September 22, 2018

Hebrews 8: Jesus is Greater than the Covenant

Pastor Scott Jonas
Hebrews 8
Jesus > The Covenant

                We’ve studied 7 chapters of Hebrews.  Our theme is Jesus is Greater.  Jesus is greater than Angels, Mankind, Moses, Priests, Faith, Doctrine, and Melchizedek.  All of these great people and gifts pale in comparison to the Son of God.  They are signs that point to the Savior.  Today in Hebrews chapter 8 we Jesus is greater than the Covenant.
            First we need to explain the Old Covenant.  It was established in the first five books of the Bible.  God chose Abraham and his descendants to make a contract.  God agreed to follow certain promises and the Hebrews agreed to follow other promises.  God would bless and keep them as his people.  The heavenly father would be with his people.  He would ensure that the Hebrews would occupy and thrive in the promised land.  God promised to keep his side of the bargain.  The Hebrews, agreed to follow and serve the one God, Yahweh.  They would do all that he commanded.  If God said love the Lord with all of your heart then they would do it.  If God said, walk around Jericho 7 times and blow a bunch of trumpets, then they would obey.  If God said, build a tabernacle to exact specifications then that is what the Hebrews would create.  The Father ended up demanding over 600 rules.  According to the old covenant, the Hebrews had to perfectly follow them all.  If they refuse to fulfill their responsibilities then the deal is off.  God has the right to back out.  He will no longer be their God.
            You can figure out the problem with this agreement.  God can provide his promises but the Jews can’t provide their part.  Time and time again, they fail.  Almost right away, they worship the golden calf.  What took longer, from Adam and Eve being created to them disobeying God or the Hebrews receiving the ten commandments to them worshipping the Golden calf?  I don’t know but they blew the Old covenant which at the time was a brand new covenant.  Later, they are afraid to enter the promised land, despite God being with them.  They ask for a king, rather than directly follow the Lord.  Their kings put personal power ahead of Yahweh.  Eventually, God’s people forget all about the covenant.  There are times when there are no sacrifices.  The Bible becomes a distant memory.  They all but rip up their duties that they promised to fulfill.  Once again, the Hebrews break the agreement with God.  The Lord can walk away.  That is the old covenant.
            It is enough for the reader to wonder if God knows what he is doing.  How could he make a deal with the Hebrews as if they are equals?  They clearly are not special.  They are screw ups just like all of the other nations.  Maybe you have experienced the same reaction.  Does God know what he is doing?
            During one of the times that Israel breaks it’s promises, God makes a promise.  He says,
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 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.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”
            In the Old Testament, a New Covenant is predicted through the prophet Jeremiah.  The Old covenant was a precursor to a better covenant. 
            In the Old Testament, the word for a covenant  is an agreement entered into by two people.  It is dependent on conditions on which they mutually agree; and if either shall break the conditions the covenant becomes void.  It’s like when you buy a house, if the seller lies about the condition of the property or if the buyer is wrong about their financing then the deal is off. 
In the New testament, Diatheke is the  word for a covenant and it is radically different.  It is not a deal between equals but a contract between someone who has died and someone who is living.  Diatheke is a last will and testament.  Because Jesus died, the old agreement is void and his written will takes over.  The diseased person dictates the agreement, stating what they beneficiary is to receive.  Because of the cross, Jesus is able to wipe away the old and create something much, much greater.  We no longer need to perfectly obey in order to live up to our part.  We are given a gift just as an inheritance is a gift.
We talk about our inheritance in the Lord’s supper, “And when he had given thanks he gave it to them and said, this is the new covenant in my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  Our gifts begin with forgiveness but there is also a life filled with good things, love, friendship, a family, a home, a purpose, eternal life.  The new covenant is clearly better than the old. The Old was temporary; the new is forever.  The Old was dependent on u; the new is dependent on God’s work on the  cross.  The Old was based on rules outside of us, the new is based on the inner work of the Holy Spirit. The old was based on not sinning  the new is based on God remembering our sins no more.  In some respects we are saved from the old covenant by the new.  God knew what he was doing all along.  This was the plan.  We can have confidence every time we doubt God’s choices.
But the name of this sermon is Jesus is greater than the covenant.  He obviously is greater than the old covenant which couldn’t save us.  But he also is greater than the new covenant. 
Here is what I mean.  The person you have a contract with is more important than the contract.  Anyone know veggie Tales?  It was started by Phil Vischer in the 90s.  He had a handshake deal with a fellow Christian named Dick Leach to distribute Veggie tale video cassettes.  The relationship was great until Dick died.  Someone else took over the company and sued Veggie tales.  Veggie tAles had sell or else the company would have gone bankrupt.   It was the relationship between two people that mattered, Phil and Dick, not the written agreement.  In the same way, the covenant is our written agreement with God. 
Or it is like a marriage.  I’m talking to Clayton Toney and his FiancĂ©e Janay.  The character of the person you are marrying is more important than the wording of the ceremony.  Likewise, the new covenant is important, but more important is Jesus himself.  Your life depends on him and you can trust that he will follow through.  He came to earth for you.  He died and rose to show you that he is worthy.  Whenever you think that God doesn’t know what he is doing remember the covenant.  Jesus is greater.