Jesus Christ Prison Ministry

New Covenant


“By calling this covenant ‘new’, he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:13. What is the writer of Hebrews talking about? If we serve a God who does not change, how can this be a “new” covenant? In fact, the writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow.

 

The best way to look at this is to look at it historically. The writer of Hebrews 8:13 is referring us to a quote he used from Jeremiah 31:31-33. This quote has nothing to do with “New Testament” times. Jeremiah was writing in reference to the time when the Jews would be returning from the Babylonian exile in 538/37 BC. That was about 500 years before Christ.

Over and over again the Israelites broke the covenant that they had agreed to keep with God. It wasn’t God who broke His covenant of love, it was the nation of Israel. “Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down…” Judges 2:20. “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers,” Deuteronomy 29:25. Each time they broke it, it had to be renewed. “All these now join their brothers and nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath (to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.)” Nehemiah 10:29.

 

The same was true in the New Testament. The Jews had again broken the covenant of love and it had to be renewed. “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men… You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” Mark 7:8, 9.

 

When the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem, they renewed the broken covenant. Jeremiah 31:23 explicitly states that the “new” covenant is for the returning exiles. The “new” covenant was simply a renewal of the old covenant, since they had broken it. All of this is confirmed in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was in the service of King Artaxersis and returned to Jerusalem to help renew the covenant.   If you read chapter nine entirely, pay close attention to verses 13, 16, 17, 29, 32, 34, 38. In chapter 10 this is shown specifically in verse 29.

 

So why did the writer of Hebrews bring Jeremiah up for discussion if it was for the Jews coming back from exile in 538/37 BC? Because he wanted to remind the readers of the fact – which they knew all too well - that Israel was always breaking the covenant.   As such, God was always renewing it. His point being that it should come as no great surprise that the Jews had broken it again and it needed to be renewed again.

 

But unlike the other renewals, this time the “Civil Codes” and “Temple Rituals” of the covenant were no longer needed. The covenant of love, the Ten Commandments, remained the same. Only the civil, national and temple codes of the covenant had been done away with.

 
To understand this better, we go back to Exodus. Exodus 20:1 says that God spoke all these words. Then it goes on to give the Ten Commandments. God spoke them, and He wrote them with His own finger. But the “codes” of the covenant were written by Moses; by the fingers of Moses: Exodus 21:1; Deuteronomy 29:1. This can be better understood if we draw it out.