For finding fault with them - The meaning is evidently this: God, in order to show that the first covenant was inefficient, saith to them, the Israelites, Behold, the days come when I will make a new covenant, etc. He found fault with the covenant, and addressed the people concerning his purpose of giving another covenant, that should be such as the necessities of mankind required. As this place refers to Jeremiah 31:31-34, the words finding fault with them may refer to the Jewish people, of whom the Lord complains that they had broken his covenant though he was a husband to them. See below.
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - That is, with all the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob. This is thought to be a promise of the conversion of all the Jews to Christianity; both of the lost tribes, and of those who are known to exist in Asiatic and European countries.
For finding fault with them - Or rather, “finding fault, he says to them.” The difference is only in the punctuation, and this change is required by the passage itself. This is commonly interpreted as meaning that the fault was not found with “them” - that is, with the Jewish people, for they had had nothing to do in giving the covenant, but “with the covenant itself.” “Stating its defects, he had said to them that he would give them one more perfect, and of which that was only preparatory.” So Grotius, Stuart, Rosenmuller, and Erasmus understand it. Doddridge, Koppe, and many others understand it as it is in our translation, as implying that the fault was found with the people, and they refer to the passage quoted from Jeremiah for proof, where the complaint is of the people. The Greek may bear either construction; but may we not adopt a somewhat different interpretation still?
May not this be the meaning? For using the language of complaint, or language that implied that there was defect or error, he speaks of another covenant. According to this, the idea would be, not that he found fault specifically either with the covenant or the people, but generally that he used language which implied that there was defect somewhere when he promised another and a better covenant. The word rendered “finding fault” properly means to censure, or to blame. It is rendered in Mark 7:2, “they found fault,” to wit, with those who ate with unwashed hands; in Romans 9:19, “why doth he yet find fault?” It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, It is language used where wrong has been done; where there is ground of complaint; where it is desirable that there should be a change. In the passage here quoted from Jeremiah, it is not expressly stated that God found fault either with the covenant or with the people, but that he promised that he would give another covenant, and that it should be “different” from what he gave them when they came out of Egypt - implying that there was defect in that, or that it was not “faultless.” The whole meaning is, that there was a deficiency which the giving of a new covenant would remove.
He saith - In Jeremiah 31:31-34. The apostle has not quoted the passage literally as it is in the Hebrew, but he has retained the substance, and the sense is not essentially varied. The quotation appears to have been made partly from the Septuagint, and partly from memory. This often occurs in the New Testament.
Behold - This particle is designed to call attention to what was about to be said as important, or as having some special claim to notice. It is of very frequent occurrence in the Scriptures, being much more freely used by the sacred writers than it is in the classic authors.
The days come - The time is coming. This refers doubtless to the times of the Messiah. Phrases such as these, “in the last days,” “in after times,” and “the time is coming,” are often used in the Old Testament to denote the last dispensation of the world - the dispensation when the affairs of the world would be wound up; see the phrase explained in the Hebrews 1:2 note, and Isaiah 2:2 note. There can be no doubt that as it is used by Jeremiah it refers to the times of the gospel.
When I will make a new covenant - A covenant that shall contemplate somewhat different ends; that shall have different conditions, and that shall be more effective in restraining from sin. The word “covenant” here refers to the arrangement, plan, or dispensation into which he would enter in his dealings with people. On the meaning of the word, see the Acts 7:8 note, and Hebrews 9:16-17 notes. The word “covenant” with us commonly denotes a compact or agreement between two parties that are equal, and who are free to enter into the agreement or not. In this sense, of course, it cannot be used in relation to the arrangement which God makes with man. There is:
(1)no equality between them, and,
(2)man is not at liberty to reject any proposal which God shall make.
The word, therefore, is used in a more general sense, and more in accordance with the original meaning of the Greek word. It has been above remarked (see the notes on Hebrews 8:6), that the “proper” word to denote “covenant,” or “compact” - συνθηκη sunthēkē- “syntheke” - is never used either in the Septuagint or in the New Testament - another word - διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - being carefully employed. Whether the reason there suggested for the adoption of this word in the Septuagint be the real one or not, the fact is indisputable. I may be allowed to suggest as possible here an additional reason why this so uniformly occurs in the New Testament. It is, that the writers of the New Testament never meant to represent the transactions between God and man as a “compact or covenant” properly so called. They have studiously avoided it, and their uniform practice, in making this nice distinction between the two words, may show the real sense in which the Hebrew word rendered “covenant” - בּרית beriyt- is used in the Old Testament. The word which they employ - διαθήκη diathēkē- never means a compact or agreement as between equals.
It remotely and secondarily means a “will, or testament” - and hence, our phrase “New Testament.” But this is not the sense in which it is used in the Bible - for God has never made a will in the sense of a testamentary disposition of what belongs to him. We are referred; therefore, in order to arrive at the true Scripture view of this whole matter, to the original meaning of the word - διαθήκη diathēkē- as denoting a “disposition, arrangement, plan;” then what is ordered, a law, precept, promise, etc. Unhappily we have no single word which expresses the idea, and hence, a constant error has existed in the church - either keeping up the notion of a “compact” - as if God could make one with people; or the idea of a will - equally repugnant to truth. The word διαθήκη diathēkēis derived from a verb - διατίθημι diatithēmi- meaning to place apart, to set in order; and then to appoint, to make over, to make an arrangement with. Hence, the word διαθήκη diathēkē- means properly the “arrangement or disposition” which God made with people in regard to salvation; the system of statutes, directions, laws, and promises by which people are to become subject to him, and to be saved. The meaning here is, that he would make a “new” arrangement, contemplating as a primary thing that the Law should be written in the “heart;” an arrangement which would be especially spiritual in its character, and which would be attended with the diffusion of just views of the Lord.
With the house of Israel - The family, or race of Israel, for so the word “house” is often used in the Scriptures and elsewhere. The word “Israel” is used in the Scriptures in the following senses:
(1)as a name given to Jacob because he wrestled with the angel of God and prevailed as a prince; Genesis 32:28.
(2)as denoting all who were descended from him - called “the children of Israel” - or the Jewish nation.
(3)as denoting the kingdom of the ten tribes - or the kingdom of Samaria, or Ephraim - that kingdom having taken the name Israel in contradistinction from the other kingdom, which was called “Judah.”
In this place quoted from Jeremiah, it seems to be used to denote the kingdom of Israel in contradistinction from that of Judah, and “together they denote the whole people of God, or the whole Hebrew nation.” This arrangement was ratified and confirmed by the gift of the Messiah, and by implanting his laws in the heart. It is not necessary to understand this as referring to the whole of the Jews, or to the restoration of the ten tribes; but the words “Israel” and “Judah” are used to denote the people of God in general, and the idea is, that with the true Israel under the Messiah the laws of God would be written in the heart rather than be mere external observances.
And with the house of Judah - The kingdom of Judah. This kingdom consisted of two tribes - Judah and Benjamin. The tribe of Benjamin was, however, small, and the name was lost in that of Judah.
Another compact—called in Scripture the “old” covenant—was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice. The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the “second,” or “new,” covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant. That the new covenant was valid in the days of Abraham is evident from the fact that it was then confirmed both by the promise and by the oath of God—the “two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie.” Hebrews 6:18. PP 371.1
But if the Abrahamic covenant contained the promise of redemption, why was another covenant formed at Sinai? In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant. In delivering them from Egypt, God sought to reveal to them His power and His mercy, that they might be led to love and trust Him. He brought them down to the Red Sea—where, pursued by the Egyptians, escape seemed impossible—that they might realize their utter helplessness, their need of divine aid; and then He wrought deliverance for them. Thus they were filled with love and gratitude to God and with confidence in His power to help them. He had bound them to Himself as their deliverer from temporal bondage. PP 371.2
But there was a still greater truth to be impressed upon their minds. Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God's law, and their need of a Saviour. All this they must be taught. PP 371.3
God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience: “If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ... ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Exodus 19:5, 6. The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God's law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” Exodus 24:7. They had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant. PP 371.4Read in context »
Christ is able to save to the uttermost all who come to Him in faith. He will cleanse them from all defilement if they will let Him. But if they cling to their sins, they cannot possibly be saved; for Christ's righteousness covers no sin unrepented of. God has declared that those who receive Christ as their Redeemer, accepting Him as the One who takes away all sin, will receive pardon for their transgressions. These are the terms of our election. Man's salvation depends upon his receiving Christ by faith. Those who will not receive Him lose eternal life because they refused to avail themselves of the only means provided by the Father and the Son for the salvation of a perishing world (Manuscript 142, 1899). 7BC 931.1
Personal Character of Christ's Intercession—Christ is watching. He knows all about our burdens, our dangers, and our difficulties; and He fills His mouth with arguments in our behalf. He fits His intercessions to the needs of each soul, as He did in the case of Peter.... Our Advocate fills His mouth with arguments to teach His tried, tempted ones to brace against Satan's temptations. He interprets every movement of the enemy. He orders events (Letter 90, 1906). 7BC 931.2Read in context »
25 (see EGW on Malachi 3:16). Seeking the Assembly of the Saints—Those who do not feel the necessity of seeking the assembly of the saints, with the precious assurance that the Lord will meet with them, show how lightly they value the help that God has provided for them. Satan is constantly at work to wound and poison the soul; in order to withstand his efforts we must breathe the atmosphere of heaven. We must individually get hold and keep hold of Christ (Manuscript 16, 1890). 7BC 934.2Read in context »
Just as long as you allow pride to dwell in your hearts, so long will you lack power in your work. For years a wrong spirit has been cherished, a spirit of pride, a desire for preeminence. In this Satan is served, and God is dishonored. The Lord calls for a decided reformation.... Let [a truly reconverted soul] renew his covenant with God, and God will renew His covenant with him.... Let angels and men see that there is forgiveness of sin with God. Extraordinary power from God must take hold of Seventh-day Adventist churches. Reconversion must take place among the members, that as God's witnesses they may testify to the authoritative power of the truth that sanctifies the soul. Renewed, purified, sanctified, the church must be, else the wrath of God will fall upon them with much greater power than upon those who have never professed to be saints. LHU 301.2Read in context »
The blessings of the new covenant are grounded purely on mercy in forgiving unrighteousness and sins. The Lord specifies, I will do thus and thus unto all who turn to Me, forsaking the evil and choosing the good. “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12). All who humble their hearts, confessing their sins, will find mercy and grace and assurance. TMK 299.2
Has God, in showing mercy to the sinner, ceased to be just? Has He dishonored His holy law, and will He henceforth pass over the violation of it? God is true. He changes not. The conditions of salvation are ever the same. Life, eternal life, is for all who will obey God's law. Perfect obedience, revealed in thought, word, and deed, is as essential now as when the lawyer asked Christ, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? how readest thou? .... this do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:25-28). TMK 299.3
Under the new covenant the conditions by which eternal life may be gained are the same as under the old—perfect obedience. Under the old covenant there were many offences of a daring, presumptuous character for which there was no atonement specified by law. In the new and better covenant Christ has fulfilled the law for the transgressors of law if they receive Him by faith as a personal Saviour.... Mercy and forgiveness are the reward of all who come to Christ trusting in His merits to take away their sins. In the better covenant we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ.... The sinner is helpless to atone for one sin. The power is in Christ's free gift, a promise appreciated by those only who are sensible of their sins and who forsake their sins and cast their helpless souls upon Christ, the sin-pardoning Saviour. He will put into their hearts His perfect law, which is “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12), the law of God's own nature.24 TMK 299.4Read in context »