UPON BOTH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND UPON THE HOUSE OF JUDAH (Hebrews 8:8b-9)(continued)
However, when we say upon both the house of Israel and upon the house of Judah, this must not be misunderstood. Often this is misunderstood and misinterpreted by Jewish Millennialism. This prophecy is then made to imply that there would be a restoration of Israel’s theocracy in the land of Palestine and Canaan after the order of the former glory under David and Solomon. This prophecy then somehow awaits its fulfillment yet in the future. Christ will be the King of the Jews, even as He is the Head of the church. The kingdom of David, Israel’s theocracy and the church are not one; fact is, according to this conception, Israel and the church are two different entities.
Now, I do not hold to this view of the matter in regard to the New Covenant which God will make in “those days.” We do not hold this view for the simple reason that this is contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures concerning the usage and application of the term Israel. The term “Israel” and “Jacob” sometimes refer to the two factions in Israel, but sometimes they are also used interchangeably. I believe that a comparison of the usage of these terms here in the prophecy of Jeremiah will bear this out. Thus in Jeremiah 31:1 “At the same time saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.” Now certainly God is the God of all the earth. But Israel is God’s people in a peculiar way. They are His people by choice, an elect generation, a holy priesthood, a peculiar people unto God. Only because God loved them in sovereign love are they God’s people. When God says: “and they shall be my people,” it refers to their being the congregation, the church of Christ, gathered by the Son of God out of every tribe, people and nation. “All the families of Israel” refers to the gathering of the church in both the Old and the New Testament. This ought to be evident from the very nature of the New Covenant based upon better promises. For it is not an earthly house, pitched by man (Heb. 8:2) but pitched by the LORD Himself. (Num. 24:6) And this better tabernacle is not earthly, but it is heavenly. Into these heavens our Savior has passed in his death, burial and resurrection. Israel is, therefore, all the tribes of the earth, the elect out of all nations, and not simply from the natural descendants of Abraham. For the teaching stands, written by Paul in Galatians 3:8 “In thee shall all nations be blessed”. And this is interpreted by Paul as referring to those who belong to Christ. “And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29) In this seed of Abraham there is neither Jew nor Greek, there are no national boundaries, nor is the Greek a Greek any more, nor is the Jew a Jew, But they are “Sons of God,” the new man in Christ, the greater Theocracy of God. Here the middle-wall of the partition is gone forever.” (Eph. 2:11-19) There is really no difference anymore between those who are near and those who are far off. (Is. 57:11)
Israel and the commonwealth of Israel is the church of the living God both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
Besides, it ought to be noticed that the covenant will be brought to its ultimate completion and perfection in what Jeremiah calls “behold, the days are coming.” This took place at Calvary, in Christ’s death, and in his resurrection and ascension and sitting at the right hand of God.
THE NEW COVENANT FINISHED IN OUR HEARTS (Hebrews 8:10-12)
God will covenant a new covenant after those days. It is a sure promise. It is “saith the LORD.” That is the end of all contradiction. For He is faithful who hath promised. (Hebrews 8:10) And, therefore, it is sure in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
Negatively this is expressed in that the covenant will not be like the covenant which God made with Israel when they brought them out of the land of Egypt, and brought them to the hill of Sinai which could be touched. There was something very wrong with that covenant. It was that the “law” which was given by Moses to Israel could not make a dead sinner alive. If such a law had been given which could make a dead sinner alive, then the law could have profited. But now the flesh profits nothing, and the law profits nothing because it is weak through the flesh. (John 6:63) Yes, circumcision profited, if thou keep the law!(Rom. 2:25) But none kept the law, and, therefore, the circumcision became uncircumcision!
That was the principle of Israel’s defeat. Yes, even when they tried to keep the law, they did not attain. For Israel which followed after the law of righteousness did not attain to the law of righteousness. (Rom. 9:31.) Why? Why did the Gentiles, which did not follow after righteousness, attain unto righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith? The answer is: it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who giveth mercy. (Rom. 9:16)
This is the great enunciation of the failure of the old covenant which God made with Moses. It was doomed to failure because of the weakness of the flesh, and because it could not make the evil, stubborn and dead sinner alive and willing to love God. Fact is, that the law could only be the power of sin. (I Cor. 15:56)
God found fault with this covenant in Jeremiah. Fact is, that when Israel is at the foot of the mount of God, then already the covenant is clearly pointed out to be a failure. For when Moses comes down the mount with the lively oracles in his hand, the people are busy in adultery and in idolatry, as they dance nakedly about the golden calf. (Exodus 32:8) They turned aside quickly from the way which the Lord had shewed them. And the cry of Israel is a cry of covenant-breaking when they sing: “These be thy God, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” That such was covenant-breaking, is symbolized in Moses’s taking the two tables of stone on which it was written “I Am the LORD, thy God, who have brought thee forth from the land of Egypt, the house of bondage . . .,” (Ex. 20:1) and dashing them in pieces! And what must Moses now learn: that God will make a new and better covenant. Moses fasted for forty days and forty nights, and then he arises from the dust and desires the salvation of Israel. And when God will destroy Israel in His hot displeasure and holy anger, then it is that Moses pleads for Israel. Yes, Moses knows that the people have sinned a great sin! Cries Moses in his deep concern for Israel “Oh, this people have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord: peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.” And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said “Yet now if thou wilt forgive their sin, blot me I pray thee out of thy book which thou hast written . . .” (Exodus 32:31, 32)
Now God finds fault with this covenant.
Moses cannot act as mediator. He is but a law-giver.
The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Only in Christ do we receive grace for grace from the fullness of grace and truth.
Moses can only plead upon the better promises. These are the promises made to the fathers of yore, to Abraham and to his Seed. Hear him plead in Exodus 32:12, 13 “Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swearest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.”
Yes, Moses pleads upon the better promises; they are better than the law in his hands, written upon tables of stone. These cannot profit Israel because of the weakness of the flesh. And his appeal is to the very promises which God will fulfill according to Jeremiah in the latter days. Presently Israel’s life under the law shall have run its course. It will all have been to no profit at all. The law perfected nothing. The bringing in of a better hope did. Well, here it is spoken of in the prophecy of Jeremiah.
Israel-Judah indeed goes down into Babylon. But a voice is heard in Ramah, and shall again be heard in Bethlehem-Ephrata. And God will call His Son out of Egypt in Christ’s death and resurrection. This is the glory of Israel and the light of the nations.
Thus in Jeremiah’s prophecy, quoted here in Hebrews 8:6 ff., the horizons lift, and the prospect of the fulfillment of all the promises are set in full relief. It is the announcement of the ushering in of the year of the LORD.
For this is not the law of commandments contained in ordinances, which are written upon tables of stone, but this is the law, the glory of grace, which writes the law in our hearts!
Before we try to understand this matter of the law being written in our hearts, in depth, let us notice how even at Sinai, in a sense, the covenant was renewed upon better promises. For it must not have altogether escaped the attention of every Bible-Christian, that the table of stones which. were placed in the Ark of the Covenant by Moses, together with the pot of Manna and the rod of Aaron which blossomed, were not the same tables which were broken. The reason is: this time the Lord gives tables of stone which are based upon a covenant which cannot be broken. To see this point we should attend to what we read in Exodus 34:4-9, where we read: “And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. And the Lord descended in the cloud, (Shekinah) and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by him, and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty . . . .”
The underscored portion here in the above quotation is definitely the better covenant words. For these are the words which Moses receives and his face shines. These are the covenant words connected with the glory of Christ. Nay, these are not simply to be written upon the tables of stone but upon the fleshy tables of the heart.
This is evident from the fact that these are the words of the Covenant which shall be placed in the inner sanctuary of God’s throne of grace, the Ark of the testimony, the testimony of the gospel of grace. For in that Ark of the Covenant were three things, and these three are the earmarks of the true church in the desert and in every age and clime. For it ought to be evident that we are here dealing with: word, sacraments and discipline, as exemplified in tables of stone, pot of manna and the rod of Aaron, which was fruitful. Were these not all under the covering of the ark upon which the blood of atonement was sprinkled on the great day of atonement, and the ushering in of the year of Jubilee? (Lev. 25:8, 9)
And thus we stand foursquare in the midst of the ministering priest’s work!
The law shall be written upon the tables of the heart.
This is the covenant which is enacted upon better promises.