Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The New Covenant

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrew 8:10-12)

Here, then are the “better promises” on which the new covenant is established: (a) “I will put my laws in their mind”; (b) “they will all know me”; (c) “I will remember their sins no more.” The covenant at Sinai involved divine promises, but not promises like these. The fulfillment of such promises gives a new meaning to the ancient covenant-words; “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” It has, indeed, been maintained more than once that covenant concept, with its suggestion of a contractual obligation, is inadequate to convey the religious relationship subsisting between God an his people. This however, is to concentrate on the form to the exclusion of the substance. It is true, no doubt, that as far as its form is concerned the early biblical covenant has close affinities with the treaties which bound vassal-states to their imperial overlords in the second millennium B.C. But it makes all the difference in the world to the substance of the covenant when it is God who takes the initiative in his grace, bestowing his promises freely on those whom he has called to be his people, and binding them to himself with bands of love. When analogies are drawn from human life to illustrate God’s covenant with his people, it is from the family circle and not from the field of international politics that they are drawn—from the relation between husband and wife, or that between a father and his children.

F.F. Bruce; The Epistle to the Hebrews


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