The prophets of the Old Testament looked forward to a new covenant that would renew, fulfill, and transcend the old covenant. They looked forward to the new covenant because it would accomplish the redemption God promised His people and not merely point forward to redemption as the old one did.
Some within the original audience of the epistle to the Hebrews were tempted to think that the new covenant had not yet come. Although they had confessed that Christ was the Mediator of the new covenant, some considered abandoning this confession in favor of the old one. Thus, the author of Hebrews wrote to remind his audience of the greatness of the new covenant that had come in the person and work of Christ Jesus.
In chapter 8, the author quotes a lengthy promise from the prophet Jeremiah about the new covenant. These words are a reminder that the old covenant would not last forever and that the new covenant would be better than the old. As such it would be damnable for anyone to abandon the new covenant.
At this point we will examine the quotation from Jeremiah found in Hebrews 8 and explore the wonder of the new covenant. Yesterday we looked briefly at 8:8–9 and learned how the new covenant would be different than the old covenant. A few days ago we noted that the difference does not lie in the fact that the old and new covenants promise different things. Rather, the difference is that we have more complete revelation under the new covenant. Moreover, in the new covenant, the promises are actually being fulfilled, while in the old we have only a hope of fulfillment. This shadowy hope pointed out the need for perfection, but it did not perfect anyone.
However, unlike the old covenant, the new covenant will bring perfection. The law of God will be written on hearts and minds, enabling believers to live as the people of God (v. 10). The command for the people to put the Law on their hearts (Deut. 6:6) will be fulfilled because the Law will actually exist within their hearts. Tomorrow we will see how this fact undergirds all other benefits that come in the new covenant. On Friday, we will explore how the writing of the Law on the heart is to be understood by the believer today.
The Law being written on our hearts reveals two important things. First, we are reminded that the essentials of the Law are not merely outward observances but are matters of the heart. Second, we know that since God will have to do the writing, we cannot do it ourselves. Thank God that by His grace He has changed our hearts.