Series on Hebrews, IV Superior Provision, A Superior Promises, Text: 8:1-13, Title: Better Promises

Introduction:

This chapter is about the new covenant. A covenant is a promise. The grace of God is, at heart, a simple promise. God says to us I will be your God and you shall be my people. He does not have to do this. The fact that God comes to disobedient creatures, and rebellious sinners and speaks this word of mercy is His covenant. The New Covenant is simply the consummation or fulfillment of the promise of God  given at the beginning. God’s covenant began with the promise of  deliverance made to Adam and Eve immediately following their fall into sin. We read in Genesis 3:14,15, So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The entire Jewish religion involving the state and its civil laws, their worship and all its priesthood, ceremony and sacrifice, prophecies and promises, and the moral law was part of this original promise as yet incomplete. The New Testament, or covenant is simply the completion or fulfillment. The  fulfillment has come. The New Covenant which was promised to the Jewish people in Jeremiah 31 has arrived. Look at 8:1 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 in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. The author says the point of what he has been saying is we do have such a high priest. Underline the word HAVE this is the clue to the whole point of this chapter.  The author speaks in v.6 of a superior covenant and better promises. This does not mean a change in the fundamental promise of the covenant. The destination is the same. However the grace of God and our salvation are now held forth in more “fullness, evidence and efficacy to all nations” (Westminster Larger Catechism Q .35) than formerly. Unfortunately many Christians do not understand the unity of God’s covenant. It is therefore most necessary and helpful for us to see the author’s argument here. The promise in its old form is obsolete because the ministry of Jesus our great high priest effects two things.  Full Propitiation and Final Perfection.

I Full Propitiation

Verses 1-6 emphasize the location of Jesus ministry, 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 in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. 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. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 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.” 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. The author mentions both here and in the following chapter that Jesus offering of himself as a sacrifice for our sins took place in the heavenly sanctuary. The earthly Levitical priests served in a sanctuary which was only a copy, albeit a precise copy. Verse 5  tells us that the Levitical priests 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.” But Jesus is our high priest of whom it says 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 in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. We also read in Chapter 9:23, It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. The author makes clear that  animal sacrifices are not acceptable in the heavenly sanctuary. And it would not change the status quo to offer more of them on earth. In other words,  the blood of bulls and goats is inadequate to remove God’s wrath against sin.. Jesus offered himself and as a consequence appeased the wrath of God towards his people. Jesus paid the price in full, and he paid it for all his people in all ages. Old Testament believers were saved by confidently trusting in the mercy of God as it was indicated in the priesthood and sacrifices of an earthly sanctuary. New Testament believers are saved by appropriating the mercy of God as it has been fully and clearly revealed in Christ.  All are saved by Jesus, but, the wrath of God was not fully satisfied until Jesus came. If you have a perfect priest and a perfect sacrifice which fully atoned for sin in the very presence of a holy God you dare not go back to earthly priests with the multitude of their animal sacrifices in an earthly temple.

II Final Perfection

The author now gives us an extended quotation from Jeremiah in verses 7-12. It is God’s promise of the New Covenant,  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: “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. 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.” Jeremiah is the prophet who wept at Israel’s failure and the judgment of God in sending them off to the Babylonian captivity. When he predicts their return, 70 years later, he predicts more than a simple rebuilding of the nation. He talks about what will happen when Jesus comes. How do you do this in a way that Jeremiah’s prophecy could be understood by the Israelites to whom he spoke?  You emphasize three changes, or three ways in which the new covenant fulfillment will be superior. It will guarantee three things: great animation, great access, and great assurance.

A Great Animation:

V.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. The fulfillment of the covenant will bring the goal of fellowship with God to fruition by the pouring out of His Spirit. Formerly God’s Spirit worked in His people. He called them, saved them, led them, comforted them, and inspired the writers of Scripture. But the spirit was not fully poured out until Pentecost after Jesus death and resurrection. I cannot emphasize enough the lame, limping, incomplete and insufficient response that characterizes the Church today in the light of the powerful distinction that is made between the Old and New Covenant animation. The New Testament is full of the difference that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit makes in our lives. Walk in the spirit, says Paul, live in the Spirit, in Romans 8.

B Great Access:

V.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. The fulfillment of the covenant means universal access of believers so that we need no priests, no temple, no other sacrifices to boldly enter the presence of God. The writer reiterates in Hebrews 10:19-22  Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Our adoption as children of God is clear, the Fatherhood of God is clear, and by the Spirit we cry Abba, Father. Each and every child of God through Jesus Christ has access. In the Old Testament they had informal access with formal separation, but we have better. Jesus said John the Baptist was greater than all the Old Testament prophets, but the least of us is greater than he. He says in John 6:45 It is written in the prophets they will all be taught by God. In his first epistle in 2:27 John writes, The anointing you received from him remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you. The point is the contrast. So what are we making of this opportunity? Are we all scribes? Are we all kings? Are we all priests?

C Great Assurance:

V.12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. The accomplishment of our redemption in the great historical event of Jesus death and resurrection brings a kind of assurance to our hearts that was unknown before. They had assurance, but not as we have it. Heaven is secure, Jesus said I go to prepare a place for you. We can afford to condemn the world by our thoughts words and actions because of the greatness of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. In fact if you look ahead to Hebrews 11, the long list of accomplishments by Old Testament saints shows that they condemned the world by living for the city of the future. The author says they did this without receiving what was promised. We have received the fulfillment, and so our efforts should surpass theirs!

Conclusion:

The author says in verse 13, By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. Not only is the “new” better (notice the quotation marks), it is new in the sense of fulfillment. It abrogates the old and makes it obsolete. To the first century Jew this meant don’t go back to Judaism when you have its fulfillment in Christ. But to us it means something different. It means we need what A.W. Tozer called the sanctified imagination. We are too occupied with externals, Go to church, take communion, perform your service. We reduce these things to nothing more than the empty sacrifices and ritual that God condemned in Israel. The sanctified imagination is the ability to see beyond the veil and gaze with astonished wonder upon the beauty and mystery of things eternal. The weakness of the scribes and Pharisees was the lack of ability to see beyond the externals of religion. This is why they crucified the Lord of glory, because he opened heaven to them, and they were frightened of what they saw. Don’t let this happen to you.