My children told me earlier this year that if you break a pinky promise (a promise made while your little finger wraps around another person’s little finger) then your little finger will fall off! This is a new development since I was young, but thankfully for them (and us!) it isn’t true.
Covenants are formal agreements where one or both sides make promises about what they will do. In the Bible, God made covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, along with a few others. In these covenants God repeatedly committed to being their God, and they (and their descendants) would be His people.
God’s covenant with Abraham was to establish him as the father of a great nation and that all nations would be blessed through his Seed. Through Moses God rescued His people from slavery. He entered into another covenant with them which formed structures of right and wrong for God’s people to live in the Promised Land. This established Abraham’s descendants as a great nation. The importance of obedience to God is detailed with blessings and curses, with the purpose being that His nation would be a witness to the other nations. Under King David, God made a covenant with David, promising he would have a king in his line whose throne would be forever, He will rule perfectly and all nations will be blessed through Him.
Throughout the Old Testament, while God is continually faithful to His people, God’s people failed to live according to the covenant requirements and promises. God’s people were repeatedly unfaithful to Him.
The prophet Jeremiah, quoted in Hebrews 8, predicted a new covenant not written on stone tablets but on the hearts and minds of God’s people, a transforming covenant. Ezekiel also saw the need for hearts to be transformed by God (see Ezekiel 11:18-20 & 36:25-28). A wholehearted people, who love Him with all of their being, has been God’s desire from the creation of Adam and Eve.
The old covenant was good, but the law doesn’t have the power to transform hearts. Throughout the old covenant sacrifices had to be made over and over, priests and kings died, and new priests and kings replaced them, each sinful themselves. The law highlights our inability to be holy and our need of rescue by the promised Messiah. We cannot keep our side of the covenant, we deserve separation from God.
Thankfully God breaks into history, in the person of Jesus, and everything is changed! It is not until Jesus that anyone perfectly kept and fulfilled the old covenant. Jesus established the new covenant at the Last Supper when He said, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).
Jesus lived a perfect life according to the law, and died as our sacrifice. He rose three days later, defeating the power of sin and death. His once and for all sacrifice on the cross fulfilled the sacrificial system. Through His sacrifice He makes us holy.
God intervenes in this way so we may have hearts transformed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who brings life. “For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16). We are now able to worship and serve God wholeheartedly, as we were created to.
Our covenant with God is changed for the better through Jesus. As we couldn’t keep our side of the covenant, so God keeps it for us! He establishes a new covenant based on Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are rescued! We have been made adequate through Christ, He cleanses us and makes us holy. The new covenant is greater than the old one because it provides us with an “eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12) God remembers our sins no longer and it provides us with an “eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).
In Christ, our stone hearts are removed and replaced with hearts of flesh. We are brought from spiritual death to life through the gracious gift of Jesus. He is the eternal King. Through Him all the nations of the earth are blessed. Jesus rescues, redeems, and blesses us beyond measure. In return we are extremely thankful, wholehearted servants of the new covenant.
You are our God, we are your people.
“Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus, equip you with every good thing to do his will, working in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
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