A recent online article caught my eye this week. It reads, “Company Breaks Open Apple Watch to Discover What It Says Is ‘Planned Obsolescence’.” The point of the article was to explain what most of us already know — that manufacturers build products that are intentionally designed not to last. They have a sort of built-in “expiration date”, requiring us to replace them with something new and better (and usually, more costly). While the motivations are certainly different, we find a similar thing in our Bible reading for today. God tells us in Hebrews: “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13 ESV).
In keeping with the letter’s overall theme — “the absolute supremacy of Christ” above all others, we have seen that Christ is superior to the Old Testament prophets (1:1-4), superior to angels (1:5-2.18), superior to Moses (3:1-4:13), and superior to Aaron (4:14-7:28). Now, we come to a final point in the foundational truths of the letter. The author sums it all up by showing us that Christ’s ministry is superior to the old covenant ministry (8:1-10:18). Throughout each of these 5 sections, he has been explaining and proving that Christ is far better than what we looked to in our desire to connect with God. Of course, he is speaking in terms of the Jewish way of things, but we can relate it in principle to the self-effort we might fall back on in seeking to be right with God. Chapter 8 specifically states the Old Covenant is obsolete because it was flawed. It didn’t really work to take away the problem of sin. Now, something better has been made available. Instead of having in place the ministry of priests who have to continually offer sacrifices for our sin, we now have Jesus who does not offer sacrifices — Why? Because he himself has become the sacrifice and it is a once-and-for-all sacrifice that removes sin.
The author points out that the Old Testament sacrificial system and temple services were simply meant to be a picture of the real thing. Jesus is our true high priest and “…is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man” (8:1-2). This was God’s planned obsolescence. One entered the picture and replaced what was not working, what was flawed by design. Instead of our having to depend on our own efforts to keep the Old Covenant, God replaced it with something better —Jesus.
Jesus, our high priest poured out his life on the cross to remove our sin problem once and for all time. I Peter 3:18 says it like this: “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.” The point of the passage in Hebrews 8 then, is that in Jesus, we have the kind of high priest (or mediator) we need. As verse 7 tells us, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.”
Now, we don’t have to work our way to God. We don’t need a human priest as a go-between to connect with God. We live by grace through faith in what Jesus has done for us. This new covenant, which is now ministered to us through Christ, is designed to put an end to the old. It’s based on better promises (8:6) that will allow us to participate in God’s very own nature (see 2 Pet. 1:4). More than that, the new covenant is not written on stone or a piece of paper. Instead of our living out of a dead, religious system and its wearisome set of rules, God writes his laws upon our minds and hearts. His great plan is to bring us into a deep, close, personal relationship with himself, where our motivation is now love. Really now, who in their right mind would keep using what’s been shown to be obsolete? Yet, all other religion systems are based on self-effort to achieve the righteousness that God requires. Aren’t you thankful today that you are able to be a recipient of this better covenant, which is ministered to you through our faithful and superior high priest?