I know I really should, but I don't always update my computer and other electronic devices as regularly as possible. It seems that every time I log on, my laptop is asking me to download a software update or my iPhone is asking me if I want to update a whole host of apps. Speaking of my iPhone, I have a "restaurant app" which gives me nutritional information for a slue of popular restaurants to assist me in making healthy choices when I got out to eat. I had not used this app in quite a while, but the other day, I decided I wanted to look at some information on a burger. So I brought up the app. No sooner did the program appear than I was met with a message: "There is updated restaurant information available, would you like to download it now?" I hit "download." Next came the message, "Downloading 1 of 2734 items." "Hmm," I thought to myself, "Maybe I don't need to know the nutritional information on that burger after all."
In our reading for today from Hebrews 8, the preacher of Hebrews speaks of an update. But this update is not for some computer program; rather it is an update for the covenant God has made with his people:
The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (verses 8-12)
God has declared, "It is time for an updated covenant. A better covenant. A covenant which cannot be broken by the sins of men, but instead is written on the hearts of men and is upheld by my forgiveness as I remember the sins of my people no more." And this updated, better, new covenant, of course, is fulfilled by Christ. The preacher then concludes concerning this new covenant: "By calling this covenant 'new,' God has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear" (verse 13). The updated covenant has superseded the old.
A few key words need to be noted in order to understand the full punch of the preacher's polemics. First, the Greek word for "obsolete" is palaio'o, which carries with it the sense of something that is worn out and used up. This is the word Jesus uses in Luke 12:33 when he says, "Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out (Greek: palaio'o), a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." The old covenant, then, is worn out and broken down. It is time for a new model. But the preacher is not done yet. He also calls this covenant "aging." The Greek word here is gerasko, from whence we get our English word "geriatric." This old covenant is so old that it belongs in the geriatric ward! Finally, the preacher says this covenant will "soon disappear." The Greek word for "disappear" is aphanismous, loosely related to our English word "phantom." Upon the coming of Christ, the old covenant becomes nothing but a phantom.
All of this is to say that the old covenant has received a major update in Christ. Indeed, it has not just been updated, a whole new model has arrived! But in a world where updates race toward us so fast that we could probably spend days just updating our electronics, this may hardly strike us as good news. However, this update in Christ, blessedly, is the only update there is, for it is given by a "Son who has been made perfect forever" (Hebrews 7:28). No more updates are needed.
This time of year, we celebrate the advent of God's updated covenant. For God's updated covenant came not as a download off a website, but as a baby in a manger. And this updated covenant does not need our maintenance, for it is maintained by Christ's faithfulness and not ours. Praise be to God for his updated - and forever perfect - covenant!