Better Promises Make a Better Covenant
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Image © Steve Creitz from GoodSalt.com

Image © Steve Creitz from GoodSalt.com

The story goes of a man who got a job chopping down trees. The first day his foreman noticed he had cut down only ten trees while the other men had cut down a hundred or so. “Oh well,” thought the foreman, “it was his first day,” But the next couple days went the same way, so the foreman decided to have a talk with the new worker. “I am sure you have noticed you are not cutting down nearly as many trees as the others are,” the foreman began. “Yes I know, Sir, but I am having trouble with this saw you gave me,” said the new worker. The foreman took a look at the saw and pulled the cord to start the motor. The buzz of the motor scared the new worker, and he jumped back shouting, “What is that sound?”

The new worker did not realize he was not expected saw down a hundred trees in his own power. He did not realize what power was available to him. It’s the same way with us.

Many people shirk at keeping the law, thinking it is an impossibility, not realizing they were never expected to keep it in their own power, and like the power saw, there is plenty of power available.

If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.  But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
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. Hebrews 8:7-10

There are those who would have us believe that the Ten Commandments were done away with because God realized they were unreasonable and could not be obeyed. However that is not the case.

Psalms 19:7 KJV says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

A popular urban legend tells about a captain on a battleship who spotted a light off in the distant fog and radioed the source of the light telling it to change its course 15 degrees to avoid a collision. The response came back that the ship needed to change its course instead. The arrogant sea captain once again demanded the other vessel change its course instead, threatening reprisals, if his demands were not met. The response was, “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

So it is in life. Many people want the law to be changed just like the ship wanted the lighthouse to change, but lighthouses don’t move out of the way and neither does the law. The law is perfect. The law does not need to change. The law is not faulty. Hebrews 8:8 NLT says the fault was not with the law but with the people. So why would God change the law when the law was not the problem?

The New Covenant was not an afterthought after the first covenant did not work. The new covenant was actually God’s original plan. What we call the “old covenant” was actually man’s idea thinking he could save himself by his own strength and effort. It was not a faith response. (See Heb. 4:2) Man’s effort failed, so in what we call the New Testament God re-introduces His original plan from the Old Testament, and says “Are you ready to give up trying to do it on your own? and let me write my law on your heart Myself?

The fault of the people was in trying to keep the law in their own power. God made a covenant with the people, and instead of them asking for God’s help they confidently replied,

“We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 19:8 NLT

God knew this was never going to work from the get-go. He knew they could not keep His Law in their own power. This is why God says in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33 NLT,

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

You see, the old covenant was not called old because it was the first covenant. It was called old because it was a useless covenant that God never asked them to make. He never asked Abraham to have a son on his own. He never asked us to keep the commandments on our own. This is what Paul is talking about in Hebrews 8:6 NLT when He says the new covenant is, “based on better promises.”

In the “old” covenant the people in Exodus 19:8 were the ones making promises God never asked them to make. I don’t need to tell you how worthless man’s promises are. The new covenant is based on better promises because they are God’s promises!

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 NLT

The law was never the problem. The problem was the people and their worthless promises. Even in the Old Testament we find the new and better covenant when Abraham becomes the father of Isaac, based on God’s promise. We find the new and better covenant based on better promises in Jeremiah 31:33 when God is promising to write and establish the perfect law in the hearts of men, not by their own power and promises, but by His power and promises.

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Better Promises Make a Better Covenant — 18 Comments

  1. The Psalmist understood this new covenant experience when he prayed:

    Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.

    Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

    Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

    Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.

    Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.

    Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.

    Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good.

    Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.

    What I believe is that this writer understood what "the way of Thy statutes" meant, as Paul reminds us in Rom 13:10.

    Yes, Perfect.

    Like(17)
    • So true Robert. This is why we don't see David making the same mistakes over and over, while meanwhile we see Old Testament Israel repeatedly falling into apostasy while making their own promises, thus falling under the old covenant.

      Like(10)
    • The scripture clearly says that He sets aside the Old and establishes the New. We serve not according to the Letter but according to the Spirit. As an example the Sabbath is totally fulfilled in Christ. God is Spirit and He rested the seventh day. "Israel according to the flesh" is of the flesh, earthy; and they were redeemed from slavery and given a day of physical rest. Remember God swore that they "would not enter my rest" although they had the Sabbath -rest. Christ, the Creator, comes and says, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, .... unto your souls". Again the word says "Today" those who believe "do enter that rest - Today"

      Like(3)
      • Kenny, are you saying the Sabbath commandment is abolished, being fulfilled by Christ on the cross? Several other questions regarding your comment, but we can start with the Sabbath Commandment.

        Like(1)
        • Moses says that the Lord did not make this covenant with the fathers of Israel-according-to-the-flesh, but with all who were there at Horeb.( Deut. 5:3-5). He gave them the reason for giving them the Sabbath - “Remember you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefor the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”(Dt. 5:15). They received a physical day of rest consistent with their status as servants/slaves in the House. The Law came in because of transgressions and became a tutor or school-master to bring us to Christ. In it all things were types or shadows. “Moses was faithful as a “Servant” in all God’s house to testify to the things to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a “Son”.(Heb.3:5). The prodigal son desired to be received and accepted as a servant. the father would have none of that and provided a “son’s table” for him not a servant’s table.
          About the Sabbath the the Lord “swore in my wrath they shall not enter my Rest”.(Ps.95:11). So what rest was the sabbath that God gave Israel at Horeb? It’s a type or shadow of God’ rest. God is Spirit and His rest was accordingly. He seeks to be worshipped in Spirit and Truth. The Law came by Moses the servant; Grace and Truth came by Christ the Son. Just as God gave the physical Sabbath, the shadow of future good things; He gave through Christ the true Sabbath - “come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest..... unto your souls.”(Mt.11:28, 29). Those “who believe enter that rest”today.(Heb.4:3). “Therefor let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall through the same example of disobedience.”(v11).

          Chris has “redeemed those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as Sons,..... therefor you are no longer a slave, but a Son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal.4:5-7). “Now that you have come to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and useless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again. You observe days and months and seasons and years”(v8-10)“Therefor no one is judge you in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a New Moon or a Sabbath - things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”(Col.2:16,17). The scripture also says that one man may be convinced that one day is better than another let all be convinced in their own minds.(Rom.14). I am convinced of the Saturday Sabbath. Some others are otherwise convinced.

          Like(1)
        • But Kenny, you have the Sabbath before and after both Moses and the cross. Genesis 2:1-3 and Isaiah 66:23. The weekly Sabbath was not a shadow of anything to come. When God called the children out of Israel He told them to remember the creation Sabbath.

          Like(3)
      • Kenny,
        Given your understanding would it be reasonable to conclude the Sabbath command was misplaced among The Ten Commandments (one of these things is not like the others)? Or are they all optional, having served their purpose, and now subject to some degree of convincing?

        Like(1)
        • Hugh
          The Sabbath was not misplaced at all.
          We cannot separate the covenants and the attendant priesthoods. There is a specific, special and inalienable relationship between the two. Heb.7:11-28 “Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of Law also.... And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a Law of Physical reqirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life... For on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect0, and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
          The promises to Israel included if they would obey the commandments they would enter the promised land and they would live long in the land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord would not put any of the diseases of the territory upon them; their planting would be fruitful etc. This is about Adamic life - this life. But there was a promise of Eternal Life before the world began - “ in the hope of Eternal Life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal”(Tit.1:2). The scripture stresses that “all things were made by Christ, through Him and For Him”. So that He is the Heir of all things including Eternity. “ He made known to us the mystery of His will....according to his kind intention which He purposed in Him(Christ) ..... the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth”.(Eph.1:8-11). So we have all the Types and Shadows appearing before Christ appears to claim his inheritance. Adam was the first “type of Him who was to come”.(Rom.5:14). He was a tenant who was given dominion over a tiny portion of the universe. Of course he coveted Christ’s place to be like God. Many other types including Joseph, David down to Moses and his ministry. Moses big offense was considering himself, while enraged, equal with Christ saying “must we fetch water...”. God declared that Moses did not believe Him to sanctify Him in the eyes of the children of Israel. The promised eternal life is bound up with Christ. Adam is designated a living soul but Christ a Life-Giving Spirit. That has to be an eternal difference.
          God declared the Sabbath to be a “Sign between Me and the children of Israel throughout their generations that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”(Dt.31:12) Now when the Sanctifier comes according to promise what is the significance of the sign? Heb.2:11Both the sanctifier and the sanctified are all of one and so He is not ashamed to call them brethren.

          Like(0)
    • David was genuinely interested in growing in all areas of his life such that his prayer was detailed and specific instead of general and abstract. So too must we be for God to partner, planted and transform us.

      Like(1)
  2. We search the scriptures for enlightenment. Sometimes we have been like the sea captain on the battleship. Quite certain that he was right and willing to enforce what he was certain of. Conjecture comes easily sometimes with misaplied or incomplete understanding. The covenant that the lesson uses as subject material, is seen by some as a continuance of the original covenant with Abraham. Paul seems to say, rather clearly to me, in Hebrews 8:7-15. Again in Hebrews 10:16-18. Particularly, verse 17, "Their sins and their (lawless) deeds I will remember no more". That is a promise, or covenant, that I am thankful for.

    Like(5)
  3. William,
    The article makes some reasonable points. However there are questions arising. What is the reference to support the statement/phrase that "What we call the “old covenant” was actually man’s idea thinking he could save himself by his own strength and effort?"

    Quoted from the article: "In the “old” covenant the people in Exodus 19:8 were the ones making promises God never asked them to make." Is not Exodus 19:8, partly quoted in the article, a response to Exodus 19:5, 6? In fact the full verse actually says at the beginning the people responded or answered, indicating they were accepting an offer, rather than making one. Does not Paul indicate that the sacrificial system was a part of the Old Covenant? Was this the people's idea? How about EGW explanation in Patriarchs and Prophets page 371, which suggests that God was responsible for the Old (another) Covenant?

    Is it absolutely true that man's promises are worthless, meaning our vows count for nothing, or does it not depend on how they are pursued, that is with or without divine help? Shall we not then make vows or promises? Are the promises referred to not simply obligations, whether requested or volunteered?

    Is it possible the new covenant may be violated by mankind? If so, how? And would that not indicate that mankind has some obligation, which may be framed in the form of a promise?

    Like(3)
    • Hugh, the word covenant in our language and society today, would be contract. Most know what that entails. I think of John 3:16, the most well known text in the Bible, as a contract, promise, covenant. Our part of the contract is to believe in Jesus. Who He is, what He has done, and what He will continue to do. The assurance of eternal life with Him, is Gods part.
      Of course this usually incites a discussion about what believe means.
      Jesus was concerned what people thought. He ask, who do people say that I am? Is salvation compicated? Jesus said, "take My yoke upon you", My yoke is easy and My burden is light".

      Like(0)
    • Hugh, I thought the same thing you did when I read Exodus 19:8 in my Sabbath School class yesterday morning. I looked up your reference on page 371 of Patriarchs and Prophets and found this.

      "The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” Exodus 24:7".

      Thank you for bringing this reference to our attention as the entire chapter of "the Law and the and the Covenants" in Patriarchs and prophets beautifully brings out how the new covenant was the original covenant made in Eden.

      Like(2)
  4. Hi William.

    You do ask important questions here. I think that the reference to covenant at times means all that was contained in Old Testament scripture. It is true though that the people failed miserably almost at every step and that only individuals for the most part obeyed the LORD in spirit as well as in truth.

    The people had indeed said " All that the LORD has said we will do" GOD did not say to them "You will fail", because He really did not want them to fail. But I am sure that you can recall the judge who promised GOD that if he was victorious in battle he would sacrifice who, or whatever came to greet him on his return home.

    To his horror his daughter was the one who came to greet him and he sacrificed her though GOD had never asked any man to sacrifice his child. But GOD did not stop him just like He did not stop the people from disobeying Him. It is obvious from scripture that GOD did not accept that sacrifice, however.

    The people did offer to obey GOD. But obedience was not an offer in the context that you put it. It was they who promised to obey GOD. And if you notice they did not say "By the grace or help of GOD we will obey Him. It is obvious therefore that they trusted in their own strength for this power to obey. They failed miserably.

    But the new covenant is still based on obedience. But this time it is based on obedience derived from GOD which the people seemed not to have had except for those who truly loved Him and wanted to obey Him in spirit and truth.

    Can the New Covenant fail? Not corporately as in the case of Israel because in a Theocracy corporate obedience is of utmost importance. This time it is based more on the individual. Corporate disobedience will not result in the failure of the New Covenant because it is solely based on the obedience of each person.

    We indeed have an obligation based on gratitude for the help that we receive from GOD - first for our salvation - and then for the strength, and power that He gives us to do His will saving us by His grace and His grace alone.

    Like(4)
    • Albert,
      Just to underline the point that the people's response to God's Covenant (Old), saying “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” (Exodus 24:7) was appropriate. In context they were simply saying yes to what the Lord outlined. Nothing less would be acceptable for the covenant. The same is true for us in all that we have to do with God. The problem was the people's misunderstanding (not realizing) that they needed Christ to fulfill the good promise.

      The only right intent is to do all the Lord says. Good news is we are covered under the everlasting covenant (from the time of Adam) with divine enabling power, and Christ's merit for our shortcomings. The Israelites mistake was not the promise, but the fact that they missed Christ.

      While engaged in the Old Covenant the people had access to the New (Everlasting) Covenant and did not realize it. They got on the wrong vehicle for salvation. They mistook the shuttle for the full service.

      As a quick note the "better promises" referred to by Paul appears to be comparing God's promises in the New versus the Old Covenant (two separate sets of promises). The promise of salvation was never found in the Old Covenant, only the New or Everlasting Covenant, which is why it had to exist from Adam, when it was first needed. The Old Covenant was time sensitive and had a supporting function/role/purpose with temporal promises.

      Like(0)
  5. I think Jesus does it better than I ever can.

    Col 1:21-23 Once you were alienated from God and you were enemies with him in your minds, which was shown by your evil actions. 22 But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death, to present you before God as a people who are holy, faultless, and without blame. 23 But you need to remain well established and rooted in faith and not shift away from the hope given in the good news that you heard.

    Jude 23,24 To the one who is able to protect you from falling,
    and to present you blameless and rejoicing before his glorious presence,

    25
    to the only God our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
    belong glory, majesty, power, and authority,
    before all time, now and forever. Amen.

    Like(3)
  6. Trust and Obey ,for there's no other way:
    To be happy in Jesus ,but to trust and obey.

    i like this song.

    Like(0)

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