Read Hebrews 8
1 Now the main 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, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.
3 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. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 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.” 6 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said:
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
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.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people 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.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
When we read this chapter, it’s really important that we place ourselves in the shoes of the original audience and read it through their lens. Remember, this is a primarily Jewish audience who had grown accustomed to the Old Covenant. They were used to tabernacles, sacrifices, and humanly priests. That was comfortable. That was familiar. It’s what they knew. A little over halfway through the book of Hebrews when we get our first reference to the New Covenant, we could assume that there’s some hesitancy and reluctance to go along with this massive paradigm shift.
One thing we can take away from reading this passage is the reminder that God had a plan all along. The author of Hebrews tells us that there was something wrong with the Old Covenant. God, multiple times throughout the Old Testament, promised that something better was coming. We read passages like Genesis 14 or Psalm 110 and we can see hints that God has a plan that’s far greater than the Old Testament law. At the end of this chapter, the author of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah 31. These verses were written around 600 years ago – before Jesus came! This was a long process. Once the New Covenant finally arrived, the Israelites just needed help believing that it was better.
When we read this, it’s easy for us to think, “Of course this was better! How did they not realize that? Why would they not want a relationship with Jesus instead of a system full of laws and rituals?” But think about it–we do this too. We often trick ourselves into thinking that our faith is just a matter of what we do or don’t do and not a relationship with Jesus. But the author of Hebrews, quoting the book of Jeremiah, tells us that God will put these laws in our minds and write them on our hearts. Because of the Holy Spirit, we have access to God at all times and that should change everything about how we live. The Spirit of God is changing our hearts–we just need to be people who live by the Spirit.
- What details do you remember about the covenants in the Old Testament?
- Why was it difficult for the audience in Hebrews to fully jump on board with the New Covenant?
- What does it mean for God’s laws to be in our minds and written on our hearts?
- How can you live by the Spirit today?
Did You Know?
Hebrews 8:9 references the difference between this New Covenant and the one God made with the Israelites after He led them out of Egypt. God foretold Israel of the consequences of wandering from his instructions in Deuteronomy 30:15-19 and, as we now know, they didn’t listen.