenger mentioned is John the Baptist. Our Lord is then identified as the messenger of the new covenant. The temple, his holy habitation, is the Redeemed.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22)

 

Know the Lord. (8:11-13)

        Everyone who is born of God knows God. Under the old covenant not everyone bound to that covenant knew God. They may have received instruction through the scriptures; they may have seen signs and wonders; they may have known of God's faithfulness and of His promises made to the fathers, and still they may have been a stranger to God. Within the framework of that old covenant, such men may have even populated the Levitical priesthood itself. How often did God plead with those people to circumcise their hearts, but they would not? Thanks be to God that Hebrews 8:12 confirms that the time of mercy, as promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34, has now found its fulfillment.

        Again, if the Mosaic covenant was not broken and done away with (Jer. 31:32), then how could God fulfill the promises of Jeremiah 31:31?

 

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (8:12)

        Meditate on this verse once again and rejoice, for surely mercy and goodness has come to Israel and Judah through this new and excellent covenant which Jesus Christ has established for poor sinners.

        That's why this covenant is radically different from the one which has vanished away.

        Thank you, dear Lord, for promises fulfilled.

Maurice Bergeron
ic@mdc.net

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5. Michael Cruz

HEBREWS 8:6-13  Commentary

6  7  89 1011  12 13

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. (8:6)

        Again in this verse, we see the same theme that has been repeated throughout this book: the superiority of Christ. This time, though, we see it from another vantage point. We see it from the aspect of ministry and covenant. Christ has a superior ministry and covenant. Christ has a ministry that is superior to all those mediators of the old covenant. We might investigate just who is involved in the mention of the mediators of the covenant. Here we have a direct comparison between the ministries of the covenants, namely Christ with Moses. We also see that this new and better covenant is founded on better promises. As much as  it may dismay certain folks, it is obvious from that the New Covenant is intrinsically better. It is not the case that those ministers of the old covenant who conflicted with Christ in His ministry were simply guilty of interpreting the old covenant improperly. Certainly they did not recognize the one to whom scripture pointed, but there is more. The law given to Moses did not have any power to redeem, and thus the covenant had no power to redeem as does the New Covenant in Christ's blood. This is not to say that there were no believers before the cross, for the just have always lived by faith. However, their salvation was tied to the new covenant and not to the conditional terms of the old. This is evident from Romans 3:25-26. This is the covenant to which all the promises of the other covenants pointed. They all laid an important piece in the eternal work of redemption that was tied to the New Covenant and the final work of Christ. We can delight that on the cross Christ spoke forth the words, "It is finished!"

 

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. (8:7)

        When I hear the words of this verse there is a tendency for me to recoil from it. We see in the conditional past of this sentence a shocking presupposition concerning the nature of the old covenant.  To the natural man, it might appear that since this covenant was flawed, then God was flawed in his decision to put it into place. But there is more than meets the eye here. For one thing, God has created a whole world that is corrupted. This does not diminish God in any sense, because we are assured by countless verses that he is Just. We have sinful men because of this corrupted world and the entrance of sin into it. Because of this, we have, in the old covenant, a corrupted covenant for the purposes of bringing salvation because the intermediator, Moses, was flawed. Again, it is important to point out that God was not hampered, in any sense, by the wickedness in man,ut he used a flawed man in order to show forth His glory in the next covenant by contrast. The mediator of the second covenant was not flawed, for He was the one and only son, the spotless lamb of God. Since He is the mediator of this covenant, we have assurance that these better promises from the previous verse are fulfilled in Him. We now have a redemption that is complete and eternal.

 

For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:  (8:8)

        In this verse we see God's remedy to the fault with the old covenant and thus the only solution for a depraved people. The writer quotes from Jeremiah 31. As we begin to examine this bit of scripture, we will see the nature of the New Covenant that God put into motion with His people. If we look at the two verses directly proceeding this passage, we see a striking contrast between the old and the new. Beginning with verse 29 & 30, "In those days people will no longer say, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge; Instead, everyone will die for his own sins; whoever eats sour grapes - his own teeth will be set on edge.'" These two verses deliver quite a wallop and uncover the entire basis and intention for the establishment of the New Covenant with the true descendents of Israel and Judah--not merely a re-establishment of the old covenant, but a new covenant in Christ's blood--not one born of frustration, but one planned from eternity past.

 

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. (8:9)

        In this verse we see the conditional aspect of the old covenant. We find, first, that the new covenant is not according to the old covenant. So if it is not in accord to the old, then there is a definite contrast of the old to the new. We see the old covenant was made when he led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. This would clearly indicate referral to the covenant of which the law was obtained from Mount Sinai. This was the only covenant made in this time period to which the Bible gives reference. The last section of this verse gives us a clear view of the nature of this old covenant. We see here the reason God planned to make a new covenant with His people, which is because they did not continue in the way of the old covenant. And because they did not continue in it, God disregarded that covenant. That is, His reason was based upon their disobedience to the terms of the old covenant. In other words, the nature of the old covenant was conditional upon obedience and because they were disobedient to that old covenant, the covenant became null and void. Again, this was no surprise to God but to show His glory in the fact that without Him man can do nothing. They cannot believe in their own power, much less can they obey the law. It is through this contrast of the old to the new that God has shown forth His glory.

 

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:  (8:10)

        Now in verse ten we get a description of the covenant that was to come in Jeremiah's time and is now here. One of the most intriguing aspects of this New Covenant is that God has promised to put His law in our minds and to write them on our hearts. This is confirmed with the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:3, "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." In the last part of the verse we get a real treat when we see the ultimate result of the New Covenant, "I will be their God and they will be my people." What great news! We belong to God and He belongs to us! I think it is appropriate to finish out this verse by looking at the last two verses following the one just mentioned in 2 Corinthians 4-5, "Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves...," but to show that by being God's people we are now completely dependent upon Him for our knowledge and confidence. We are indeed His. And following in verse six we see that, "He has made us competent ministers of a New Covenant - not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." How glorious to know that we are ministers of this New Covenant! We were dead and not only has God made us alive and part of the New Covenant but we are also ministers with Him.

 

And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (8:11)

        At first glance we might be inclined to think this verse teaches there is no need for evangelism in the New Covenant. However, further investigation does not substantiate this. This verse is simply a contrast of the nature of the two covenants. The old one was a covenant made with a nation of people, both the regenerate and unregenerate. It was effectively conditional whereby favor was granted upon condition of obedience to works of the law. The words of Galatians 3:24 sums this up well, "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." In essence the old covenant was not made up of believers only as we have in the New Covenant. Of course it is also not the case that believers before the cross were saved by works of righteousness. Salvation has always been a sovereign act of God and therefore always by grace. The difference is that believers before the cross had their salvation tied to the New Covenant.

 

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (8:12)

        This selection from Jeremiah ends with the most important aspect of the New Covenant, the forgiveness of God the father. Even though Christ's death provided propitiation, in order to do so, God had to do something--He had to choose to forgive our sins. In order to provide the means of forgiving our sins He had to take the steps to do so. This perhaps is seen in no better place than the famous John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotton son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." The fleshly side of us might see this as a universal offer of atonement, but this does not hold unless we wish to venture into universal redemption. Clearly this verse and the one from Jeremiah state the surety of God's forgiveness for all those who believe by His grace. The promise of this covenant is not conditional but assured.

 

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (8:13)

        Here we see the status of the old covenant. If there is a New Covenant then there must have been an old one. The bringing in of the new means the old one would have to be displaced, otherwise we have two covenants. The end of this verse speaks to the imminency of this displacement. We see Paul speaking of this in Romans 11:25-27. It is particularly important to note that verse seven speaks specifically to the New Covenant here and that it will actually take away all our sins, not merely provide an opportunity for making it effectual.

Michael Cruz
a_la_cruz@technologist.com

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6. Donald E. Blind

Hebrews 8:6-13

6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

        Verses four and thirteen fix the time of this writing as before the distraction of Jerusalem. The old covenant was still an ongoing ritual filling up everybody's time with a constant movement of gifts and sacrifices,   being concerned with types and shadows, and doing everything according to the pattern of heavenly things. "But now..."  Ah, the beauty of those two words! Those in whom the Spirit of Christ was now dwelling, viewing from the depth of their heart's the disparity between the sweetness of the more excellent ministry of high priest Christ Jesus, and the cacophonous din of the old covenant, with the bleeping of the destined animals, along with the casuistry of the learned, trying to teach "every man his brother" to know the Lord. This the new covenant believer did not have to do, as the Lord Jesus was written upon their hearts. Not as though they needed no longer direction from the Word of God, but now they knew that God was their God, and that, for sure, they were His people. Their sins were forgiven, and they now had experienced the mercy of the One who had taken their forefathers out of Egypt.

        The only final prophecy remaining was the eradication from before their eyes, of every semblance of the old covenant. The time and hour were not known, but it was sure. Finding fault with "them," but as Paul wrote,

Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. (Rom. 7:12-14)

        So that would soon be gone, and no condemnation would have to stare at that which spoke of condemnation any longer. Oh yes, finding fault with them, God made a new and better covenant, and they were already experiencing the better promises.

Donald E. Blind
dblind@erols.com

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7. Kevin Hartley

HEBREWS 8: 6 - 13
Commentary

        The stark and abrupt shift from the type to the antitype in Hebrews 8: 6 demonstrates the validity to the claims of the church upon the New Covenant.  'But now' writes the author, not to come at a later time, but now Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant to His people.  Here we have the temporal adverb, by which the author solidifies the current ministry of Christ as mediator of a better covenant of the church.  Unlike the day of Moses, where the people served the type, Christ now has brought forth the reality and end of all the earthly shadows that clouded the view of Him in the Covenant of Old.  In this day, then, we have a better Israel of God, a better Covenant of lasting effect, a better Mediator than frail Moses, a better priest than faulty Aaron, a better day of lasting rest, and a better law in Christ our lawgiver and by the Spirit's mediation.  We, the Israel of God, grafted into the glorious heritage of Abraham by faith alone, have become partakers of the glorious inheritance of promise, as Paul in Galatians 3: 26 and following writes,

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

With this Paul does not hesitate to address the Gentiles in this manner in Galatians 6: 15ff,

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Thus to the church is mediated the New Covenant, upon the true and faithful Israel of God.

        Notice the thrice used adjectival comparison between "what was" and now "what is in Christ."  His is a more excellent ministry, a better covenant, based upon better promises.  Thus all that is of Christ far excels all earthly shadows and types, eclipsing them with His most excellent glory.  For it is not that He is better, but as the author emphasizes the fact, how much more better is He?  This may be horrific English but it is delightful Greek.  For how many superlatives can a man utter in regard to the Son of God?  How oft can the soul weep and howl with joy over the exalted Lord of all?  Shall not all our lips fail us in His presence?  Shall not all our breath flee when we gaze upon His person.?  He who has chosen to bear the garments of redemption, the Lamb of God who sits upon the throne, cannot find description from lips of flesh.  For He does excel all earthly glories.  Much ado is made over the word 'faultless' in the seventh verse, but grammatical evidence indicates that the covenant, not the people, is the antecedent to the adjective.  This means the covenant and all its component parts were faulty, in that they were insufficient and incapable of lasting salvation.  Philip Hughes writes,

"The 'fault' of the old covenant lay, not in its essence, which, as we have said, presented God's standard of righteousness and was propounded as an instrument of life to those who should keep it, but in its inability to justify and renew those who failed  to keep it, namely, the totality of fallen mankind.' (Hughes, A Commentary on the epistle to the Hebrews, p. 297-298).

By this remark Hughes notes the key and critical matter of this passage:  Christ is the mediator of a covenant of lasting salvation, of which the Old Covenant had no power.

        If one examines the component parts of the New Covenant given here in the quote of our author, he will note that each element is effective to the end of perseverance.

        For the reader the assertions are staggering.  We are assured of perseverance due to the ministration of Christ.  We no longer are tasked with the laborious work of the law and undutiful bondage to its rigors, but Christ alone has settled our account.  We, then, shall persevere in grace in this new and better covenant.  Hasten away the day of old dear eyes that dart from Him.  Turn your eyes from the fiery rain of God's wrath that fell upon earthly Jerusalem, that harlot and Sodom of God's explicit judgement, for Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.  She and her harlotries have been silenced by a new place, where a greater mediator administers lasting grace to a new people.  For that land of old lies desolate, but there is a land of lasting and abiding grace.  It is heavenly Jerusalem; it is populated with a new Israel of God, as the writer of Hebrews shall soon say,

But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12: 22 - 24)

        Again, what saith the word of God of this new and lasting covenant?  It has done away with the vanishing days of Moses's shadows and replaced it with the brilliance of the Son of Righteousness.  He does stand on the holy hill of Zion above; He does rule over His city, the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, the church of His calling, His elect saints, to the justified by faith in Christ alone.  To the reader of Hebrews in his day, it was incumbent upon him to turn his eyes from the failure of the Mosaic Covenant, its people, its ceremony, its law, and to turn unto Christ alone.  For was not Christ and His heavenly ministration cause to turn one's eyes from the dry and arid land of a desolate place?  Was not Christ, and His sufficiently abiding heavenly mediation of the New Covenant, cause for the Hebrews of this letter to cast away all temporal and passing shadows of old-- circumcision, Sabbath, temple, sacrifice, Mosaic regulation, Canaan, and all external labors, for the sake of resting in Christ alone?  He has a better land, a better Sabbath rest, a better temple, a superior sacrifice, a more excellent law, and a better covenant. 

        As the seraphim are seen crying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy', from Isaiah to Revelation, as their voices have not ceased to cry to the One who sits enthroned above, covering their eyes and feet, shall we not learn to cry, 'more excellent, more excellent, more excellent is Christ our king?'  It is time to put away Israel's toys; it is time to stop playing their contrite games in the marketplace; it is time Christ, in His church, again be found alone preeminent, reformed, pure, and undefiled by old relics of that people of old.

Sola Gratia,
Kevin Hartley
kartleyk@erols.com

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