Epistle to the Hebrews (8:8-13)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the HebrewsBut God found fault with the people and said: ‘The days are coming, declares the Lord,when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.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…” Hebrews 8:8-13

The author is continuing to argue that the new covenant is superior and gives some reasons for it. He quotes Jeremiah 31:33 to support his arguments. The people under the old covenant could not be perfect by following imperfect laws and an imperfect covenant.

We have an example in Luke 6:

Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shrivelled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Get up and stand in front of everyone.’ So he got up and stood there.Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’He looked round at them all, and then said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.”

In Mat 12 it says:

Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one!Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.”

The pharisees were very legalistic and believed that the Jews should absolutely not work on the sabbath day. They had a distorted view of the sabbath law. The goal of the sabbath was to make people remember that they should also rest and seek God after a week of work(Ex 20). The sabbath formed part of the 10 commandments given to Moses. But the pharisees twisted this law, they did things to the extreme. Love has precedence above laws and Jesus healed on the sabbath day. Jesus is Lord of the sabbath and He worked on sabbath day to do good. What good is it to put aside a day for God but during this day you don’t do what you know is good? Even worst, the pharisees’ heart were evil and did not rejoice when the sick man was healed. They rather plotted on the sabbath day to kill Jesus!

Laws were given to make people do what is good but the laws obviously proved to be fallible According to the law, if someone saw a sheep in a well he should pull him out. But what if this sheep felt in a well on sabbath day? That would make 2 laws conflict with each other. Taking the sheep out had precedence over the overemphasized sabbath law.

At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”  Matthew 12

The pharisees were right to say that harvesting grain was forbidden on the day of the sabbath. Jesus did not deny it.

What he replied was this:

Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!

The sabbath is a law which applied to everyone but did that mean that the priest should have stop their duties? The law conflicted another law. Jesus is Lord of the sabbath and he was removing the yoke brought by the law.

To clear out all this, Jesus gave only 2 “laws” and these laws summarised all the law (Rom 13:8, Gal 5:14).

Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”

Love God and love people. If you love God you’ll consecrate yourself and do beyond the requirements of the sabbath. If you love your neighbor, you’ll take out his sheep when you see it in a well even on sabbath day.

Jesus clearly showed that He was Lord of the sabbath and worked to do good on this day.

So we see well that the sabbath law given under the old covenant was imperfect and God found faults in the Israelites who failed to be faithful to His covenant. There’s not a man who has been able to fulfill all the requirements of the law(except Jesus). All have sinned, everyone has violated the law. But God said that He will make a new covenant. This new covenant is going to be perfect. Under the old covenant the pharisees and scribes twisted the laws given by God for their own glory. People had to depend on the teachers of the law to know God but these teachers were misleading them.

We read the woes of Jesus in Matthew 23:

So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

These pharisees twisted the scripture and made the requirements of God difficult to bear. They wanted to show people that they gave a lot, prayed a lot and knew the scripture a lot but they were washed tombs Jesus said. They thought they were super spiritual and were the only one who were the pious ones. They were careful to give a tithe of their income even from herbs in their garden! Not only that they forbidden people to know God.

For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

These pharisees knew the laws in their head but not in their heart. They should have teach the people about God’s laws but they twisted it instead. People were ignorant and misled in their faith because of them. The list could go long to explain the feebleness of the old covenant and the failures of its spiritual leaders. What could be done to make people know God then?

God made a new covenant where his laws will not be written on tablets of stones but on our heart(2 Cor 3:3).

But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:I will put my laws in their minds,and I will write them on their hearts.I will be their God,and they will be my people.”

Who is going to teach the people of God? Will those under the new covenant be dependent on pharisees or teachers of the law to know God? NO! God made a new covenant, He will teach them Himself through His Holy Spirit.

And they will not need to teach their neighbors,nor will they need to teach their relatives,saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’For everyone, from the least to the greatest,will know me already.”

This verse really touched me when I was searching for God. Before I knew Jesus, I asked God “How can I really know you? Who will teach me rightly in your ways? Who can I trust to tell me who you are really?

God did not fail to answer this prayer, reveal Himself to me and teach me in His ways! I believe He is ready to do it for anyone. There’s no excuse for a Christian to be ignorant about God.

Every Christian should know God no matter his social rank or who he is. Pastors/teachers are not indispensable for people to know God. If there cease to be pastors and teachers, Christians will not stop to exist. Pastors are there to lead and feed but above them is the Good Shepherd. He is not a hired hand like pharisees or false teachers. Understand well what it means to be under the new covenant. A Christian is born again whole, he lacks nothing. When God’s law is written on your heart, you obey it because you love it. You don’t obey it grudgingly or because you’re forced by a law. This is the beauty of the new covenant. I believe perfection is possible under the new covenant because the Mediator wants us to be perfect.

Earlier we read that the people did not remain faithful and God turned away from them.

Under the new covenant we read :

And I will forgive their wickedness,and I will never again remember their sins

The author ends part of his argument with this verse:

When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.”

Do you understand that the old is gone? The Son of man came to fulfill the law and brought something better. We are no longer required to follow the sabbath, to tithe(see post Hebrews 7:6), do sacrifices(see post Hebrews 7:27), circumcise and follow the Judaic laws. These are obsolete and has been replaced by a better covenant. This covenant is established on better promises, is perfect and will last eternally. We don’t need priests, we are ourselves priests of the living God.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

The Son is Himself the Mediator and guarantees the validity of this new covenant. Think again about this grace of being taught by God Himself!


Posted January 12, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

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