Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so, it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
(New American Standard Version, 1995)
How do you wish to live your life? Do you wish to live in freedom and self-determination, empowered to make your own choices (hopefully, “educated” choices, but maybe a few stupid ones, oh well). Do you want to live on an enlightened, spiritual plane, in a real, dynamic, living, breathing relationship with the Lord wherein everything you do, all your goals, dreams, aspirations, accomplishments, can be offered up to Him in joyful worship and praise. Or would you rather be enslaved to minutely prescribed, greatly detailed, highly regulated, monotonous, systematic, rote, ritualistic religious requirements – with virtually no room for personal options. You know that second option, while, perhaps, comforting to some, was designed to fit a rather primitive, agrarian society at a time when humanity still had so much to learn with regard to where they stood in relation to their Creator. But, times, they are always changing, aren’t they. And long before the initiation of the Christian dispensation, or the Mosaic dispensation, or the Patriarchal dispensation, in fact, even before the very creation itself, God already had a plan for how He would interact with humanity down through the annals of human history. He knew a time would come, in fact He planned for a time to come, when far more developed and sophisticated human societies would inhabit the earth and people would be ready, or at least could make themselves ready, to experience the joy and the freedom of a full-fledged spiritual relationship with Him. Beloved, that time is NOW!
And so, the Apostle Paul would say, “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore, the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:23-36)
Back in Old Testament days, for the first few thousand years of recorded history, humanity was in no way ready for the kind of spiritual relationship we can now enjoy with God. And so, at a certain point in history, at the close of what we now refer to as the Patriarchal age, and soon after God had delivered the Children of Israel out of the hand of Egypt, where they had been living and had been enslaved for a period of about 400 years, they came to Mt. Sinai. There, God entered into a covenant with them as a people—we call it the Old Covenant, or the Mosaic Covenant—and along with that covenant they were given the Law of Moses to guide them, to control them, and to teach them about God and what life with God could be, and one day would be. At the pinnacle, the apex, the focal point of it all was this idea of a need for something that the Old Covenant Law of Moses could never, and would never, provide—a Savior, a coming Messiah, who would make possible a permanent resolution to the problem of sin and ensuing spiritual separation from God. And, we might add, who would enable them to become truly spiritually “FREE.”
And so, we come to this beautiful passage of scripture in Hebrews, Chapter 8 wherein we are told that He [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on BETTER PROMISES!
I absolutely love this passage of scripture because, here, God’s word clearly sets forth a distinction between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The New Covenant is as distinct from the Old Covenant as the new, heavenly, spiritual priesthood of Christ is from the old, earthly, physical Levitical priesthood of the Jews.
Now, when we talk about “covenant,” at least in Biblical ideology, we’re talking about much more than a mere contract or business agreement. Really, what we’re talking about is “relationship.” You see, the Bible says every covenant—binding personal relationship—is founded upon promises. For example, when my wife and I were married, it was much, much more than a mere contract or a business deal. Sadly, now days, that’s the way too many people view marriage, isn’t it? But we understood that far from being a mere contract, we were entering into an intimate and binding personal relationship. And so, we stood before a preacher man, in the presence of God and our loved ones, and made certain promises to one another. Those brief promises are the very foundation of our marriage covenant.
Well, when it comes to our relationship with God, not only has He given us a new, spiritual covenant with a new, heavenly High Priest, but the writer of the book of Hebrews makes it clear that this New Covenant has been enacted upon better promises. When I take a moment to reflect upon the promises of God that He made to His people in Old Covenant days—promises to make of them a great nation, promises to drive out their enemies before them and give them the promised land, promises to prosper them materially so long as they remained faithful to the Lord and walked according to His commandments, promises to forgive their sin so long as the animal sacrifices were offered in accordance with the Law—and then I compare those promises to the promises made to me by Jesus Christ my Lord recorded through His apostles and prophets—for example, the promise that God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3)—there is simply no comparison. I know God had His purposes in the promises that He made to the Children of Israel, down through history. But He also knew that, once those promises had run their course and accomplished His will, better promises were coming. The main point for me to remember is in all of this is that God always has, and always will, keep His promises to all His children. I’m wondering if we today are even aware of the incredible promises that God has made to us in and through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord? And, if we are aware of at least some of them, how knowledge of those promises is transforming our hearts and making a difference in our daily lives?
Oh God, my Father Who dwells in unapproachable light in the heavenly realm, humbly I come before You with love and joy in my heart at the recognition of the promises that You have made, and have kept, and will keep down through all generations. You have dealt fairly, kindly, and abundantly with humanity, with the Children of Israel living under the Old Covenant Law of Moses, and with your New Covenant Children who seek to live in accordance with Your will today. Every promise You have made, You have kept, and will keep. You are the great Promise Keeper who is always faithful even when we, your children, are unfaithful. And, as Your word informs me, the promises You have made assure my heart before You in whatever my heart condemns me; for You, O God, are greater than my heart and You know all things. Yet, even in my weakness and failing, I ask that You strengthen me through Your Holy Spirit Who dwells within me to, like You, also be a promise keeper and never, ever renege on my promise to be faithful to You. I thank You and I praise You for all Your promises and, especially, for the better promises that You have provided for me through the work, the ministry, the sacrificial life and death of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior in Who’s beautiful and holy name I pray.
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