Covenant with Israel (Heb 8)
Paul's primary reason in writing this letter was to convince
Jewish Christians not to return to Judaism -- toward which some were wavering.
He is showing that in every respect the believers in Christ had a high-priest
and a law far superior to the old. We have a high priest.
Christ was a "minister of the true Tabernacle, which the Lord
pitched and not man." The word "true" signifies real, in contrast
to the typical or the shadow of v 5. There, "example" may be more
faithfully translated as "representation, outline, copy."
And the "shadow" of v 5 implies something of no substance
which depends on something else for its very being. The Law of Moses depended
for even its existence upon the great Law in Christ.
The Law of Moses was merely the pattern, or the type, of the
true system. God instructed Moses concerning His first Tabernacle: "See that
thou make all things according to the pattern (Greek- "type") showed thee in the
mount" (Heb 8:5).
In God's mind there was already the plan for the building of a
greater Tabernacle -- of which Moses' Tabernacle was just a feeble
In contrast to the old, Christ was the true Tabernacle where
God might commune with men. The old Tabernacle was a place where God might meet
with man, and where man might worship God. But both of these things could be
done only very imperfectly in Moses' Tabernacle.
God's glory was in the Most Holy Place, hidden except for once
a year, and then only seen by the high priest. Common Jews could not approach
there. And all of man's offerings and sacrifices only emphasized his own sin,
and their inability to take it away.
Everything under the Law of Moses pointed forward to something
better to come. To the eye of faith, every item of the Law truly cried out for a
more perfect way -- the way of Christ. Of him John said:
"The Word was made flesh, and dwelt ('tabernacled') among us,
and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full
of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
Christ spoke of his own body as "this Temple" -- and in Mat
12:6 he called himself "One which is greater than the Temple". Man must serve
God in and through Christ, the true Tabernacle. Here in Christ, we find true
worship and the means of fellowship with God.
"For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and
sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to
offer" (Heb 8:3).
On our behalf, Christ offers sacrifices to God, of which we
shall consider these aspects:
The High-Priest of the Old Covenant brought blood into the
inner sanctuary once a year. But Christ entered there by his own blood once for
all time, for himself and for our benefit (Heb 7:27)-
"By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place,
having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb 9:12).
Even now, Christ acts as our High-Priest -- by which we
approach the Father. Christ offers our prayers to Him-so that we might come,
with confidence, to the throne of grace, and obtain mercy (Heb 4:16).
And finally, a third aspect of the offerings of our
High-Priest is this: Our good deeds, our righteous actions, are a sacrifice (Heb
13:16): all of our activities are "living sacrifices" to God (Rom
Through Christ, these offerings have meaning and serve to
present us to God as acceptable sacrifices. Only in Christ can our works be
worthwhile. Only in him can they have any value.
Christ was the true Tabernacle or dwelling-place of God, by
himself. But believers, upon being baptized, come into Christ-thus becoming a
part of the true Tabernacle, pitched by the Lord:
"The House of God, the Ecclesia of the living God" (1Ti
"Living stones, built up a spiritual house" (1Pe
What a glorious promise is presented here, as we read in Eph
"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but
fellow-citizens 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 ye also are builded together for an habitation of
God through the Spirit."
Heb 8:7-13 present the crisis of Paul's whole argument.
He proves that the Old Covenant, the national covenant with Israel, was not
final; and he proves this from the Jews' own Scriptures:
"For it that first, covenant had been faultless..." (v
It was faultless in morality, in its own commandments -- for
it came from God. Paul himself calls it, in another place, "holy, just and good"
But the Law could not save men; it could only condemn them,
because all have sinned. There must be a more perfect way, a more
powerful way, to which it pointed, in Christ:
"For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through
flesh, God sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin,
condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom 8:3).
"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' " (Heb 8:8).
God found fault, not with the Law, but with Israel and Judah
who could not keep it.
In referring to the "New Covenant", Paul is quoting from Jer
31: "I will complete a New Covenant" (Diag). He had promised the New Covenant
even before the old one began -- with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But its effects
are eternal; it will not be concluded until Christ returns to reign from David's
throne and to give the inheritance to all the true seed of Abraham.
"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" (v 10).
In v 8, both Israel and Judah are mentioned. But here, Israel
alone is mentioned. The two houses are now one house -- as Ezekiel saw in his
vision. They will be united:
"I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of
Israel; and one king shall be king to them all. They shall be no more two
nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all" (Eze
The future Kingdom, with Israel as one nation, will be the
culmination of that New Covenant which had its beginning in Christ, the
beginnings of which the Hebrews had been invited to share.
(Never from the time of Solomon until Paul's day, had the two
houses been one. So therefore, never had this New Covenant been realized for
them. It must come in the future, with Jesus Christ as its mediator.)
"I will put my laws into their minds" (that is, into their
inward parts)..." and "write them in their hearts." The Jews' former heart of
stone will then become "fleshly tablets of the heart" (2Co 3:3), ready and able
to receive the engraving of God's Word, in the spirit. (This is also what
happens for us when we enter the New Covenant).
"They shall be to Me a people": God told Hosea of the nation,
"they are not My people"; but Paul promises them here, "They shall be My
The New Covenant did not come simply to destroy the old, but
to improve it. It offers what the Old Covenant could not: recognition as God's
"And they (the Levitical priests) shall not teach every
man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they
shall all know me from the least to the greatest" (Heb 8:11).
At the culmination of the New Covenant, Christ will reveal
himself to his brethren, the Jews, who mourn that their forefathers have
crucified the true Messiah, and that they themselves have long ignored his
And God will give teachers to Israel, to bring them into
obedience to the New Covenant:
"And I will give you pastors according to Mine heart which
shall feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jer 3:15).
"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is
the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the
left" (Isa 30:21).
"In that He saith, a new covenant, He hath made the
first old" (Heb 8:13).
He hath pronounced it old, even as early as the time of
"Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish
away" (Heb 8:13).
What God had promised 600 years before Paul's writing was then
(63 AD) about to occur. At that time, the Mosaic system had indeed grown old,
and it was ready to vanish away -- as it did in the fall of Jerusalem, 70
Paul's warning undoubtedly saved many Jews from returning to
the old Law. Those who listened to him fled from the onslaught of the Romans and
were saved from death in the horrible siege of Jerusalem.
All of this is strikingly typical of us today, and Paul's
words are therefore important to us: We have all left the old system of
so-called Christianity, which can offer us nothing.
We have come "outside the camp" to Christ. Let us not return
in any sense, to the ways of the old man -- nor to the systems of the world,
which will soon be completely destroyed.