The Old and New Covenants
It is difficult to discuss the old and new covenants without bringing in the everlasting covenant into the discussion. The everlasting covenant that was made between the nation of Israel and Elohim was to include all of humanity.
“For thus saith Yahuwah unto the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and take hold of My covenant; even unto them will I give in Mine house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to Yahuwah, to serve Him, and to love the name of Yahuwah, to be His servants, every one that keeps the sabbath from polluting it, and takes hold of My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. Yahuwah Elohim which gathers the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to Him, beside those that are gathered unto Him” (Isaiah 56:4-8, emphasis added).
A covenant is always between at least two individuals and is an agreement by both parties to fulfill certain specific things. Conditions in the agreement are laid out in Deuteronomy chapter 28. Verses 1-14 are what Israel was to do in order to obtain and retain the blessings of Yahuwah, and Yahuwah in turn promised the nation of Israel many blessings should they keep their part of the agreement.
“And it shall come to pass, IF thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of Yahuwah thy Elohim, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that Yahuwah thy Elohim will set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (Deuteronomy 28:1, emphasis added). All of Elohim’s promises are given under conditions.
The conditions, for the blessings of Elohim and the removal of those blessings, are spelled out for us in that chapter. What Elohim required of them is made clear and what the nation of Israel could expect in return is given. This is the covenant that the nation of Israel had agreed to at Mt Sinai. “And Moses came and told the people all the words of Yahuwah, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which Yahuwah hath said will we do” (Exodus 24:3, emphasis added). And then they repeated it four verses later. “And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that Yahuwah hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7, emphasis added). One would have hoped that they were sincere in what they were consenting to, but we read these words in Psalm 78:36-38. “Nevertheless they did flatter Him with their mouth, and they lied unto Him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with Him, neither were they steadfast in His covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not [immediately]: yea, many a time turned He His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath” (emphasis added).
It was Elohim’s purpose to bless them and prosper them in ways that the nations around them would see that their prosperity was due to the blessings of Elohim alone. “Yahuwah shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and He shall bless thee in the land which Yahuwah thy Elohim giveth thee. Yahuwah shall establish thee an holy people unto Himself, as He hath sworn unto thee, IF thou shalt keep the commandments of Yahuwah thy Elohim, and walk in His ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of Yahuwah; and they shall be afraid of thee” (Deuteronomy 28:8-10, emphasis added). It was what He had done to Joseph while in Egypt. Elohim had blessed Joseph while he was a servant in the house of Potiphar and when he was put in prison.
“And Yahuwah was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that Yahuwah was with him, and that Yahuwah made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that Yahuwah blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of Yahuwah was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured” (Genesis 39:2-6, emphasis added).
“But Yahuwah was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand; because Yahuwah was with him, and that which he did, Yahuwah made it to prosper” (Genesis 39:21-23, emphasis added).
Elohim would be with the nation of Israel to prosper and bless them IF they followed in His ways just as He had prospered and blessed Joseph in the land of Egypt. “Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” (Deuteronomy 4:6). The nation of Israel would have been “a wise and understanding people” if they had followed in the ways of Yahuwah Elohim. “Yea, they turned back and tempted Elohim, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41). But instead they learned the ways of the heathen. “Thus saith Yahuwah, Learn not the way of the heathen” (Jeremiah 10:2). “Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways” (Ezekiel 16:47, emphasis added).
Verses 15-68 of Deuteronomy 28 delineate the curses that Elohim would bring upon Israel should they fail to walk in His ways. “But it shall come to pass, IF thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of Yahuwah thy Elohim, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (Deuteronomy 28:15, emphasis added). The blessings and the curses were all conditional on whether or not the nation of Israel kept their part of the agreement, and so it is with all those who enter into the covenant with Yahuwah Elohim!
This covenant has never been rescinded and is still in effect with all the peoples of this earth today. It is an everlasting covenant made with Israel but included all of humanity. “For Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:7, emphasis added). “But in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:35). There are blessings and curses contained throughout the Scriptures that are ours depending entirely on our behavior. “And it shall come to pass, IF thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of Yahuwah thy Elohim, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that Yahuwah thy Elohim will set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (Deuteronomy 28:1, emphasis added). “But it shall come to pass, IF thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of Yahuwah thy Elohim, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (Deuteronomy 28:15, emphasis added). These promises of blessings and curses are ours depending upon our obedience or disobedience. They are not handed out unconditionally!
“Now therefore, IF you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine” (Exodus 19:5, emphasis added). “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14, emphasis added).
“Yet now hear, O Jacob My servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen” (Isaiah 44:1, emphasis added). “Blessed is the nation whose Elohim is Yahuwah; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12, emphasis added). “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis added).
“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of Elohim” (Romans 2:28-29, emphasis added). It has always been a matter of the heart, but humanity is slow to understand the true nature of what is wrong with himself.
Those whom Elohim choses and calls His peculiar people are called to a high standard, a very high standard, that can only be obtained through the indwelling power of Elohim’s Spirit and not the through their own efforts to obtain and keep the conditions given in the covenant Elohim makes with humanity. Even though the nation of Israel failed to attain to those high standards there were always some who understood that in and of themselves dwelt no good thing and with whom Yahuwah was able to work with. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18). People like Zacharias and Elizabeth who we are told in Luke 1:6 “were both righteous before Elohim, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of Yahuwah blameless.” “The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way” (Psalm 25:9). Our attitude has a great deal to do with how Elohim can or cannot teach us.
The nation of Israel had told Elohim “All that Yahuwah hath said, we will do,” and in just a short time later we see the nation of Israel committing adultery and idolatry! What happened to their promises made to Yahuwah just a short time earlier? “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18). We have inherited a fallen human nature which needs a power outside of itself to enable us to live in accordance with Elohim’s will.
Paul had this to say in the book of Hebrews: “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second” (Hebrews 8:7). What was wrong with the first covenant? “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” (Deuteronomy 8:6, emphasis added). What was the matter with the first covenant’s promises? Who made the promises that were faulty in the first covenant? It certainly was not Elohim, was it? “Elohim is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). Elohim’s promises never fail, when we meet the conditions they are given under.
The reason the first covenant failed was because the promises made in the first covenant were made by the nation of Israel. “And Moses came and told the people all the words of Yahuwah, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which Yahuwah hath said will we do” (Exodus 24:3, emphasis added). “And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that Yahuwah hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7, emphasis added). The broken promises made by Israel eventually caused the covenant curses to go into effect.
Far too many have a false concept of when the second covenant went into effect and what that covenant consists of, mainly because far too many professed Christians pay little attention to the Old Testament and confine themselves to what is written in the New Testament. When did the second covenant go into effect? Far too many believe that the new covenant is contained in the New Testament and that obedience is no longer required, forgetting or not knowing what is written in Malachi 3:6. “For I am Yahuwah, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed” (emphasis added). Even though Yahuwah Elohim changes not, many have changed Him into what they want Him to be like. His conditions for salvation have been ever the same; they have not changed.
Jeremiah spelled it out for the nation of Israel and for us. “The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahuwah, saying, Hear you the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and say thou unto them, Thus saith Yahuwah Elohim of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeys not the words of this covenant, which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey My voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall you be My people, and I will be your Elohim: that I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then answered I, and said, So be it, O Yahuwah” (Jeremiah 11:1-5, emphasis added). “That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers.” It was Elohim’s longing desire to be able to bless the nation of Israel as He had promised in Deuteronomy 28:1-14, but it was all contingent on their obedience. He took no pleasure in having to punish them just as no earthly parent enjoys punishing their children!
“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” (Hebrews 8:6, emphasis added). How was the new covenant established on better promises? It was established on promises made by Yahuwah Elohim Almighty and not on anything that man promised, and it is first found in Jeremiah 31:31-33. “Behold, the days come, saith Yahuwah, that 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; which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith Yahuwah: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith Yahuwah, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their Elohim, and they shall be My people” (emphasis added). This new covenant was made during the times of the Old Testament, and was spelled out by the prophet Jeremiah to the nation of Israel.
Paul is simply quoting what Jeremiah wrote back in the thirty-first chapter of the book named after him. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Yahuwah; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them an Elohim, and they shall be to Me a people” (Hebrews 8:10, emphasis added). Instead of tables of stone, the laws, statutes and commandments were going to be written on the fleshy tables of humanity’s heart.
Ezekiel had this to say in chapter 36 of his book: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit [the Holy Spirit Which is Elohim’s Spirit (Isaiah 63:10, 11, and 14)] within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your Elohim. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses” (Ezekiel 36:26-29, emphasis added). What Israel had failed to attain to – obedience, would be attained by Yahuwah putting His Spirit within each of us causing us “to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them.” What Israel and what most professed Christians fail to do will be accomplished by those who permit Yahuwah Elohim to put His Spirit within them and cause them to walk in His commandments, statutes and judgements.
Many ministers, who profess faith in the Bible, are telling their congregations that they cannot keep Elohim’s commandments, statutes and judgments and even worse that they do not need to keep His commandments, statutes and judgments! In the new covenant as shown in Jeremiah 31:31-33, Ezekiel 36:26-29 and Hebrews 8:10 all excuses for continuing in sin are silenced. Most professing Christians have not been “born again.” “Whosoever is born of Elohim does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of Elohim” (1 John 3:9, emphasis added). And once we are born again we must continue to abide in Him (Messiah). “Whosoever abides in Him sins not: whosoever sins hath not seen Him, neither known Him” (1 John 3:6, emphasis added).
When conducting medical testing a placebo [a substance that has no therapeutic effect] is used with one group while the other group receives the “real thing.” So it is with all who claim to be “born again.” Some have not been “born again” but have been deceived (Revelation 12:9). The fruit of the Spirit, the true evidence of whether one has the Spirit of Elohim abiding within them, will be seen if one has been “born again.” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Messiah's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).
The problem with humanity is not the sinning. Sinning is only the symptom of a much worse problem and that is our inherited, fallen, human nature we have inherited from Adam. “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3, emphasis added). Adam and Eve were created in Elohim’s likeness. “And Elohim said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis added). A change took place within the very nature of humanity as a result of Adam’s failure. He could no longer pass on to his offspring what he no longer possessed. In the new covenant, Elohim gives us His Spirit (Isaiah 63:10, 11, and 14) to enable us to be restored back into His likeness once again. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of Yahuwah, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of Yahuwah” (2 Corinthians 3:18, emphasis added).
Compare what we just read about the fruit of the Spirit of Elohim with what we are told are the works of our inherited, fallen, human nature. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of Elohim” (Galatians 5:19-21). The remedy for our inherited, fallen, human nature is what is included in the new covenant. By the power of the indwelling Spirit of Elohim, which dwelt in Yahushua Messiah enabling Him to live a sinless life, you too can live a life that is pleasing to our heavenly Father and His Son, Yahushua Messiah. “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwells in Me [through His Spirit], He doeth the works” (John 14:10, emphasis added).
Working on obedience will never get you to where you need to be. Working on abiding in Messiah once you have been “born again” will get you there. “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). “Abide in Me, and I in you [through the Spirit of Elohim]. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches: he that abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5, emphasis added).