So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words. (Exodus 24:8).
I have been involved in quite a few contracts in my day. As a husband, I entered into a marital contract in the sense of being a co-signer with my wife in a marriage certificate. As a home buyer, I entered into a contract to purchase our house. And in my years as a fire fighter, I negotiated and signed labor contracts with various employers.
In some cases, the negotiations which led up to those various contracts was a pleasant affair. At other times, the negotiations could be rather strained. In one particular instance, an arbitrator was called in to mediate between the opposing positions.
As we come to this section of Hebrews, we find that an arbitrator has been called in to mediate the covenant between God and men. The mediator is Jesus Christ. He is the One who serves as a "go-between."
MEDIATOR OF AN INHERITANCE
For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15).
Jesus is our representative. He is the one who stands in the gap between God and men. He represents God to men and He represents men to God.
The priests served as a type of mediator under the Old Covenant, but their mediation was never completed because they could not actually approach God. They were kept from the presence of God by the veil. Even the high priest who was permitted to do once a year into the presence of God could not serve as the ultimate mediator since their atonement was only sufficient for that one year and since the blood of bulls and calves cannot really take away sin. It took something better. It took a redemption of transgressions.
What are the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant? They are the sins of the Old Testament saints.
Has anyone ever asked you, "How were people saved in the Old Testament?" Here is the answer. They were saved by the redemption that was purchased on the cross.
This is important! People in the Old Testament were never saved by keeping the Law. That type of salvation has been likened to a man who had fallen down a well. He was treading water at the bottom of the well, calling for help, when someone came along and dropped a sheet of paper to him containing, "Ten rules on how to keep out of wells."
Christ does not give us advice on how to save ourselves. He is the rope which draws us up out of the well.
THE NECESSITY OF DEATH IN A COVENANT
For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.
For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. (Hebrews 9:16-17).
The New International Version (NIV) has translated the word "covenant" in this passage as "last will and testament", in spite of the fact that the same Greek word (diatheke) is found in the verses immediately prior and immediately after these verses in a context that evidently demands the translation "covenant." I do not mean to attack the NIV. Its easier style of reading makes it enjoyable and a delight. There is nothing wrong with a translation being somewhat interpretive IF the interpretation happens to be correct. However, let me suggest another possible interpretation to this passage.
Since the beginning of the book, the writer to the Hebrews has been contrasting the Old Covenant of Moses with the New Covenant of Christ (see verse 15). I want to suggest that in these verses he continues to do exactly the same thing. Let's look at the passage:
For where there is a covenant... (9:16).
To understand the idea of a covenant, you must go back to the Old Testament where God established a relationship with His people. The word "covenant" first appears in Genesis 6 when the Lord says that He is going to make a covenant with Noah and his family.
This concept is developed more fully when God entered a covenant with Abraham. One of the most dramatic scenes in the Old Testament takes place in Genesis 15 when Abraham sacrifices some animals, cuts their bodies into two parts and then falls into a deep sleep while God's presence passes between the parts.
The implications of this act must be understood in light of ancient customs. When two men desired to enter into a covenant, they would kill an animal, cut it into two parts, and pass between the parts as they recited the terms of the covenant. The implication was that they were swearing a curse upon themselves. If either party broke the covenant, he was saying, "May I also be killed as this animal has been killed and torn apart."