The author of Hebrews desires for Christians to appreciate the much better quality of the new covenant than the old covenant administered at Sinai. His lengthy citation of Jer. 31 in Heb. 8 is intended to cheer the Christian with what the new covenant secures for believers through the coming of Christ. The covenant promises that we now enjoy in fulfillment are the same promises that Abraham looked forward to and, as Hebrews stresses, “is not like the covenant made with Israel on the day when God brought them out of Egypt, the covenant which they broke.”
Since many early Christians were giving up on Christ and desired to return to the Mosaic administration as a more superior revelation of God, the author stresses three promises of the new covenant that makes the arrangement superior to the old one.
There are three major promises of the new covenant. They are intended to drive the Christian to a life of faith a trust in the once for all death of Christ, to live confidently in this present evil age in the face of great opposition and struggle, and to not give up.
These are the most precious promises of the covenant of grace:
1. The Law is Written on our Hearts: “I will put my laws into their minds, and iwrite them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
The law was originally written on stones, and this is how the people related to God. Their religion was one of mere duty without love. But the summary of the law was to love to God from the heart. This is the great reasons that the Lord called for circumcised hearts–that they might love him. The new covenant promise spoke of the intereior quality of true religion. True love of God, springing from the gift of faith, would be demonstrated by a people who are not characterized as always apostatizing from the Lord from the heart. Instead, out of sincere and true love for God, faith and repentance will be the defining characteristic of their lives.
The new covenant Christian is one who has been born from above by the Spirit and, from the principle of new life in the heart, true faith in Christ and love for God’s will follow.
2. We Know the Lord: “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”
The second promise of the new covenant is that God’s people will truly know him. True knowledge of God becomes our great delight. What it is that we know of the Lord? We know his steadfast, covenant love. As Jeremiah expresses, we do not boast in riches, wisdom, or strength, but our delight is that we know the Lord’s steadfast love and his righteous character. Or, as Psalm 147:11 states, “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” What a remarkable statement! The Lord takes pleasure in those who know his covenant love. This knowledge is our delight, and is the reason that Jesus prayed in the high priestly prayer that we would “know the only true God and the one whom he has sent.” This knowledge fills the new covenant people of God and characterizes their delight in this life.
3.Our Sins are Remembered No More: “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
In Romans 2 we are told that in studying Israel under the law, it has the effect of stopping the mouth of the whole world in any attempt to establish our righteosuenss before God. Our sins deserve the strictest judgment. God established an arrangement at Sinai to teach the world about this problem, and Israel often received severe judgments for sin. What the author of Hebrews is describing is that in the superior work of Christ and his righteous sacrifice, all who look in faith to him, unlike Israel who trusted in their own righteosuenss, can lived assured that every last one of their sins has actually been forgiven. This is the greatest of promises that we enjoy in the new covenant. God desires that we live in full trust that he has been merciful to us in our sins, he remembers them no more.
These promises are intended to drive the Christian life and provide us a sure anchor for our souls in all difficulty. Dear Christian, believe and enjoy the promises of the covenant of grace.