Closing out chapter 8, the author of Hebrews quotes the New Covenant passage from Jeremiah 31:34. The Covenant that Israel had failed to live up to, the conditional Mosaic Covenant, was referred to as the “Old” Covenant even by its own prophets. Hebrews 8:13 says, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Fruchtenbaum explains why the author of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah. “He quotes this passage only to prove it was already known in the Old Testament that the Mosaic Covenant was temporary. The content of the New Covenant has the promise of the forgiveness of sin causing an internal change and a new relationship with God.”[1] Mankind failed to live up to the standards of the Old Covenant. According to Paul, it has then fulfilled its purpose. He writes in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” It is the law that makes sin obvious in our lives. Paul continues this idea in Romans 7:8-11. He writes, “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment deceived me and through it killed me.”

In the discussion about the dating of the book of Hebrews, one of the key issues is whether it was written before or after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. There seems to be evidence that it could have been written after but as Stedman rightly observes, “Many commentators have pointed out that historically the phrase in verse 13 what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear may well point to an awareness on the author’s part that the priesthood of Israel, the temple in which they served, and all the rituals and sacrifices of the law which they performed, were about to be ended by the overthrow of Jerusalem as Jesus had predicted.”[2]

The point is clear! Man’s religious efforts: sacrifices, rituals, rules, are of no effect in acquiring a right standing with God. Something new and different was necessary. God was not caught unaware! This had always been His plan. Paul writes about it in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. He says, according to the Amplified Version of the Bible, “But it is from Him that you have your life in Christ Jesus, Whom God made our Wisdom from God, [revealed to us a knowledge of the divine plan of salvation previously hidden, manifesting itself as] our Righteousness [thus making us upright and putting us in right standing with God], and our Consecration [making us pure and holy], and our Redemption [providing our ransom from eternal penalty for sin]. So then, as it is written, Let him who boasts and proudly rejoices and glories, boast and proudly rejoice and glory in the Lord.” It assures the only thing we have to boast in, is what Jesus did for us!

[1] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 112.

[2] Ray C. Stedman, Hebrews, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1992), Heb 8:7.