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A NEW COVENANT

Hebrews 8:1-8:13
Key Verse: 8:12

In the last lesson we learned that Jesus is a perfect priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, and God’s direct appointment with an oath. Jesus’ priesthood is on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. He lives forever with a permanent priesthood and lives always. He intercedes for those who come to God through him and is able to save them completely whatever situation they are in and whatever problem they have. We were encouraged to draw near to God through him. In today’s passage the author again reminds us of what kind of priest we have and helps us to think of Jesus’ superior ministry which based on a new covenant.

In chapter 7, Jesus as high priest, the person is superior to Levitical priests. In chapters 8 and 9, his high priestly work, is superior to that of Levitical priests. His work is based on the new covenant. Covenant is a key word of the Bible. We need to understand the nature of the old covenant and that of the new covenant. The new covenant is sealed by Jesus’ blood, while the old covenant, through the blood of the animals. The new covenant is fulfilled by Jesus. Today we will focus on the contents of the new covenant.

First, we do have such a high priest (1-8). In verses 1 and 2, “The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves at the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” In 1:3b it is written, “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” His sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven was through his death and resurrection. He obeyed God the Father unto death and God saved him from the power of death, raising him in the power of an indestructible life. The power of resurrection is certainly over the power of death. Then after resurrection, he has gone through the heavens, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. This throne is the highest throne, and controls all the earthly thrones. For example, when the time of Jesus’ birth was approaching, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. In issuing this decree of census the emperor surely had his own purpose of stabilizing the empire politically and economically. However, because of that decree Joseph and Mary had to come to Bethlehem from Nazareth and thus Jesus was born in Bethlehem as prophesied in Micah 5:2. In truth Caesar Augustus was used by God for God’s greater purpose. This throne of the Majesty is sovereign over all. Isaiah 55:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” And this throne works to fulfill God’s purpose (55:10-11).

In the book of Daniel God is depicted as the God of heaven (2:18, 19, 37, 44) and there is the expression, “Heaven rules” (4:26). This God showed Daniel that the kingdom of Babylonia would be followed by the kingdom of Medo-Persia, of Greece and of Rome in about 600 years. Heaven rules over all human history. We do have such a high priest who sat down at the throne in heaven.

The throne in heaven truly and entirely rules. However, it is notable to see that our high priest sat down at the right hand of this throne and serves…” What a beautiful description! While on earth his life was the life of serving. He said in Mark 10:45, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” Even in heaven, he serves. He serves at the sanctuary, the true tabernacle, set up by the Lord, not by man. As we thought of in the previous lessons, he sympathize with our weaknesses and can help us in our time of need. He serves interceding for us. So in fact the throne of which he sat down at the right hand is the throne of grace. May we all the more approach this throne, drawing near to God through him for any problem. And because he serves us at the sanctuary, may we serve his purpose, the purpose of the one who rules on the throne in heaven, as those who received the heavenly calling.

Now the author compares Jesus’ ministry of serving at the sanctuary in heaven to that of the other high priests so that all the believers know how precious Jesus’ ministry is. In verse 3, “Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.” As we know, Christ offered himself that is the best sacrifice and the best gift to God. Then in verse 4, “If he were on the earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.” In fact, now he is not on earth but in heaven. Then in verse 5, “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” Here we see that two sanctuaries are clearly contrasted: one in heaven and the other on earth. One is the true tabernacle and the other is a copy and shadow of the true one. Later the tabernacle on the earth was replaced with the temple in Jerusalem. The Israelites had to go there to worship the LORD with gifts and sacrifices.

But now as for us, we do not need to go to Jerusalem or any other place on the earth. We can go to heaven in the place where we are through our great high priest, who entered into the sanctuary in heaven ahead of us on our behalf. We don’t need any other preparation, but only heart preparation. That is our hope in Jesus. It is as written in 6:19b-20a, “It (the hope) enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.” Although we live on the earth, we can enter the heavenly realm through our great high priest Jesus the mediator, who serves at the sanctuary in heaven. Truly, this is a wonderful hope, and the better hope by which we draw near to God (7:19).

So, definitely, Jesus’ ministry is superior to that of the other high priests. Therefore, in verse 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.” And this amazing ministry of Jesus is not groundless but founded on a better covenant and better promises. We truly thank and praise God for the heavenly ministry of Jesus who serves at the sanctuary sitting at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. We should not lose this point.

Second, a new covenant (7-13). In verses 7-9, “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said.” Usually, when someone finds fault with others, they criticize and dismiss them. But God is so gracious and merciful. He provided a new covenant with better promises.

He said, “‘The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.’” The event of making the first or old covenant is written well in Exodus chapters 19-24. Especially 19:5-6 says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Then Ten Commandments and other laws were given to them. Especially in the Decalogue, the LORD said, “You shall not…” repeatedly (8 times). Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.’ Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’ (Ex 24:3-8). The covenant relationship was like a wedding vow between a bride and a bridegroom. For in Jeremiah 31:32b, it is written, “…because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them.” The covenant between the LORD and his chosen people Israel was beautiful. This was a really great blessing. God is the best husband, being faithful and providing everything and loving and caring for his people. In that covenant obedience would lead to life, but disobedience to death. However, sadly the covenant was soon broken. While Moses stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights to receive the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone, the Israelites could not wait for him. They made an idol in the shape of a calf, a golden calf and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” They celebrated in revelry. How come could they so rapidly turn from the LORD? Since then their history was breaking the covenant until they forsook the LORD and served other gods that are nothing but false, which were spiritual adultery. Finally they were exiled to Babylon. This was the tragedy of the first covenant broken.

Then it says, “‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” We see clearly the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. The old covenant is, “You shall not…” But the new covenant is, “I will…” Truly these are better promises. This new covenant is inclusive of all the believers (that is including new Israel), while the old covenant was exclusive only given to the house of Israel. For later on, in the Last Supper, Jesus said of this new covenant, which is for many (Lk 22:20; Mk 14:24; Mt 26:28). And in Hebrews 10:10, the quotation was made again with this description, “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time…” Here “them” are those who have been made holy through faith in Christ Jesus. It is also as Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:6, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

“I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” It is related to Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:2, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” The law in the new covenant is the law of the Spirit of life whereas the law in the old covenant is the law of sin and death. And Jesus said in John 6:63, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit! And they are life.” The word of God and the Spirit of God cannot be separated in the new covenant. And in Romans 2:29, Paul said of the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit. And according to Galatians 5:16 Christians are to live by the Spirit against our sinful nature/desires of the flesh. What a grace it is that while the law in the old covenant was written on the tablets of the stone, the law in the new covenant is written on our minds and hearts through the indwelling of the Spirit. So when we live by the Spirit, the Spirit enables us to keep the laws, that is, to obey the word of God. And the Spirit is the Spirit of truth and will guide us into all truth.

And then, “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” In Romans 9:25-26 is written, “As he says in Hosea: ‘I will call them “my people” who are not my people…‘It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” they will be called “sons of the living God.”’” What a grace!

Then in verse 11, “No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.’” Surely it does not mean that we don’t need to teach the Bible. It means that everyone will have an opportunity to know God personally through Christ Jesus. This can be the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also said in John 6:45, “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learn from him comes to me.” And knowing God and his Son Jesus is eternal life, as Jesus said in John 17:3.

Then in verse 12, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Here the conjunction is “for.” All the blessings mentioned ahead were due to the grace of forgiveness of sins. This is the core of the new covenant. The holy and righteous God welcomes sinners and forgive their sins. That’s why Jesus said at the last supper in Luke 22:20, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” And in Matthew 26:28, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” When Jesus was dying on the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” When a robber on the cross beside Jesus accepted Jesus’ prayer and asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” he entered into the new covenant relationship with Jesus and was welcomed into the paradise. To all sinful human beings the most important thing in life is to receive the grace of God’s forgiveness of sins. Otherwise human life is too tragic to think of. Without the grace of forgiveness of sin all people will suffer eternally in the fiery lake burning sulfur. The forgiveness of sin is bestowed upon all those who repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ Jesus who died on the cross, shedding his blood for man sins, There is no other way of forgiveness of man’s sins, for as it is written in 9:27, “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Those who have received the grace of forgiveness of sins keep this grace as of most importance and at each time repent of any sin that blocks the relationship with the Lord. They want to keep the right relationship with God Father and the Son Jesus at any cost.

Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. And truly the new covenant is founded better promises, which were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In the new covenant all that human beings need are there, forgiveness of sin, knowing God personally, having God as our God and being his people, and his laws being written in our minds and hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Without the new covenant all human beings would perish. In this world nothing is truly trustworthy. Yet, we can put our full trust in the new covenant, however the people of the world change. May we live as the people of the new covenant no matter what.

And in verse 13, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging (outdated) will soon disappear.” We are sure that we have no part with the old covenant. So our mindset be firmly established on the new covenant.

We thank and praise God for the new covenant which is founded on better promises. In the amazing grace of forgiveness of our sins and with laws written on our minds and hearts may we approach the heavenly throne at the heavenly sanctuary and serve his purpose as his people in this generation.

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