God and the Covenant

Nehemiah 10, Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 8

God and the Covenant

(Nehemiah 10, Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8)

Copr. 2019, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 Biblica, Inc. (TM), unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link:. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: One of the positive things about being an American lawyer and a student of the Bible is that many of our legal concepts reflect Biblical ideas. A covenant, which is our subject in this lesson, is like a contract. A contract is voluntary, is intended to benefit both parties, and is enforceable. Contracts are not supposed to depend on how you feel on one particular day, and should not be broken just because you no longer see the benefit. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and explore the topic of God’s covenant with His people!

  1. The Contract
    1. Let’s review by reading Nehemiah 9:1-2 and Nehemiah 9:38. What led to this “binding agreement?” (First, the people listened to the reading of God’s law. They rejoiced in their new knowledge and they were distressed about how they were out of harmony with God’s will for them. They reviewed their corporate history with God and decided that they would enter into a written agreement to obey God.)
    1. Skim over Nehemiah 10:1-27. It lists the leaders who “sealed” the agreement. What does that mean? (One commentary said that it meant using a tool to make an impression with your name. Perhaps it also means signing it. It appears that these were people who were used to creating formal documents.)
    1. Read Nehemiah 10:28-29. What did the rest of the people do? (They agreed to the contract without actually signing it. I suspect these were people who were not used to being a part of a formal document.)
      1. Was this contract enforceable against those who did not actually sign? (Those who did not sign, gave an oath and agreed to a curse if they failed to follow the contract. This was a serious matter.)
  1. Terms
    1. Read Nehemiah 10:30. Would you make this the first provision in the contract? (According to Genesis 2:24, you become “one flesh” in marriage. How can you remain faithful to God if half of you has different interests and goals?)
      1. I was reading a magazine for former church members who love to attack the church. One attacker, while explaining all the problems that caused him to leave the church, mentioned that he married someone who did not share his beliefs. Instantly, I knew the real reason he left.
    2. Read Nehemiah 10:31. Why would a Sabbath conduct provision be included, much less listed second?
      1. Is it like the first provision? (I think these two provisions have a common goal - keeping God’s people from being distracted from their relationship with God. If the Sabbath becomes a regular day of work and trading, you lose that special time with God.)
    1. Nehemiah 10:32-39 has to do with supporting the temple. These provisions complete the agreement. How do you explain this agreement? It says nothing about agreeing to love God. Would you decide on these particular provisions for an agreement with God?
      1. Why would God create the contract this way? (When you step back and think about it, this contract is about God’s people interacting with Him. When Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart,” (see Matthew 22:36-38), I think that reflects this contract. The contract was to help the people develop a relationship with God.)
  1. Everlasting Agreement
    1. Read Genesis 17:1-2. What are the terms of this contract?
      1. What did Abram promise?(Abram was to “walk” in a faithful and blameless way. I think “walk” means the general direction of his life.)
      1. What did God promise? (That Abram would have many descendants.)
    1. Read Genesis 17:7. What is the essential purpose of this agreement? (To have a special relationship between God, Abraham and Abraham’s descendants.)
    1. Bible scholars list many covenants between God and His people. They talk about the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant.” Do you think God’s purpose and plan for humans has changed?
      1. If not, what reason would God have for several different covenants?
      2. Do you think the agreement between God and His followers changed after Jesus’ resurrection?
    1. Let’s explore these questions by considering a covenant that God speaks about in the Old Testament. Read Jeremiah 31:31-32. What does God say in the Old Testament about the two covenants? (He says that the new one will not be like the old one.)
      1. Why are they different? (God’s people did not keep the Old Covenant.)
      2. How does God identify the Old Covenant? (He connects it to the exodus from Egypt.)
    1. Read Jeremiah 31:33. Does this New Covenant do away with the law? (No.)
      1. What do you think it means to put the law in “their minds” and to write it “on their hearts?” (The Ten Commandments were written in stone. This suggests the New Covenant involves wanting to do God’s will.)
    1. Read Ezekiel 36:26-27. How does this Old Testament text suggest this will be done? Why will we want to obey God? (The Holy Spirit will be in us. We will have a “new heart.”)
    1. Read Ezekiel 36:28-29. What is God’s role in this new arrangement? (He is not only our God, which is the historic agreement, but He saves us from sin.)
    1. Read Jeremiah 31:34. Why won’t we need Bible teachers? (I’m not sure this means we won’t need Bible teachers at all, but it does reinforce the idea that God’s law in written in our minds and hearts.)
    1. Read Hebrews 8:10-12. Does this sound familiar? (Yes, this quotes what we just read in Jeremiah 31!)
      1. Step back a minute and consider this. Has God changed the agreement with humans? (Yes. Read Hebrews 8:13.)
      2. Has God always planned to make this change? (It certainly seems that way. Long ago the Old Testament prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke of this coming new arrangement.)
    1. Let’s examine this change. Read Hebrews 8:1-2. How does this connect the Old and New Covenants? (It tells us that we still have a sacrificial system.)
    1. Read Hebrews 8:3-6. Notice the words “the new covenant is established on better promises.” What does that mean for us? (We have better terms! Our contract has been upgraded!)
    1. Read Hebrews 7:23-25. Why is this a better term?
    1. Read Hebrews 7:26-27 and Hebrews 10:14. How is this a better term? (Jesus sacrificed Himself once. That forever defeated the sin problem for those who claim His sacrifice. His one sacrifice took the place of the repeated sacrificing.)
    1. Read Hebrews 10:4 and Hebrews 10:14. What is the same between the Old and New Covenants? (Sin brings death. That is the point of all of the death connected with the sacrificial system. The good news then and now is that our sins do not bring our permanent death. God’s people were never sacrificed for their sins. God found a way for a substitute to die. The death that releases us forever from our sins is Jesus’ death!)
    • Friend, when you get to know Jesus you want to enter into His contract. What a great, generous and loving God! Will you decide, right now, to accept God’s offer?
  1. Next week: Trials, Tribulations, and Lists.