Finding Fault With Them
‘For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says,”Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; For they did not continue in My covenant, And I did not care for them, says the Lord.” ’ Hebrews 8:7-9
In Hebrews 3:1, the “holy brethren” (the church) is told to “consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.” From that point forward in the book to our text for today, the inspired writer has been doing just that. For our consideration, He’s been placing before us the revelation of just who Jesus really is and what He has done for us in those two roles, buttressed by quotes from the Old Testament showing their fulfillment in Christ.
Beginning with Hebrews 4:14, the Spirit directed the scribe’s attention to Jesus Christ as our superior heavenly, eternal High Priest. Not only is Jesus our High Priest, He is the one who mediated the New Covenant to which the context surrounding our text today speaks.
In the previous two weeks, we considered the exhortation to “make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” (Heb. 8:5) First up was the foreshadow of the Tabernacle and its furnishings as erected, as well as the precepts in the Law implemented under the leadership of Moses. Then the true pattern of the spiritual Tabernacle and the precepts of the Law of liberty enacted by our High Priest, Christ Jesus.
Remember the lesson; build according to the pattern, you receive a blessing. (C. f. Ex. 39:42-43; James 1:25) Conversely, you pervert the pattern, you reap the plagues. Which brings us to the writer’s discussion on the New Covenant as he is moved to quote from his prophetic predecessor, Jeremiah. “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, “declares the LORD. Jer. 31:31-32.
The Covenant Made With The Fathers
The apostle Paul, inspired by the same Holy Spirit that directed the writer of the Hebrew letter, said that the Law (the first covenant) “is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Rom. 7:12) Jeremiah, from whom the writer quotes, uses language that conveys in this covenant a caring, loving husband delivering His bride out of Egypt. Yet, the writer of Hebrews states that it was faulty in some manner. Otherwise why the need for “a second.” What’s up?
The covenant with the fathers, what the inspired scribe calls “the first”, came with proscribed laws, ordinances and decrees. This was a necessary teaching step in God’s eternal plan. The law in its design dealt primarily with the externals. They had their purpose in the progression of God’s plan to clearly define the profane (common) and the holy for Israel’s benefit and ultimately the church. Remember the pattern in Scripture. First the natural, then the spiritual. (1 Cor. 15:46) Yet the Law, the Levitical priesthood and its associated sacrificial system could not produce life or perfection (Heb. 7:11). Mankind, being thickheaded and stubborn, needed to learn the lesson. The law in this regard was useful in the plan of God until He was ready to usher in the New Covenant predicated upon faith in Christ-that which would produce a people who would worship Him in spirit and truth.
There was another aspect of the first covenant that sought for the New Covenant. It had to do with the promises. The writer mentions that reason in Hebrews 8:6: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.” If you go back and read through the promises associated with obedience to the first covenant, you’ll note promises of long life, freedom from physical oppression (peace), material provision and abundance, to name just a few. These all pertained to things of the earth, were temporal, and had a tendency to keep the people focused on the physical things. With their concerns focused on the physical, addressing their physical needs or fears would be the priority. When the LORD would no longer seem useful in serving those needs, or another avenue opened that was deemed easier or faster, they promptly forgot the covenant He had made with their fathers. Look at the example of when Moses ascended the mountain. In less than 40 days, in their impatience, they built an idolatrous golden calf and basically spit in the eye of the LORD! Thus Israel’s pattern was set early and unfortunately, imitated often.
The Lord often reiterated the Exodus story and the conquest of the land of Canaan by the prophets as a means to remind them of His great power and countermand the strong pull of the things of the earth. Ah, but the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life on a “here and now” people got the better of Israel. By the time of the prophet Jeremiah, God’s patience had worn thin and He warned of what was to come. Finding fault with them and their physical mindset, He smashed all things physical they held dear at the hands of the Babylonian army. That was the first warning. In rejecting the Messiah for not being the earthly king they wanted, the LORD smashed one final time the physical nation of Israel for repeating the pattern and brought forth the fulfillment of Jeremiahs’ prophesy.