This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
In Hebrews 8, we learn that Jesus has established a new covenant between God and humans. In our modern context we don’t frequently use the word “covenant,” but it’s not really all that different from a modern day contract. In the ancient Near East, covenants were formal agreements between two parties that defined what each party would do on behalf of the other. These agreements were usually written down, with two copies prepared so that each party could have a record of the agreement.
In the book of Exodus, God established a covenant with the nation of Israel. This covenant defined what God would do on behalf of Israel and how the Israelites were to live in response. In accordance with the ancient custom, this covenant was also written down on two stone tablets, one for God and one for Israel (Exodus 31:18).
Unfortunately, over the course of ancient Israel’s history, the Israelites repeatedly and increasingly broke this covenant with God. This may have been due in part to the nature of their covenant records. Written records, such as the two stone tablets of the covenant, could be destroyed (Exodus 32:19), or worse—lost (2 Kings 22:18). More importantly, their breaking of the covenants was due to the nature of their hearts. Their hearts had become hardened like stone by sin. In fact, the prophet Jeremiah wrote that their hearts had become like stone tablets that were inscribed with the message of their sin: “Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts” (Jeremiah 17:1).
Jesus, wanting to make it as easy as possible for people to remain in relationship with Him, established a new covenant between God and humans that would overcome these limitations. This covenant would not be recorded and stored on external stone tablets. Rather, God would erase what was written on sinful human hearts and write the words of the covenant within each one of us. As Hebrews 8:10 says, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” This is God’s promise for us. When we become followers of Jesus, agreeing to this new covenant, God erases our sin and gives us His Spirit so that His words and desires are, in effect, written within us.
THE HIGH PRIEST OF A NEW COVENANT
1 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.
3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But 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.
9 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.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts. I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
After reading today’s passage, describe what the “new covenant” means in your own words.
If God has empowered us by writing His laws on our hearts, why do you think we as Christians still struggle with sin?
When we become members of the new covenant community, God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. But, that doesn’t mean we are now incapable of sin. We still have free will and the ability to make choices. As a Christian, how would you describe the Holy Spirit’s role in your life? How does it affect the temptations you face?