(The New Covenant – Better than the Old)
There is an old and a new priesthood (which we read about in verses 1 through 5 in the chapter that we are studying today). In verses 6 through 13 we learn about the old and new covenant. The new priesthood (Jesus himself being the High Priest) is far, far better than the old. The new covenant (whose mediator is Jesus) is far, far better than the old.
6. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
Jesus’ ministry is perfect.
A mediator is a “middleman” (a priest in this case) who reconciles opposing parties. A “covenant” is a contract or agreement (often associated with a will – as it is in this case). The Greek word translated “covenant” in this verse is sometimes translated “testament” in the Bible. The old covenant (composed of the Mosaic law and the Levitical priesthood) was weak in that man cannot keep the law and human priests cannot reconcile man to God. The new covenant rests upon Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of the law and his absolute ability to reconcile man to God.
Man promised to fulfill the old covenant and failed. Jesus Christ promised to fulfill the new covenant and he will succeed.
7. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
8. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
9. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10. 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:
11. 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.
12. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
The new covenant will be made with Israel when they are restored one day. The laws of God are not presently in the hearts of the Israelites nor do they all know the Lord. But many of the benefits of the new covenant have already been given to the church because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, died, was buried, and rose again. We will see these wonderful truths and more in future chapters.
13. 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.
When Jesus Christ arose from the dead, the old covenant had decayed and was ready to vanish away. Someday it will vanish away. In the meantime there is (as there always has been) salvation in Christ alone for all who will receive him.