Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 7 2013 - Hebrews 8:1-13 – A covenant established on better promises

A large part of the chapter we are reading today consists of an extended quotation from Jeremiah 31 which speaks of a new covenant. God promises that this new covenant will not be like the one he made with the Children of Israel "when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt" (Hebrews 8:9 / Jeremiah 31:32). What a wonderful picture of the way in which God saved his people from the bondage of Egypt; he took them by the hand and led them out, like a father tenderly leading his children. What could be better than that? How could you improve on such a salvation?

The problem lay not with God's saving work but with the rebellious nature of those he had saved; "they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord" (8:9). Jeremiah's words of prophecy are spoken against the background of the fall of Jerusalem and the people of Judah being dragged off into captivity in Babylon. Their faithlessness had resulted in God turning his back upon them.

The new covenant is different and better than that made at Sinai in two vital respects. Firstly, as we saw yesterday, "Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant" (Hebrews 7:22). This new covenant does not depend on the faithfulness of those whom God now takes to be his own; it depends only upon the faithfulness of Jesus. He is the guarantor of this new covenant. He came and took the place of faithless Israel; he bore the consequence of its rebellion and suffered its judgment when God turned his face away from his own Son. Jesus' cry of dereliction rings through the darkness of exile that precedes the dawn of resurrection. Now he is risen; exile is at an end. He has become the guarantor of a better covenant. A covenant that cannot be shattered by the faithlessness of God's people because it is underwritten by a faithful Saviour who has stood in our place and endured the judgment that our faithlessness deserves. That is why he promises, "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (8:12).

But there is more to this new covenant. God knows that, left to ourselves, we would soon become as faithless as faithless Israel. Therefore he promises, "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" (8:10). Jesus, our faithful Saviour, raised from death to the right hand of the Father, has poured out his Spirit upon his people. God has given us the Spirit of his Son to teach us how to be faithful children. He has enrolled us in the school of Christ.

The covenant by which God has made us his children is a better covenant because of Jesus. The covenant is unbreakable because it rests solely upon the faithfulness of our Saviour. Nevertheless it is designed to produce a faithful people, a people conformed to the image of God's Son by the power of his Spirit at work within us.

In Jesus, God has taken us by the hand and is leading us out of slavery and into freedom.

Heavenly Father, thank you that you have made us children of the new covenant sealed with the blood of Christ. Thank you that we have a faithful Saviour; faithful unto death, faithful in his resurrection life, faithful as our advocate in the heavens. Thank you that you have poured out your Spirit into our hearts to assure us of your love for us. Stir up our love for you and direct us in the path of obedience. We do love you Lord, and we long to please you. Help us to grow in knowledge of Christ, to walk in obedience to your commandments and to speak to others of your great faithfulness and love.

Peter Misselbrook