The New Covenant
We know from Scripture that Israel broke the covenant they had made with Yahweh; they committed spiritual adultery and were divorced because of it (Jeremiah 3:8). We know from the prophet Jeremiah that Yahweh had planned on making a new covenant with Israel, remarrying them, bringing them back into covenant with Him (Jeremiah 31:31-32). It is at this point that the confusion usually begins to occur. Does a “new covenant” mean the old one no longer functions? What are the differences between the covenants?
In this week’s blog post, we are going to give a brief overview of this topic. There is much more than can be said; the topic is very large and we will cover it more in depth in the future in a full length teaching. Again, this blog post is not meant to be comprehensive, but to give only a brief overview of our current understanding relating to this topic.
As we read through Scripture we find that covenant was stacked upon covenant stacked upon covenant between Yahweh and His chosen people. At no time is one of the previous covenants removed, but the covenants stack on top of one another. The question may be asked, what does it really mean to be in covenant? A covenant is defined as:
• a pact, compact, divine constitution or ordinance with signs or pledges (BDB Lexicon)
• a treaty, compact, agreement, an association between two parties with various responsibilities, benefits, and penalties; “to cut a covenant” is “make a covenant,” a figure of the act of ceremonially cutting an animal into two parts, with an implication of serious consequences for not fulfilling the covenant (KM Hebrew Dictionary)
• covenant, agreement, or obligation between individuals, groups (Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew)
• obligation (Jenni-Westermann Lexicon)
Covenants are binding contracts between two individuals, or even an individual and a group. Each side of the covenant makes an agreement and a pledge to uphold their end; if they do not, then there are consequences; serious consequences in many cases especially in the culture of the time. Breaking a covenant was a serious matter (seeThe Threshold Covenant teaching); in fact, it cost Israel their “marriage” relationship with the Creator (see our The Lost Sheep teaching).
We see examples of covenants throughout Scripture and of various types. We see the covenant made with Abraham beginning in Genesis 12, and then further detail and the process of the covenant being made in Genesis 15. Notice, however, the second covenant did not remove the first one, nor even replace it. When covenants are made, even just between men, nothing can be added to them; Paul had the same understanding as mentioned in Galatians 3.
Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.
Paul makes it a point that no one can add to or take away from covenants between men...how much moreso is that true of covenants with God? Think about that for a moment. If man’s covenant cannot change, then neither can God’s covenant. They are built on mutual promises. That is Paul’s point here.
Yahweh expected nothing less in His covenants with Israel. When the Torah was written down and given to His people with Moses acting as the mediator, conditions were set. The Torah defined the rules of the covenant; blessings were given when the covenant was kept, curses would be received when sin occurred, a breaking of the covenant by Israel. Israel agreed to the terms of the covenant. Eventually, however, Israel’s disregard for the covenant was evidenced by their disobedience and spiritual adultery; this led God to divorce Israel, as described in Jeremiah 3:8-18. It's important to note, however, that Judah was not divorced, the covenant has been ongoing. As a side note, see how the Creator follows His own Torah where Israel was divorced for adultery as designed in the Torah for man to follow.
The original covenant was broken; but Yahweh said He would make a new covenant, one where He would put His Torah within them and write it on their hearts; hearts of flesh that He would give them (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 11). We cover this in more detail in our blog post “3 Signs of the New Covenant”.
|Old Testament Covenant
||New Testament Covenant|
|Israel is to Keep/Obey/Guard the laws, statutes, and ordinances of God (Torah) confirmed with sacrifices (Exodus 24:3-8)||Israel is to Keep/Obey/Guard the laws, statutes, and ordinances of God (Torah) given by Yahweh confirmed with the sacrifice of Yeshua (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 11).|
|Torah written on Stone Tablets through Moses (Exodus 24), but was also in their hearts and mouths (Deuteronomy 30:14)||Torah written on Israel’s heart (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 11)|
|Israel agreed to obey, but did not (Jeremiah 3)||Israel will have a spirit/desire to obey (Ezekiel 11)|
What do we see if we look at the terms of the covenant? We see the terms of the new covenant where His law will not just be written on stone tablets (10 commandments), but will now be within His people and written on their hearts. Before Israel stated they would obey, but now they will have a desire to follow and obey Him (which they did not do before). How could the Creator guarantee this would work? He sent His Son, Messiah Yeshua to be the new Mediator (or Guarantor) of the Covenant. Instead of creating a covenant based upon sinful man, He confirms the covenant with the spotless lamb, the Messiah who did not sin, who had the Word written on His heart, and who had a desire to be obedient. Yeshua gave up His own will for the will of the Father.
Yeshua is now the one who is the deliverer/mediator of the covenant, we enter into that covenant through Messiah who took the penalty of death upon Himself so we may have eternal life living in covenant with Yahweh. Through Messiah we are part of the covenant; the terms of the covenant still remain. The Torah is still to be obeyed, it is being written on our hearts and we are to have a spirit, a desire, to be obedient to the Creator because we love Him.
Nothing in the Word of God changes between us and Him. The new covenant is simply about the House of Israel coming back into the covenant that Judah was still a part of. For more on that, we recommend our teachings “The Lost Sheep” and “What is the Gospel?”
Perhaps a more simple way to illustrate this principle is using a real world example. Let’s say a young person wants to purchase a vehicle. They take out a loan on their own; the terms of the loan indicate $100 must be paid to the bank every month. In exchange for this promise of repayment, the bank provides the individual the money for the vehicle and retains the right to claim the car if the loan is defaulted on. For a while, the person makes the payments, but eventually they fall so far behind that that there is a breach of contract; the young person has not kept their part of the contract, and so they may lose their vehicle.
So the youth goes to their parents who have more money. The parents of the young person agree to co-sign the loan of the vehicle; they have agreed to be responsible to make the payment if their child is not able. Now the young person has entered into the same agreement with the bank that they had before, but now the parents are involved and shoulder the responsibility for payment when their child is unable to. The terms of the contract, indeed the contract itself is still the same, but now there is a new guarantor for the loan. This is exactly what has happened with Israel.
They were unable to keep their covenant with Yahweh, so they were removed which left only Judah (and Benjamin) still in the covenant. Yahweh enters into a "new" covenant with the Israel, but this time He provides a guarantor for Israel, His Son (Messiah Yeshua), who paid the penalty (hold up Israel’s end of the contract) when Israel is not able to. The first covenant was not removed, Judah remained in it; they were never removed. Does this make sense?
Yes, there is a new covenant being put in place in the sense that there is a new mediator (Messiah), but the conditions of the covenant have not changed. Instead of the contract relying on all of Israel to be obedient, they were represented by Messiah. Through Messiah the "new" covenant has been established; now it is Messiah who is the guarantor of the covenant, instead of sinful man who by nature will simply continue to break the covenant. Now, does this mean that Israel does not have to worry about being obedient because Yeshua did it for them? Not at all. As part of the contract, they have agreed to keep up their end; they are to do their part in maintaining the covenant with Yahweh. At the times that they are unable to (they sin, which is breaking the contract), Yeshua’s sacrifice is there to cover them.
So, should Israel continue to sin? God forbid! However, when they do sin (because all have sinned) there is grace and forgiveness. However, it should be noted, just as the parents from the example have the right to keep the car if their child refuses to hold up their end of the contract, there is also no sacrifice for sin left for Israel if they refuse to keep up their end of the covenant (Hebrews 10:26).
It should now be clear that the expectations the Creator has for us is no different today with the “New Covenant” than they were with Israel. The terms of the covenant have not really changed; the guarantor of the covenant is what changed; the same law is still part of the covenant. If we claim the blessings promised to Israel; if we claim we are part of the “New Covenant’, then we must recognize that we are Israel. There is not one covenant for Israel and a separate covenant for the Gentiles; there is only one covenant. If a person wishes to be part of the covenant, then they must be grafted in to Israel and agree to the terms of the covenant. For more on this topic we recommend our teachings “Believing”, “Grafted In”, “The Lost Sheep”, and “What is the Gospel”.
We hope this blog post has blessed you.