Hebrews 8:7-13 The New Covenant.
It is interesting that our author describes the two overarching covenants in salvation history as first and second. It is common to think of the first as old, compared to the second, which is called the new covenant. The reason for this may be to make the point that in the history of the covenants, as each covenant is instituted, such as from the Mosaic to the Davidic, the next covenant incorporates everything up to the new instalment, but then something is added with the flow of history. This is certainly the case from the Adamic to the Davidic-they are all equally administrations of the one covenant of grace, along with the new. However, there is also a sense in which all the covenants previous to the new are regarded as ultimately pointing together to the new. The fact that all the previous covenants can be looked upon together as the first or old as compared to the new, also makes the point that these were all of the same class, building on each other as salvation history progressed.
The fact that there was a ‘new’ covenant promised, much like another priesthood, shows that the first was not faultless (v. 7). “Finding fault with them,” he introduces the new in full. Note this well, he does not say “finding fault with it,” he says ‘them’. Some want to confine the first to Moses, but our author uses the plural ‘them,’ again showing that they were all of one type, each building on that which preceded it. This is also why our author began this document of new covenant renewal by directing our attention to the greater Son of David, destined to ascend the throne, unlike any of his other descendants could, since He was also declared to be the Son of the Father. The following is worth repeating. “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, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” (8:1-2). This Son is Prophet, Priest, and King-the covenantal terminal point of all that came before.
This second covenant is the new covenant spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah. Those days which Jeremiah noted, are the last days of the first century, wherein this new covenant found fulfillment, and wherein the scriptural canon was completed. Jeremiah indicated that it would be with both houses in the first of the covenants-Israel and Judah (v. 8). Nevertheless, even though all the previous covenants are regarded as one and the first, Jeremiah and our author key in on the rebellion which occurred under Moses, when the LORD took that generation “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” (v. 9). It is in the last days of the first or old covenant administrations, that the new comes to fulfillment (v. 10). The central purpose of the new covenant is the same as the old, expressed in the phrase-“I will be their God, and they shall be My people (v. 10c).
What is new is stated in the following: “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts. None of them shall teach his neighbour, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’” (v. 10b-12). Some have wanted to place the new covenant in opposition to the law, but they seem to skip over the very passage which speaks of the new covenant in the greatest detail. The opposite is the case. The law was always good, where the old administrations were at fault was in the keeping of the law from the heart, one’s core. The goal was also the more perfect fulfillment of the basic covenantal core shared by all the administrations of grace-that all would be taught by and know the LORD, so that He will be in truth our God, and we His people.
Our author then goes from referring to all the previous covenants as first, and having made his key points above, from Jeremiah, he then concludes, rightly, that these are all now obsolete, having now been fulfilled in culminating in the new, and therefore it is right to call all the previous covenantal administrations of grace as being old, compared to the new. “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” (v. 13). Again, this was the time of the last days, wherein the old covenant was coming to an end and the new administration was beginning, and with it the accompanying new covenant canon, since revelation always accompanied these covenantal transitions. The transition to the new is unique in that it is the last. This is why the covenant lawsuit contained in this document of new covenant renewal is also final and complete. There is nothing to come after the finished work of the Anointed One.