Is the Old Covenant “Obsolete and Gathering Dust?”

The author of the book of Hebrews also compares and contrasts the old and new covenants.  His conclusion is found at the end of chapter 8.  But let’s start with some background to the book of Hebrews.

The newly-believing, Christ-following Jews of the first century were tempted to go back to an old covenant system that they were familiar with.  The author of the book of Hebrews, apparently in response to this, does a painstaking job of explaining all the new and improved of the new covenant.

The word “better” is a prominent theme in the comparison between the old and new covenants in the book of Hebrews.  Jesus the personification of the new covenant is better than Moses the personification of the old (Heb 3:2-6).  Jesus gives us a better hope (Heb 6:19-7:19).  Jesus is a better priest than the priesthood of Aaron and the Old Testament (Heb 7:21-8:2).  Jesus is a better sacrifice than the goats and calves of the old covenant (Heb 9:11-28).  Jesus is a better offering (Heb 10-1:16).  And it all adds up to Jesus “becoming the guarantee of a better covenant” (Heb 7:22).

In Hebrews chapter 8, we have the most detailed explanation of the covenants.  “But now Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (Heb 8:6).  Jesus ushered in a better covenant enacted on better promises.  It really is new and improved in the fullest sense of the phrase.

The author continues, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.  For finding fault with them God says [now quoting from Jeremiah], ‘Behold days are coming when I will effect a new covenant…’ ” (Heb 8:7-8).  (We believe this is the new covenant promised by Jesus in Luke 22 that came to us through His blood.)

The writer continues his long quote from Jeremiah in verses 8 through 12 about the promise of the new covenant and concludes with this thought in verse 13, “When God said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete.  But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear”  (Heb 8:13).

The Message Bible says it this way, “By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and His people, God put the old plan on the shelf.  And there it stays, gathering dust” (Heb 8:13).  There it stays, gathering dust.  What a word picture.

So I think we can see in the New Testament a clear message that the Old Testament, the Old Covenant, the old arrangement is over.  So what do we do with that information?  Do we just tear out the obsolete and outdated Old Testament from our Bibles and move on?  We will talk about it next time.