The same case could be made concerning the Old (a. k. a. Mosaic) and New Covenants although in the Biblical understanding, the Mosaic Covenant has not been “redecorated” or replaced. It is an everlasting covenant and therefore still in effect (Ex. 31:16; Lev. 3:17; 23:21, 41; Num. 10:8; 18:19). But in regards to enabling humankind to have a relationship with God, it has become obsolete (Heb. 8:13) and will eventually disappear as some of its practices already have. A comparison is made of the two in Hebrews 12:18-24 and a short recap of the events at Mt. Sinai are in order here (Ex. 19:1-25). The miraculous deliverance from Egypt was recent history. The people were now heading toward the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses. They have come to this mountain and God instructs them to prepare for His coming (vv. 9-15). When God arrives it is a terrifying experience (vv. 16-25). The sound of God’s words are so powerful the people cannot stand up under the weight of them and they beg to be relieved of the sound and for Moses to stand between them and God (Ex. 19:16; Dt. 5:4-5; Heb. 12:19-20).
While the Covenant at Sinai takes place in the wilderness at a mountain which cannot be touched, where God reveals Himself through some of Nature’s most powerful special effects that reduces both the people and Moses to fear and trembling (Heb. 12:18-21), the New Covenant is forged at Mt. Zion in the New Jerusalem with myriads of angels and believers of past ages standing before God the Judge of all and Jesus acting as the Mediator of the New Covenant with His blood as the guarantee of acceptance (Heb. 12:22-24). What exactly is a covenant? The Greek word here is diatheke and in this particular passage it is not used in the sense of a conditional contract, which is basically what the Mosaic Covenant was (Ex. 19:5-8; 20-23), rather it means an unconditional promise and in the New Testament it is always used in regards to Christ and His shed blood (Heb. 9:11-14). Jesus is designated as the Mediator of the “new” Covenant. It is not “new” in the sense of it being different (the word ailon would be used for that kind of new). It is neos, a word conveying the same idea as when a product announces it is “new and improved”. It is the same thing, only better.
We are all familiar with the concept of a mediator. In our day and age a mediator is someone who negotiates a deal or settlement when one or both parties have been wronged. The Biblical concept can be broader and does not assume a negative reason for bringing two parties together. This role is ascribed to Moses (Ex. 20:18-21; Dt. 5:1-5; Gal. 3:19-20) and to Jesus (1Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). However Jesus is the superior of the two. This is because Jesus’ blood “speaks better than the blood of Abel”. Abel’s blood was shed over jealousy and envy (Gen. 4:1-16). One commentator wrote, “The expiatory nature of Christ’s shed blood is better than Abel’s blood which only cried out for vengeance.” Simply put, Christ’s blood is all about redemption not retribution.
Jesus has made it possible for us to have a “new and improved” relationship with God. While Moses mediated a covenant that brought temporary relief and forgiveness, Jesus mediates a far superior covenant (Heb. 9:15-22; 10:1, 10-14). Thanks to our Mediator we can now be at peace in our relationship with the Lord (Rom. 5:1-2). His blood has permanently paid the debt we incurred from Sin (Heb. 9:11-12, 24-28). While earthly mediators must inevitably encourage one or both parties they represent to compromise in order to bring the deal to a conclusion, there was no compromise on the part of Jesus. You no longer have to earn God’s favor or forgiveness. Christ has negotiated both through His sacrificial death (Heb. 10:19-22) and now we can approach God with gratitude on our lips (Heb. 12:28).
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 5/8/2016