Summary: Although the first-century Jews felt such a fascination with the Mosaic covenant, they didn't understand the covenant to be the proclamation of the gospel that it was intended to be (4:1-2).


Tom Lowe

Title: The Inadequacy of the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:7-9)

Text: Hebrews 8:7-9 (NIV)

7For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 9It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestor 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,


Although the first-century Jews felt such a fascination with the Mosaic covenant, they didn't understand the covenant to be the proclamation of the gospel that it was intended to be (4:1-2). The author of Hebrews has already pointed out that the wilderness generation of Israel was not to be emulated (chapters 3-4). After all, that generation perished and failed to obtain God's salvation. They had the rituals the Jews were still so fond of, but they didn't have the faith necessary to finish what they had begun (3:16-19).

As the author moves to the topic of the covenant cherished by the first-century Jews, he uses an argument like one he had used before. They wanted to believe that the covenant between God and Moses was a permanent one, and they were continuing to try to live according to those rules and regulations. But if that were so, asked the author of Hebrews, why did God later promise a new and better covenant?

What can unify us in hope if not the new covenant {1] of God? Look at what it promises: it promises that God will take the initiative. Notice the repeated emphasis on the personal initiative of God: the personal promise of God: I will establish a new covenant I will put my laws into their mind, and write them on their hearts, I will be their God, I will be merciful, I will remember their sins no more. This is a God who promises to block out our sins from His memory and give us a new beginning. Not that he looked lightly upon sin. A church that has no serious view of sin has no serious sense of mission. The hope is that God looks compassionately on the simple plight of His people.

The old covenant was based upon the obedience of man to the law of God. The new is based on the realization that never has there been a man who could perfectly obey the law of God. So, the new covenant was based upon the grace of God and upon the perfect sacrifice of Christ, who covers man's transgressions forever and draws him back to receive the forgiveness of God and restores his hope that one day, he shall awake in the likeness of his God, in whose image he was created. That image has been fatally flawed by himself and by his society, and only God can restore it.


7For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant {2], no place would have been sought for another.

Verses 7-13 are really the explanation of the better promises (8:6) on which the new covenant is enacted. The new covenant has Christ as its mediator, just as Moses was the mediator of the old covenant. The writer sees this new covenant as “more excellent than the old because it is underwritten or legally secured by “better promises” (8:6). This security is Christ Himself for, in 7:22, Jesus is called the “guarantor” of a better covenant.

The emphasis in the new covenant is on God’s “I will.” The nation of Israel at Sinai said, “All the words which the Lord hath said will we do” (Ex. 24:3). But they did not obey God’s words. It is one thing to say, “we will” and quite another thing to do it. But the new covenant does not depend on man's faithfulness to God but on God’s faithful promise to man. The writer of Hebrews affirms God’s “I will” on behalf of those who trust Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8:10). In fact, God’s “I will” is stated three times in that one verse and six times in Hebrews 8:8-12.

“For {3] if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant.“ -The first covenant was not adequate, which created a necessity for a better covenant. Somebody says, “Then the old covenant was wrong.” But that is the wrong assumption because the Old Covenant did not teach a different, inferior means of salvation and that is evident from various considerations:

1) The author has said that it was the gospel that was preached to Israel in the wilderness (4:2). Their failure to obtain the rest of God was not due to any defect in the message, but rather to their failure to believe. They lacked the required faith. The same is true of those under the new covenant.

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Lamar Hayes

commented on Oct 31, 2020

Mr. Lowe: This is beautifully well written summary of the weaknesses in the Old Covenant (mankind) and the reason and need for Christ the mediator. Absolutely well done ! I enjoyed every word. I will be reading your other sermon on the beauty of the New Covenant as well. thank you for sharing !

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