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Lowell Brueckner

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A Better Covenant


An expository study of the book of Hebrews


Chapter 8

 1. Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,

2. a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

3. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer.

4. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law;

5. who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moises was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

6. But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

7. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.


A position of perfection

 The Holy Spirit is glorifying Christ, just as Jesus promised He would do: “For He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (Jn.16:14). In the seven previous chapters, He was leading us to this main point. He is now presenting the One, who is the High Priest of a better order of priesthood than the Levitical order. In the last chapter, He showed us this type in Melchizedek, having referred several times to Psalm 110:4. He is the perfection of the High Priest that God had in mind in eternity. 


 He is the High Priest just described in chapter seven, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens. He is the reality, who fulfills all the Old Testament types. He is now positioned on the throne in heaven in perfection and His ministry is conducted from the true tabernacle, of which the tabernacle in the wilderness was a pattern (1). The Lord is its Maker and not man (2); this is heavenly reality and perfection. Who would be so foolish as to leave reality, in order to go back to the types and patterns?   

 He “has passed through the heavens” (4:14), from the heavenly atrium, on to the Holy Place and arriving at the Holy of Holies, and is now resting from His work. It is a work fully completed and, we might say, it was a kingly work, because He is sitting on the throne, High Priest and King. He is not sitting on a throne; He is sitting on the true throne, the only throne worthy of a perfect King. As the writer repeated Psalm 110:4 for emphasis of His high priestly position, He also repeats his kingly position from Psalms 110:1 in Hebrews 1:3, here in 8:1 and will mention it again in 10:12 and 12:2: “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool." 

  It is the ministry of a high priest to offer gifts and sacrifices, so this Minister has something to offer (3). He will not offer as an earthly priest, according to the law, which would be to regress to shadows and types (4). He offers Himself in a New Covenant. Moses, the great lawgiver, was shown a pattern, not the reality (5). We are looking now into reality. God has put aside the covenant, to which Moses was the mediator for the people, and has exchanged it for a better covenant with better promises. Christ is the true Mediator of a true covenant (6).

The writer is clearly showing the Hebrew Christians the imperfections of the most sacred people, places and beliefs of their religion and he is showing it to them out of their own Scriptures. God never intended for them to be permanent and therefore promised a better day, providing an excellent ministry, based on a better covenant. The logic is: Why would God promise a second covenant, if the first was perfect? It was intentionally flawed, because the mediator was a man… a good man, but an imperfect man, who was not even allowed to enter the Promised Land (7).   

 8. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah –

9. not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.

10. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

11. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.

12. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

13. In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.


 A New Covenant

 As we read through the Old Testament, we are studying Jewish history, law, literature and prophecy. It is the purpose of God that all the world should learn from this nation, to see what happens, when a people’s God is Jehovah Lord. They are a light for us, not only to see their successes, but also their failures. Their successes were due entirely to their God and their failures were the result of His punishment for their unfaithfulness. We observe His love, His power and His righteousness.

 To this day, they not only exist as His chosen people, but they are a prosperous, talented and intelligent nation. Just as He promised very precisely in Ezekiel 37, 2,500 years ago, and through other holy men at different times, so He fulfilled His word in the 20th Century. He first drew them back to the homeland, which He gave to Abraham and His descendants. Then He gave them sovereignty, so that they became an independent nation on May 14, 1948.     

 We must never forget that the gospel was meant to be for the Jew first. The Son of God came to earth as a Jew, born of a Jewish virgin. He was their Messiah. His chosen apostles were all Jews and so were the writers of the New Testament, except for Luke. The thousands of early converts were Jews and when the disciples told Jesus of Greeks, who came to Jerusalem to meet Him, He spoke of the cross, through which all the world could come (Jn.12:20-24). Now we are studying a book, which was written to Jewish Christians.

 The problem is not with the first covenant per se; the fault was in the unfaithfulness of the people. Notice: Finding fault with them and not with it; the Old Covenant was not intended to redeem and transform. Under the New Covenant, we see Christ sitting in the Holy of Holies erected by God and not man. The flaw in the old was the part played by men. We already saw that Moses, the mediator, was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. 

Solomon spared no expense in building a luxurious temple. The princes of Israel, the priests and the Levitical singers and players were all present to dedicate it. They experienced a glorious day. As they sang and played, suddenly, “the house of the Lord was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister… for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chr. 5:13-14). There was no room for mighty King Solomon and his political power, no matter that he was the building’s constructor. The Levitical priests could not find a position. Spiritual pride, the hardest form of pride to deal with, could not get a foothold. The glory of God filled the house and there was no room for men.

 The Holy Spirit-inspired writer reminds the Jewish Christians of the New Covenant, promised by their prophet, Jeremiah in chapter 31, verses 31-34. Jeremiah said very explicitly that the covenant was with Israel and, more specifically, Judah (v.8). Interpreters, who try to take the plain language of Jeremiah, naming Israel and Judah, and replace them with the church, cannot be trusted as reliable. I think, it would be good to look into the teaching of Paul in Romans at this point. He grieved with godly sorrow for his countrymen, “to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises” (Ro.9:3).   

 He continued to tell his Gentile readers: “If you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree” (Ro.11:14). He warned them against boasting (vs.18,20), because the Gentile church is dependent upon Israel, not vice-versa: “Remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” Their fall was the means, by which we were accepted, but the purpose of God is to raise them up again: “If their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead” (v.15). Here is their future: “Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved” (vs.25,26).

 Jesus introduced the New Covenant to His disciples in the upper room, celebrating the Passover for the last time on earth. He replaced it with “The Lord’s Supper”: “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many” (Mk.14:24), which Paul applied to the Gentile church (Jews are members also over the generations, but they are in the minority) in 1 Corinthians 11:23-27.

 Paul makes this entire subject very clear in Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, and also for the Greek (meaning non-Jew).” It was to the Jew that God promised a new covenant and the Sinai Covenant would come to an end. We will notice His loving care for them, taking them by the hand, as a father would guide his child, and leading them out of Egypt and through the desert (v.9). In this age of the church, they are beloved for the patriarchs’ sake: “They are beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Ro.11:28).

 Everything that He did was meant for their good, so that Paul says, “The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Ro.7:12). It was not perfect… “The law made nothing perfect…” (Heb.7:19) because it was not designed to change the heart. God’s grace is perfect and the New Covenant is entirely based on the grace of God, which the sinner receives by faith. It was necessary to see first the sinfulness of man, before God’s grace could be applied.

The New Covenant transforms people’s hearts and minds; it is new birth (10). God is satisfied with nothing less than heart religion, therefore, each believer is born into the covenant: “To them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn.1:12,13). The new birth is a work of God’s grace and not the efforts of man. 

Ezekiel also prophesied similarly: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezek.36:26-27). Ezekiel and Jeremiah, as well, spoke to the entire nation, of the time when all Israel will be saved. This promise came just before the resurrection of the nation in the following chapter 37 and in verse 14 states: “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live.”

 In this age, everyone comes individually into the covenant. Verse 11 brings to light another important characteristic of the New Covenant… personal relationship with God. We are taught the gospel, but the new birth must be experienced firsthand. Almost at the beginning of His high priestly prayer to the Father in John 17:3, Jesus says, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

 The apostle John tells of those, who do not persevere, but leave the body of believers in 1 John 2:19. Jesus identifies their fatal flaws in His parable of the sower. In the following verse, John makes another distinction between the deserter and those who abide in Him. It is because of the indwelling Spirit of Truth: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” In verse 27, he writes further, in full accordance with Jesus' teaching concerning the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John, chapters 14-16: “The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”  

 Under the New Covenant the cross is essential, working to bring pardon and redemption from sin. It works propitiation, appeasing the anger of God, that He might pour his mercies upon us. In this way, it makes peace, that is, reconciliation with God (12). That makes the relationship possible, which we have just covered in the last two paragraphs.

 The work of the cross avails to the extent that two Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled on God’s part: “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic.7:19) and; “Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; but you have lovingly delivered by soul from the pit of corruption, for you have cast all my sins behind Your back” (Is.38:17). I was blessed by the implication Jamieson-Fausset-Brown see in the Hebrew word lovingly.  They write: “Thou hast been lovingly attached to me from the pit”; pregnant phrase for “Thy love has gone down to the pit, and drawn me out from it.”

 We learn much from the types and symbols of the Old Testament. God is revealed to us through the nature of His law and His dealings with Israel. It enriches our understanding of the New Testament, but we no longer live bound under the Old Covenant.  It holds the promises made to the Jew first, leading Him into glorious liberty under the grace of God, simply by trusting Him. The terms of the Old Covenant are obsolete and disappearing, having been replaced by faith and grace under the New Testament (13).

  We non-Jews have come into it, although we were without a Messiah, “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world… You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph.2:12, 19-20).



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