Summary: Why is Jesus superior to what was?
“A Guaranteed Superiority”
There are many types of guarantees. There are lifetime guarantees, good for as long as you live. There are limited guarantees, good for only certain things or times. There are ‘hopeful guarantees’ – such as an athlete guaranteeing victory. There are ‘hopeless guarantees’ – such as predicting the day and hour of Christ’s judgment or return. So when the author of Hebrews mentions, in 7:22, that “…Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant”, and in 8:6, that “Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises” we need to understand just what He means.
First of all, consider THE SHORTCOMINGS OF THE OLD COVENANT. (8:7) “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” So what was wrong with the first covenant? For one thing, IT WAS CONDITIONAL. It was a two-sided affair. Just before Moses received the 10 commandments, God told him to make a covenant with the Israelites (Ex. 19:5-6): “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." GOD OFFERED BLESSINGS and privileges to the people. They would be a treasured possession and a nation of priests – his special servants. But notice - “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then…” There was a condition; the people had to be obedient in order to receive the blessings. (Ex. 19:7) “So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, "We will do everything the LORD has said." So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.” GOD’S PEOPLE PROMISED OBEDIENCE.
The same cycle was repeated in Exodus 23:22-31. Once again God offered blessings, and the covenant was conditional. And once again, the people promised obedience (Ex. 24:3&7): "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."
The conditional covenants had a shortcoming because the blessings depended upon the obedience of the people. And the covenant itself WAS POWERLESS to help them. The covenant itself was wonderful; the 10 commandments were outstanding; but human will – the flesh – was weak. Repeatedly the people failed to uphold their end of the bargain. Within days of agreeing to do everything God had commanded, while Moses was on Sinai receiving the 10 commandments, the people were belly dancing around the golden calf. And you know what that means (Verses 8-9): “But God found fault with the people and said: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers 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.” IT’S A CYCLE THEY REPEATED many times.
And it is a cycle we have repeated, in our own lives, many times. Upon professing our faith in Christ, we make all kinds of earnest promises – only to fall short. We then experience a spiritual renewal and make all kinds of earnest promises – only to fall short. As the late F. B. Meyer put it: “As well might a paralyzed man undertake to climb (a mountain), or a bankrupt man pay his debts. We soon learn that sin has paralyzed all our moral motor nerves.”
That sounds just like Paul, doesn’t it? (Rom. 7:14-24): “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing... So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The old covenant just could not empower people to be faithful.