The New Covenant

There is a beautiful progression in the eight covenants which God has made with humanity. Paradoxically, the eighth is not only the last, but it is also the New Covenant. The promise of a new covenant was made when Israel and Judah had sinned against God until there was nothing further He could do to restore their fellowship with Him.

Centuries before, the people of Israel had told Moses: "All that the LORD has spoken we will do" (Exodus 19:8), and God had responded with promises of blessings that would be heaped upon them for their obedience to Him. They would be blessed in every walk of life – in the cities, in the fields, in their homes, their barns, their cattle, and in everything they would put their hand to.

There would be no sickness, they would prosper and be wealthy. "The LORD will open to you his good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand . . . and the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath . . . " (Deuteronomy 28:12-13).

At the same time Moses warned them: "But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God . . . that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you" (Deuteronomy 28:15), and the following fifty verses outline the spine-chilling curses – a most solemn warning.

Over the centuries, Israel lapsed into a life of self-will and disobedience until the northern kingdom was uprooted and taken into captivity to Assyria, and one hundred and fifty years later, the tribe of Judah was likewise uprooted from the Land and taken to Babylon for seventy years.

It was at this time, when the covenant which God had made with them on Mount Sinai was in tatters, that "the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by his messengers, rising up early and sending them, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling-place.

"But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy" (2 Chronicles 36:15-16). The Law made at Sinai was utterly abandoned; the covenant was shattered; there was nothing more that God could do to restore His people – "there was no remedy. "

In this desperate situation, God showed His purpose to bring about the ultimate restoration of His covenant people. His plan was in no way associated with the previous Sinai covenant which had been so abused. Indeed, the Sinai covenant had been conditional on Israel's obedience to "obey all that the LORD has spoken" ; whereas the New Covenant was to be unconditional in that it was to depend totally on God and His faithfulness.

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

"No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD, for they all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

"Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is his name): If those ordinances depart from before me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before me for ever.

"Thus says the LORD: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD" (Jeremiah 31:31-17).

We note that God did not abandon Israel and Judah even though "there was no remedy" under the terms of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant also is made "with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. "

The New Covenant is "not according" to the terms of the Old. Man could not keep the Law by being obedient to God, so God promised to change man's character by giving him a new heart and a new spirit. "I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts. "

The New Covenant when introduced was to be in two parts, firstly it was promised for a certain time: "Behold, the days are coming when I will make a new covenant . . . " and secondly it would be "after those days" when God would put His "law in their minds. "

The final effect of the covenant was all-embracing: "They all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. " The prophet Habakkuk prophesied thus: "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (2:14).

In the Scriptures numbers have significance, and whereas seven speaks of completeness, the number eight points to a new beginning. There are eight recorded observances of the Passover in the Scriptures, seven of them in Tenach, the Old Testament, and the eighth, the New Covenant, five hundred years after the covenant was first promised.

Yeshua and His disciples met in Jerusalem on the 14th of Nisan, and according to the commandment of Moses they partook of the Passover at twilight. "Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover…

"And when the hour had come he (Yeshua) sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. Then he said to them, With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God…

"Then he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me. ' Likewise he also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you'" (Luke 22:1, 14-16, 19-20).

As the 14th Nisan drew to a close and the Passover lambs were being offered in the Temple, the Lamb of God shed His blood outside the city walls. He hung on a Roman cross bearing the curse of sin for the whole of mankind, as it is written: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14).

The day spoken of by Jeremiah many centuries before had come to pass; the New Covenant was ratified. Israel has nationally rejected that covenant for nearly twenty centuries, but there is yet to be the complete fulfilment of Jeremiah's prophecy: "After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. "