For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind…
I. THE QUALITY OF THE BLESSINGS.
1. The greater excellence of the Christian pardon. The Jewish religion had its pardon, or something that passed for pardon; the superiority, however, of the pardon held forth by the gospel is indicated by the expression, "and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Contrast this statement with what is said respecting the method of dealing with sins under the old covenant — "But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance of sins every year" (Hebrews 10:3). In the one case we have the forgetting of sins, in the other the remembrance of them. The ancient pardon, then, was not really such, but only a kind of reprieve annually renewed, a kind of suspension of the sentence, not the removal or abrogation of it. It was in the nature of a "ticket-of-leave" transaction.
2. The greater excellence of the knowledge of God assured by the new covenant. The knowledge of God acquired under the old covenant was preceptive knowledge, and, like all such knowledge, it needed constant prompting, it needed that every man should say to his neighbour, and every man to his brother, "Know the Lord," for they resembled boys learning a lesson, they continually forgot it. A prophet would arise, saying to the people, "Know the Lord," and they would learn the lesson; but no sooner did the prophet's voice cease than the people forgot the lesson, and wandered after false gods. Then another prophet would arise, and repeat the oft-taught lesson, "Know the Lord." But the more excellent knowledge of the better promise needs no such prompting. In the ease of this knowledge," they shall not teach every man his neighbour," &c., it is a knowledge in the heart, not in the memory, for the memory may fail, but the heart never.
3. The greater excellence of the relationship between God and His people. It is better in this, that it is individual and spiritual, whereas the corresponding promise of the old covenant was national and temporal. The promise as it related to Israel is given very graphically in Deuteronomy 26:17-19. There is something inexpressibly grand in the abounding sweep of this promise. If we consider it in the light of the history of God's dealings with the ancient people, we shall obtain some notion of its meaning. But rich and abounding as its meaning may be, it embraces only the nation, and that in relation to temporal things. The greater excellence of the corresponding promise of the new covenant is that it realises these blessings in a spiritual sense, and to every individual in the wide world that comes within the scope of its conditions.
4. Next, we notice the greater excellence of the formative principle of the new covenant. The superiority claimed here consists in this — that the laws are "put into the mind" and "written in the heart." There is an implied contrast with the corresponding provision of the old covenant. The latter had its laws, but they were inscribed, not in hearts, but on tables of stone. The other consists of an inward principle or motive, the subject of it animated by love, yielding willing obedience from a heart glowing with loving, grateful enthusiasm. This difference in the spheres of their respective laws involves a wide difference in their respective effects upon the course of the lives affected by them. There is a great difference between the sailing vessel and the steam-boat. The one is propelled by influences external to itself, and is, therefore, dependent upon them for the progress it makes; the other is propelled by a principle working within, and is, therefore, independent of external influences, moves without them, and often against, yea, in spite of them. The latter illustrates the method adopted in the new covenant. Hence its greater excellence. It implants the principle of action, the motive power, within, so preventing its subject from becoming a creature of circumstances, and his obedience a mechanical routine, making it rather a thing of the heart and of the affections. The gospel, in this respect, works according to the analogy of nature. In nature, the formative law of everything is within it.
II. THE SUPERIOR CERTAINTY OF THE PROMISES OF THE NEW COVENANT. The utmost assurance that these promises will be fully realised in the experience of every one who accepts Christ's salvation is given us in the fact that they are called by the term "covenant." In verse 6 the promises and the covenant are referred to separately; in verse 10 there is but one word " covenant." The term promise is merged in the term covenant. This substitution of covenant for promise indicates the element of certainty belonging to the latter. But it may be asked, were not the promises of the ancient religion established upon a covenant? Certainly, they were, but those of Christianity upon "a better covenant." The promises of the ancient religion were ratified by the blood of goats and calves, but Christ ratified the better promises of the "new covenant" by the sacrifice of Himself. His own declaration on this point is, "This cup is the New Testament in my blood," that is, the new covenant ratified by the shedding of My blood. In short, we have the promises of the gospel resting upon the atonement of Christ.
(A. J. Parry.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
WEB: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days," says the Lord; "I will put my laws into their mind, I will also write them on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people.