The New (and Different) Covenant

Heritage Presbyterian Church

8th Sunday after Pentecost
July 23, 2023

Scripture reading: Hebrews 8:1-13

[Intro] During the months of June and July, I have been preaching about God’s various covenants with his people, as described in the Old Testament.  Today’s covenant is the final one I will be preaching: a new – and different – covenant that Jeremiah described 500 years before Christ, and the writer of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews echoed about 40 years after Christ ascended into Heaven.  Let us pray…

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah and the New Testament writer of the Letter to the Hebrews both wrote about a “new covenant.”  If we didn’t know it, most of us might think Jesus brought this up, but that is not correct.  Jeremiah wrote the Lord’s words to him after the fall of Jerusalem 500 years before Jesus’ birth, and the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews echoed Jeremiah’s words at least 40 years after Jesus finished his earthly work.  But that new and very different covenant had been on the books, so to speak, for centuries before it went into effect through the work of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

But why did this new covenant from God even occur in the first place?  And why did God completely change it from previous covenants?

I will use three stories to answer those questions.

Story #1: The Boss sat in His office going over the yearly sales figures.  Despite a glorious history, the best salespeople money can buy, a quality product, and a loyal customer base, the figures were disturbing.  For whatever reason, sales were dropping, and there was no single reason for it.

Maybe their customer base had changed.

Maybe their products were not as good as they thought.

Maybe competitors were taking away more of the market share than anyone realized.

Maybe…maybe the Boss was doing something wrong.

The Boss cared a great deal about his company and their products.  He cared a great deal about their reputation among other companies.  But most of all, He cared deeply about His salespeople and wanted to do right by them.

So, instead of tinkering with previous ideas that seemed good at the time, the Boss decided this time would be different.

This time would involve an all-new approach to everything.

The Boss rewrote His previous plans using some of the same salespeople from the past, but He also made sure they understood in crystal clear terms what they were now supposed to do.  The same products were for sale, but this time, the approach would be for the customers to decide instead of the salespeople talking them into it. 

  • “Hard sells” were abolished.
  • Top-down management was abolished; local entities made their own decisions under the guidance of the central office.  Yes, the Boss was still in charge, but that leadership was spread out over an untold number of people.
  • Women AND men were now in leadership roles…a move that was long overdue (and very VERY different).
  • Individual customers could speak directly with the Boss at any time and for any reason.  They were no longer required to use their salesperson to do it for them.
  • More than anything else, the Boss wanted both His salespeople AND their customers to understand clearly and completely that His company was there to serve, to care for them, and to be there for the long haul –
    • not just for the initial sale;
    • not just when sales were going well, but also when things were going badly;
    • not just to make their end-of-year sales figures look good each year.
  • These new ideas would be so internalized that they were virtually written on the hearts of everyone.

The first change in this new covenant was the fact that it was not like any previous covenants.  Those had only worked for a short while.  Like a boss restructuring his company, this new plan was completely new and completely different.


Story #2: As soon as the Boss explained the new plan to his salespeople and their customers, trouble began.  Because most people dislike change – especially radical change, the Boss knew they would be upset.

Immediately, the salespeople wondered, “Why do we have to get rid of everything we’re already doing?  Why can’t we just change a little here, a little there, and go with what we’ve always done?”

The Boss replied, “Because it won’t work.”

“But our loyal customers won’t like it.  They won’t welcome all the new stuff because it will be so different than what we’ve done before.”

The Boss replied, “I’m not looking to make them happy.”

The salespeople grumbled and looked at one another with dismay.  Clearly, they were upset, and the Boss might lose some of them…perhaps even most of them.  It appeared that their previous loyal work and attention to the details of the time didn’t count much anymore.

Still, the Boss continued.

“Have you ever seen a great building burn to the ground?  It’s an amazing yet upsetting sight, isn’t it?  But what almost always happens if the people involved in that building want it replaced?  They scrape away the old, burned-out timbers, they clear the area, and they build again.  Often, what is built the second time is even better.  If that old building was obsolete and not really serving, then a whole new building was needed.”

The salespeople listened closely and nodded their heads.

The Boss continued, “We can’t build new ideas on top of the burned-out foundation of old ideas.  And I need every single one of you to buy into that thinking.  I want all of you to stay and work with me.  But that may not be the choice for some of you.  You may continue looking back and pining for those “good old days. But I can’t work with people who look back to their own Egypt and pretend it is better than what is right in front of them.” 

“Bottom line: If you can’t buy into this new plan, you can’t work in this new environment.”


Story #3: The Boss recognized His sales force had been focused on just a small set of customers.  These customers had served them well for decades, but by focusing on a few, they were missing out on an untold larger group of people.  It was time to insist His salespeople go to places they had not gone to before.  It was time to look for new customers – brand, new people who never heard of His company. 

This time would involve everyone from the least to the greatest of human beings. 

There would be no more “special customers” or “gold card club” customers or “first-class customers.”  This bothered quite a few people in sales – and in their loyal customer base.

  • “But THEY aren’t like US!” the salespeople fussed.
  • “But I have been loyal to you for my entire life!” the loyal customers whined.
  • “But this is so DIFFERENT!” both groups insisted.

The Boss was unmoved.

“I am telling all of you: this time will be VERY different,” He told his salespeople and his long-time customers.  “We will seek customers in our usual areas, to be sure, but we will also move to any area that will have us – and even challenge some that reject us.  Yes, it will be hard; I know that, but this is how it has to be.”

The Boss paused for a moment and then continued…

“And another thing: this time will include forgiveness for any and all errors made along the way.  In the past, our customers have all focused on what went wrong in their lives and how we could help them atone for it.  Our salesforce was so focused on doing everything perfectly that they sometimes lost sight of the goal.” 

“Atonement is OUT!

Forgiveness is IN!

We will offer grace instead of a formula for getting back in good graces with the company.

No more buying a hundred of our most expensive products.

No more great works of bringing crowds to our attention.

No more of that.”

“Instead, I want our focus to be on each customer, each face, each person, and you may NOT treat a large group of them as if they were all the same.

So, this time will involve a more direct approach of individual attention and caring.  This time is for every single person, no matter his or her station.  This time is about a relationship, not a formula for doing sales correctly.”

Like I keep saying, this time is different…completely different.

As I told you these three stories, I hope that you recognized the Boss and the Lord God, his salespeople as his prophets, and his customers as all of us. 

The plans that the Lord tried with human leaders in the past all failed.  They all involved the Lord loving them, and the people agreeing to be His people and worship Him alone.

Yet…somehow, something always went wrong.  By the time Jerusalem was destroyed the first time, the sales were dropping; people were moving away from those old covenant with Yahweh; the Laws were still remembered, still taught, and even still obeyed in some places, but the power and might of God’s chosen people was completely gone.

It was time for something completely new and different.

And God being the wise Boss that He is, was able to offer something new that would never change.

In this new and different covenant, the Law didn’t need to be memorized or carved into stone; it was written on the hearts of each and every believer.

In this new and different covenant, when the people broke the covenant, grace and forgiveness was still theirs to be had.  Following more than 600 specific laws of behavior was no longer the norm (although some of those 600 specific laws are still valid).

In this new and different covenant, faith in earthly leaders who spoke directly to God the Father was not necessary, although we still have some that are good guides for helping us build our faith.  Instead, a personal relationship with the Almighty is available to everyone, everywhere…not just to a few specific people or just on Middle Eastern mountain tops.

Finally, the Boss sent his own Son to intervene on our behalf.

That new and different covenant began with Him…but it did NOT end with his death on a cross. 

Instead, the Son rose from the dead, conquered sin and death, and promises us a place in Heaven with the Boss of Bosses someday.

That’s a new and different covenant.  And it’s ours for the taking!