Focal Passage: Hebrews 8:1-13
In our culture we don’t talk about covenants as much as we talk about contracts. That is a shame because a covenant is filled with rich and deep meaning often lost in the legalese of contracts. The word covenant comes from a Hebrew root word that means “to cut.” If that seems strange, consider that a covenant was struck when an animal was cut in half and the parties agreeing to covenant together would do so between the two halves of the animal. The message was simple: if I fail to live up to my part of the covenant may what happened to this animal happen to me. I often remind young brides and grooms of that imagery as we discuss the marriage covenant. Their reactions are priceless.
Jesus is the High Priest of a new covenant. The old covenant was one God initiated with Abraham (Genesis 15). This covenant was good, but it was limited (Hebrews 8:6-7). Its purpose was to point us to our need for something better. To create a longing in God’s people, with every sacrifice, for there to finally be an end to sacrifices.
So, a better covenant was instituted. A covenant mediated by Christ and His final and complete sacrifice. Jeremiah promised that a day was coming when God would make a new covenant with Israel. A covenant unlike the first one. A covenant that, we now know, is by faith in Christ, not primarily by ethnicity (or even obedience). A covenant that is about internal transformation, not external adherence to ritual. Why did God do this? Because it was what we needed. Notice what the writer says in Hebrews 8:8a – “God found fault with the people.”
Unlike the old covenant that seemed to always keep God at a distance, the new covenant is one in which we “know” the Lord (Hebrews 8:11). How will God accomplish this? By forgiving our sins, but not on an annual day of atonement, rather on that one great day of atonement that all of those annual days pointed forward to. The day when Christ was lifted up not just as our high priest, but also as the final sacrifice for our sins.