By Jesse ben Yosef. Revised 1-31-2016.
Image borrowed from HaShem (The Name) In the World Artworks
Being raised in the Church, I entered into the Torah keeping movement with the understanding I had been raised with, that the “New Covenant,” as prophesied in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, was forged when Yeshua was crucified, resurrected, or ascended; but as I delved into both the Torah and the Gospels, I came to the understanding that this is not what the Scriptures teach.
What I mean is this: within the pages of the Torah, two separate covenants are clearly outlined. One is a foundation, or a starting point, and the other as a renewal of, or an expansion of, the first one. While the majority of the Torah itself gives us the explicit details of the commonly accepted “first covenant,” but the “New Covenant” (or as some call it, the “Renewed Covenant”) has its origin not in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36, or even in the Gospels, be is rather found in Deuteronomy 29, where all of Israel was assembled before the base of Mount Moab, and accepted the Torah that had been given to them.
The origin of the “New Covenant”
We read in Deuteronomy 29:1-4, “These are the words of the covenant which HaShem commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which he made with them in Horeb. Moses called to all Israel, and said to them, ‘You have seen all that HaShem did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land; the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders: but HaShem has not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, until this day.’”
Please note, that this covenant made at Moab was separate and distinct from the covenant that was previously made at Horeb, (a reference to Mount Sinai) the covenant made with their forefathers. Until the day that the covenant at Moab had been made, the people of Israel had not been given a heart to know, eyes to see, or ears to hear, since the covenant made at Horeb (Sinai) with their forefathers was not made with the heart. However, from that point going forward- as the wording of Deuteronomy 29:4 implies- the covenant made at Moab was to be made with the heart of the people.
Immediately following the Sh’ma, Deuteronomy 6:6-9 speaks of the coming of the New Covenant, the one which HaShem would make with His people at Moab: “These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; 6:7 and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for symbols between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.” It was from that point going forward, that the Torah was to be written on the hearts of God’s people.
New vs. Renewed
The Hebrew word for “new”, “chadasha”, can also be translated as “renewed”. In this case, the “brit chadasha”, or “New Covenant,” can also be considered a “Renewed Covenant”. In the context of the Covenant, it should be clear that God’s pattern, throughout the Scriptures, is not to have “old-then-new” covenants, but rather to have “first-then-renewed” covenants.
A perfect picture of this analogy between the covenants at Horeb (Sinai) and Moab, following the “first-then-renewed” pattern, can be seen in the account of Moses and the golden calf.
We read in Exodus 32:15-16, 19, that “Moses turned, and went down from the mountain, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand; tablets that were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tables… It happened, as soon as he came near to the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing: and Moses’ anger grew hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mountain.” And a few chapters later we read in Exodus 34:1-4, “HaShem said to Moses, ‘Chisel two stone tablets like the first: and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you; neither let anyone be seen throughout all the mountain; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.’ He chiseled two tablets of stone like the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up to Mount Sinai, as HaShem had commanded him, and took in his hand two stone tablets.”
Notice that both sets of tablets contained the words of God, written by the Hand of God Himself, and the content of each of the two sets of tablets was absolutely identical. The same covenant that was made, then broken by the people, was renewed again.
What about the “New Covenant” of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36?
The covenant made at Moab would later serve as the basis of the “New Covenant” promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34, “‘Behold, the days come,’ says HaShem, ‘That I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ says HaShem. ‘But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ says HaShem: ‘I will put My Torah in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know HaShem;” for they shall all know Me, from their least to their greatest,’ says HaShem: ‘For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.”
This text is quoted in the Letter to the Hebrews (8:8-12), positioning Yeshua as the collateral (7:22), the mediator (8:6, 9:15, 12:24), and the high priest (5:10, 6:20, 7:26-28, 9:11-12, etc.) of this same covenant.
This covenant made at Moab would also serve as the basis of the “New Covenant” promised in Ezekiel 36:24-31, “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My ordinances, and do them. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness: and I will call for the grain, and will multiply it, and lay no famine on you. I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that you may receive no more the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you shall remember your evil ways, and your doings that were not good; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.”
Notice that God says in Jeremiah that this New Covenant will be made “…not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them…” Just like the covenant that had been made at Moab, the New Covenant is made with the heart; hence He says, “I will put My Torah in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it…”
Of course, the Torah being placed within the heart is not a new concept at all. He said in Deuteronomy 10:16, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.” And Deuteronomy 11:18, “Therefore you shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul…” And also Deuteronomy 26:16, “This day HaShem your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances: you shall therefore keep and do them with all your heart, and with all your soul.” And lastly Deuteronomy 30:14, “The word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.”
A clear outline of the “New Covenant”
Based on a general, non-denominational, non-interpretive, reading of the text of Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:24-31, the following points are discernible:
- The New Covenant is established by God Himself.
- The New Covenant is made with the “House of Israel” and the “House of Judah.”
- The New Covenant is not like the broken covenant made with Moses at Mount Sinai.
- The Law of God is written in their thinking and their affections.
- The Father will be their God, and they will be His people.
- Every single member of the New Covenant knows God in an intimate way.
- The sins of the members of the New Covenant are forgiven by God, and will never be recalled.
- The People of Israel will be drawn out of the nations, and will be returned to the Land of Israel.
- The recipients of the New Covenant will be successful in their labors.
Each and every point from this list fits perfectly with the definition of the New Covenant as given in Deuteronomy 29, describing the Torah and the covenant at Moab. These points do not, however, fit with the modern understanding that the New Covenant would be based on an abolition of the Torah, taken from the Jews, and made with a religious assembly of gentiles. In fact, the “gentile church” is not mentioned anywhere within the New Covenant, according to Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36. On the contrary, according to Ezekiel, the New Covenant will also include keeping the Torah. Ezekiel 36:27 says, speaking of the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel whom Yeshua came to redeem, “I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My ordinances, and do them.”
The New Covenant: What it is Not
A common misunderstanding- one that I had accepted for many years- is that the New Covenant is the New Testament, that the two terms are synonymous for the same thing. Even in Messianic circles, it is a common practice to refer to the New Testament as the “Brit Chadashah,” which in Hebrew means “New Covenant.”
Friends, I do not believe this to be the case.
Although I do not always agree with their theology, First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) has put together a great teaching explaining why the New Testament is not the New Covenant, and why they use the term “Apostolic Scriptures,” and not the “Brit Chadashah,” when referring to the New Testament writings.
The Purpose of the “New Testament”
The very term “New Testament” is actually very misleading. Yes, the Writings of the Apostles are “New” in the sense that they did not exist prior to the first century; and yes, they do meet the legal definition of a “Testament” in that they testify to a specific event; but the idea that the Writings of the Apostles somehow stands alone and/or supersedes the writings of the Moses and the Prophets (i.e. the “Old Testament”) is fictitious at best, and dangerous at worst.
The entire corpus of New Testament writings were given as a guide to us, the remnant of the Northern Kingdom, the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel, who had been scattered to all the nations for forsaking God’s commandments, turn our hearts to repentance. The Scriptures- both Old Testament, and New- were given exclusively to the two Houses of Israel; to Judah and Israel. To that extent, the “New Testament” and the “Gospel Message” were given to us to point us back to the source- the Torah, as it was practiced by the Messiah.
Yeshua, by His own admission, stated in Matthew 15:24, “I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now who was the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 prophesied to be made with? Certainly not a religious assembly of gentiles, but rather “…with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah…” Just like the covenant at Moab in Deuteronomy 29, the New Covenant will be made specifically with both Houses of Israel!
When viewing the New Covenant through the eyes of the Hebrew prophets, starting with the covenant at Moab in Detueronomy 29, the case is easy to see, that the New Covenant is purely and simply a renewal of the Torah, the covenant that had been made with the children of Israel, and they had likewise broken, only to be scattered to the nations. Through Yeshua’s blood, it will one day- not today, but one day- to be written upon the hearts of the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel, and will be ratified at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, when HaShem will bring us out with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out; when Yeshua will be king over us; when He will bring you us out from among all the nations of the world, and when He gathers us out of the countries to which we had been scattered. It is there that HaShem will bring us into the wilderness, and it is there that Yeshua will enter into judgment with us, face to face. (Ezekiel 20:33-35) I believe it is there that we will ratify the New Covenant, both Houses of Israel, once and forever.