The same was true in the New Testament. The Jews had again broken the covenant of love and it had to be renewed. “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men… You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” Mark 7:8, 9.
When the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem, they renewed the broken covenant. Jeremiah 31:23 explicitly states that the “new” covenant is for the returning exiles. The “new” covenant was simply a renewal of the old covenant, since they had broken it. All of this is confirmed in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was in the service of King Artaxersis and returned to Jerusalem to help renew the covenant. If you read chapter nine entirely, pay close attention to verses 13, 16, 17, 29, 32, 34, 38. In chapter 10 this is shown specifically in verse 29.
So why did the writer of Hebrews bring Jeremiah up for discussion if it was for the Jews coming back from exile in 538/37 BC? Because he wanted to remind the readers of the fact – which they knew all too well - that Israel was always breaking the covenant. As such, God was always renewing it. His point being that it should come as no great surprise that the Jews had broken it again and it needed to be renewed again.
But unlike the other renewals, this time the “Civil Codes” and “Temple Rituals” of the covenant were no longer needed. The covenant of love, the Ten Commandments, remained the same. Only the civil, national and temple codes of the covenant had been done away with.
Let me take you back into history and help you to “see” the dynamics at work, and the words that are used to help us understand this concept better:
2. God renewed the Covenant with Noah. a. Terms of this Covenant: Obedience to the Ten Commandments.
3. God renewed the covenant with Abraham and his descendants to give them the Land of Promise. a. Terms of this Covenant: Obedience to the Ten Commandments.
As the Israelites came out of Egypt, they were fresh from the hand of slavery. God wanted to make a great nation out of slaves. Using the Ten Commandments as their foundation and guide, the Israelites developed righteous decrees that explained how to implement the Ten Commandments into a workable civil code. These civil codes are found in the texts used in the illustration at the end of the chapter.
The decrees and some regulations were for the Israelites as a nation. They were an orderly codification of the principles of the Ten Commandments. As long as Israel stayed faithful to God He allowed them to remain as His nation and the throne of David enforced the national decrees.
But the Israelites rebelled against God and broke His covenant. He refused to forgive them - 2 Kings 24:3, 4 - and sent them off to exile. “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God.” “The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right.” “But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers who did not trust in the Lord their God.” “The Lord had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do’, and they did the same things the Lord had forbidden them to do.” “They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God.” “And sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking Him to anger. So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His presence.” 2 Kings 17:7, 9, 14-18.
Civil codes were fine for civil order and justice, but the people still needed to be brought back into oneness and order with Heaven and Heaven’s government. The ordinances and the other regulations had to do with temple worship. This is where the second part of the codes of the covenant came into play. The temple services brought them back into a relationship with the Kingdom of God.
Through the temple service, praise and honor, faith and hope, ascended to God. Through communion with God, study and prayer, the people received the Holy Spirit of God to give them the power to obey God’s Ten Commandments. They now were clean and obedient to God’s law and the civil government.
The sacrificial, symbolic services helped the listeners to grasp by faith the reality of their prayers and acts of service and devotion. Through the symbolic services they could be sure and certain that the Messiah would come to blot out all the past sins that they had confessed and turned away from. As the cross of Christ was lifted up, the Jewish nation no longer needed the symbols and shadows to point them to the Messiah. The substance had died. The lamb was no longer needed. The candlesticks were no longer needed. The bread was no longer needed. The altar of incense and basin of water were no longer needed. The feast days were no longer needed. Instead of looking forward in faith to the Messiah, we could now look back in faith to the Messiah. SAME faith, SAME gospel, SAME salvation in both Old and New Testament. Only the symbols changed. “The former regulation (those referring to the temple) is set aside because it was weak and useless, (for the law [the written code of Moses] made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:18, 19. (Brackets added for clarification)
The Ten Commandments were never done away with. It has only been opened to us through a better and living way, Jesus Christ, not by symbols or shadows. “Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is His body.” Hebrews 10:19, 20.