Better than the Old, Pt. 1

Hebrews 8 - “Better than the Old”

Sometimes massive concepts must be taught in larger chunks so we will not miss the forest for the trees.

  • We need the big picture, not minutiae.
  • Like pushing through a snow storm where all you see are ice and snow in your face verses looking down on it from a hotel room watching people get from point A to point B.
  • We need the bottom line rather than the itemized spread sheet. Not paying bills week to week but evaluating a year at a glance income/outcome budget.
  • Viewing life in terms of 20 year goals verses 1 to 3 year goals. Short term priorities suddenly shrink.

During college, I was taught that if you take a penny and put is close to you eye, it looks massive.

  • However, when you take this same penny and lay it on your desk it looks much smaller in light a larger context of things.
  • Details are our friend in the Bible. They feed the spirit.
  • However, details can sometimes obscure getting the point!

Chapter 8 must be read and processed as a unit, otherwise you risk missing the larger thrust.

Last week we dove into 8:1 with the words, “Now the point in what we are saying is this…” (v. 1).

  • This means pay attention, a book summary is right out in front.
  • This writer summarizes this letter so far with two sword thrusts: That for all believers Jesus is their Superior High Priest (vv. 1-5).
  • Christ enthroned at the Father’s right hand ministering in the “the true tent that the Lord set up” meaning in heaven.
  • In addition, the point being that Jesus set this up “not man.”

Verse 3 speaks to the ongoing ministry that “high priests” had on earth, offering gifts for thanksgiving and sacrifices for sins.

  • However, Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient.
  • There will never be a need for another sacrifice (cff. 7:27; 9:14).
  • Consequently, this means Christ as High Priest in heaven continues to apply His Cross sacrifice for our benefit through His intercessory work.
  • This is heavenly “work” because His work was earthly by the Law; Jesus would not be a priest, not being from the tribe of Levi, “according to the law” (v. 4).
  • The ministry of the tabernacle cast a “shadow” toward what is now fulfilled in “heaven.”

Exodus 20-31 recounts Moses ascending Mount Sinai, to receive the Old Covenant Law.  Exodus 24:15-18 opens up about God’s direct engagement with Moses:

ESV  Exodus 24:15-18 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and athe cloud covered the mountain.

16 aThe glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a adevouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses awas on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Chapter 25 explains the key furniture that dwelt in the holy of holies.

  • The ark of the covenant, the table for bread, the golden lampstand.

Verse 40 is what the author of Hebrews quotes in Hebrews 8:5.

ESV  Hebrews 8:5 They serve aa copy and bshadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, c"See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain."

ESV  Exodus 25:40 And asee that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.

  • Making the tabernacle furniture inner and outer sanctum does not mean you these are direct replicas from heaven but the tabernacle certainly symbolized (“serve as a copy”) heaven’s throne room!

Verse 6’s transitional point is to say, “As good as the Law and priesthood was Christ’s ministry is far better!”

  • This is where we pan out to the wide lens to reveal the “Big Picture!”
  • What does this mean for your heart?
  • What do you have and what have you been given?
  • What can you reaffirm to revitalize your Christian life?


Verses 6-13 pan out from the point of our Superior Priest to the point that we have a superior Covenant or Promise offering a transformed life!  This is really the same point (cf. 8:1).

Verses 6-13 holds fresh application of the New Covenant Gospel to your life!

Answering two questions:

     1. Why the Old Covenant failed? (vv. 6-9)

          a. A better covenant was promised (vv. 6-7)

Verse 6 introduces the vital work of Christ in our lives as our High Priest, as our intercessor.

  • He applies the New Covenant in our lives.
  • Through Christ’s resurrection He “obtained a ministry” that is “more excellent than the old” (v. 6).
  • Christ is our Covenant Mediator and it is “better” because it is based on better promises! The promises that this writer quotes from Jeremiah 31!

There are promises given by God to Israel under the Old Covenant.

  • Promises based in the retribution principle of blessing and cursing (Dt. 28-30).
  • A brief survey of Deuteronomy 28 shows you the severity of this!

Instead, the church under the New Covenant are given “heart promises!”

  • Promises based on heart transformation. “Better promises!” (v. 6).
  • Old Covenant promises were limited to actions and New Covenant promises were unlimited in terms of changed attitudes!

Verse 7 provides simple logic to say, “if the first covenant had been faultless” there would be no reason “to look for a second” (v. 7).

A fear-based heavy system pushed Israelites to “seek” or “strive for” or “demand” a “second” covenant!

Paul called the ministry of the Old Covenant, “the letter [that] kills…the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone” (2 Cor. 3:6-7).

  • It was called “the ministry of condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:9).
  • This covenant exposed people’s sin!
  • However, it also had “glory!” 2 Corinthians 3:10-13 comparing the Old Covenant with the New speaks of the Old Covenant glory that was fading.

Exodus 34:29-35 is the account where Moses having received the Law at Sinai in the midst of God’s thundering glory, he comes down only to find Israel worshipping the golden calf, violating the Law!

  • Moses smashes the stone tablets but then returns to God begging for their pardon!
  • God forgives and renews their the covenant after which he spends forty days and nights with God on the mountain, fasting!
  • Moses comes down the mountain is his face is shining with the glory of God at such a frightening level that even his brother Aaron can’t look at him!

ESV  Exodus 34:29-35 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with athe two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face bshone because he had been talking with God.130 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face ashone, and they were afraid to come near him.31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them.32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he acommanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a aveil over his face.34 Whenever Moses awent in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded,35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was ashining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Back in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul tells us why Moses kept putting the veil over his face.

ESV  2 Corinthians 3:10-13 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.12 Since we have such a hope, awe are very bold,13 not like Moses, awho would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.

  • The glory of the Old Covenant was never meant to be permanent.
  • The glory of it would weaken and fade

          b. The old covenant was based on Israel’s obedience (vv. 8-9)

Verse 8 is the key to understanding why this covenant was going to fail.

  • God did not “find fault” with his covenant but with the ones he made the covenant with! “For he finds fault with them…” (v. 8).
  • This is important to see that the new covenant was restoring what was broken by Israel.

Backing our way into the narrative of Israel, it is important to see the kind of commitment that was made by the people of Israel to Moses and ultimately to God.  Just before the Old Covenant was established:

ESV  Exodus 19:1-9 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they acame into the wilderness of Sinai.2 They set out from aRephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before bthe mountain,

3 while aMoses went up to God. bThe LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel:4 aYou yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how bI bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself.5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be amy treasured possession among all peoples, for ball the earth is mine;6 and you shall be to me a akingdom of priests and ba holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel."7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him.8 aAll the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.9 And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I am coming to you ain a thick cloud, that bthe people may hear when I speak with you, and may also cbelieve you forever." When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD

  • Right after the Old Covenant was established:


ESV  Exodus 24:1-8 Then he said to Moses, "Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, aNadab, and Abihu, and bseventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.2 Moses aalone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him."3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and aall the rules.1 And all the people answered with one voice and said, b"All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do."4 And aMoses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve bpillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.6 And aMoses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, a"All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient."8 aAnd Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."

The reason Moses “threw half the blood against the altar” and threw the other half on the people” was that this was a bilateral covenant.

  • “This was a covenant sealed with blood with dual sprinkling (some on the altar and some on the people) separated by the recitation of the covenant obligations and Israel’s assent suggests a covenant based in their obedience” [Carson].
  • “The splattered blood is an enacted oath symbolizing the death of the covenant makers if they become covenant breakers!” [Carson].
  • Much in the same way as when God 700 years earlier (2000 B.C.) had made a covenant with Abram.
    • Genesis 15 is where God promises that all the families of the earth will be blessed.
    • Different from the Mosaic covenant, this was a unilateral covenant, meaning the success of this covenant was based on God alone!
    • Predicting and foreshadowing the New Covenant, this covenant was unconditional for man. Christ is the Guarantor!
    • God in Genesis 15 is the Guarantor.
    • Genesis 15:12 says he took Abram out of the deal.
      • He said bring me the animals and cut them in half.
      • He then puts Abram to sleep, and darkness fell and “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces” (v. 17).
      • This is God saying, if he does not fulfill the covenant he would be put to death like these animals! Which is impossible!

Back to Exodus 24, the sprinkled blood also depicts grace.

  • It served as a consecration ceremony purifying the people (foreshadowing the ultimate purification from the blood of Christ).
  • This was a new relationship with God.

“How did this covenant with Israel work out?”

The whole point of Hebrews 8 is that the Old Covenant is a clear example for why there needed to be a new one!

Verse 9 speaks of this first covenant in very tender tones.  “…on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…” (v. 9).

  • At Sinai, Israel accepted the Law, including its priesthood and system of sacrifice.
  • Yet that Law had not been effective in stemming the evil desires of God’s people.
  • During the years in the wilderness, they persistently murmured against God and His servant, Moses.
  • After they entered Canaan, they fell prey to the gods of the land.
  • Licentious Baal worship became common in Israel.

Although there were times of spiritual revival, sparked by pious kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah, the general tendency was toward apostasy.

  • Israel’s God saw fit to take first the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and, a century and a half later, the Southern Kingdom, Judah, into exile.
  • God had been faithful to His people, but again and again they had turned their backs upon Him.
  • There was nothing wrong with His Law, but there was much wrong with His people, who persisted in rebellion.
  • This speaks to a full restoration of Israel. The nation’s kings had divided.

The northern kingdom led by Jeroboam and southern by Reheboam (930 BC).

During the days of Jeremiah, the northern kingdom was already in exile by the Assyrians (722 BC) and the southern kingdom (Judah) was nearing captivity by the Babylonians (597 - 582 B.C.).

  • Josiah was reigning well and during this period there were levels of revival but Jeremiah knew this would be short-lived and lived to see the captivity begin.
  • Even still, Jeremiah’s prophecy gave hope to the nation that will not be fulfilled until the millennial kingdom!

ESV  Jeremiah 11:13 aFor your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, baltars to make offerings to Baal.

  • For this, God would send them into exile where they would remain for seventy years.
  • But, not without hope.

ESV  Jeremiah 29:10-14 "For thus says the LORD: aWhen seventy years are completed for Babylon, bI will visit you, cand I will fulfill to you my promise cand bring you back to this place.11 aFor I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare1 and not for evil, bto give you a future and a hope.

12 aThen you will call upon me and come and pray to me, aand I will hear you.13 aYou will seek me and find me, when you seek me bwith all your heart.14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, aand I will restore your fortunes and bgather you from all the nations and all the places cwhere I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Not but a few chapters later in Jeremiah 31:31 there is hope that moves beyond their coming out of exile.

  • This is what the author of Hebrews is quoting.
  • “I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (v. 8).

If the Old Covenant was doomed to fail.  Literally, doomed from the start: “Why did God make this covenant?”

Simply put, to show people that they cannot not keep it!

ESV  Romans 8:1-3 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.1

2 For the law of athe Spirit of life bhas set you1 free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

3 For aGod has done what the law, bweakened by the flesh, ccould not do. dBy sending his own Son ein the likeness of sinful flesh and ffor sin,1 he condemned sin in the flesh

The law is an inescapable reality.

  • A standard or bar that cannot be reached.
  • A mirror that exposes our sin!
  • Reflecting our sins back to ourselves!

ESV  Romans 7:7-11 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, aI would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if bthe law had not said, "You shall not covet." 8 But sin, aseizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. bFor apart from the law, sin lies dead.9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.10 The very commandment athat promised life proved to be death to me.11 For sin, aseizing an opportunity through the commandment, bdeceived me and through it killed me.

The law reveal to people their sin!  However, there is grace in failure!

Even in common grace, your child needs to fall down and skin his knee so he will learn not to run!  Employees need to experience a load to the degree of being outside one’s depth to know how to fail and recover!  Otherwise, said employee will never grow and succeed.

Galatians gives insight such that the Law was meant to drive you to Christ!

ESV  Galatians 3:24 So then, athe law was our bguardian until Christ came, cin order that we might be justified by faith.

KJV  Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

There is grace in weakness!

[Spurgeon] When the Holy Spirit comes to us, He shows us what the law really is.

Take, for instance, the command, “And you shall not commit adultery” (Deut 5:18). “Well!” says one, “I have not broken that commandment.” “Stay,” says the Spirit of God, “till you know the spiritual meaning of that command, for everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28). There is, also, the command, “You shall not murder” (Deut 5:17). “Oh!” says the man, “I never killed anybody, I have not committed murder.” “But,” says the Spirit of God, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).

When the Lord thus writes His law upon our heart, He makes us to know the far-reaching power and scope of the commandment. He causes us to understand that it touches not only actions and words, but thoughts and indeed the most transient imaginations, the things that are scarcely born within us, the sights that pass in a moment across the mind, like a stray passenger who passes in front of the camera when a photographer is taking a view. The Spirit of God teaches us that even these momentary impressions are sinful, and that the very thought of foolishness is sin.

We need to come a fresh understanding of our absolute dependence on God.

  • To value what we have been given in the New Covenant.
  • A unilateral promise and commitment made by Christ is of inestimable worth!
  • God has transformed our hearts so that he can talk to us, guide us, help us!

He has moved in every believer’s heart where you used to wonder what God was like to being able to ask him yourself.

  • From encyclopedic information found through the Dewey decimal system with a card catalogue to speaking to your phone with immediate response!
  • This unconditional love predicted by Jeremiah is what we have now in the church!