The writer of Hebrews twice refers to the prophecy in Jeremiah and the reference is surprising as will become apparent:
Heb 8:8-12 - 8 But God found fault with the people and said:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a
new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because
they did not abide by My covenant, and I disregarded them, declares
the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant I will make with the house
of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put My laws
in their minds and inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their
God, and they will be My people. 11 No longer will each one teach
his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they
will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I
will forgive their iniquities and will remember their sins no more.”
Heb 10:16, 17 - “This is the covenant I will make with them after
those days, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their hearts and
inscribe them on their minds.” Then He adds: “Their sins and lawless
acts I will remember no more.”
Jer 31:31-34 - 31 Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the
house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with
their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the
land of Egypt— a covenant they broke, though I was a husband to
them,” declares the LORD. 33 “But this is the covenant I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD. I will
put My law [תּוֹרָה = "Torah" or "law"] in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. And I will
be their God, and they will be My people. 34 No longer will each
man teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,
declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquities and will
remember their sins no more.”
The New Covenant
The "new Covenant" is referenced a number of times in the NT - Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, 2 Cor 3:6, Heb 7:77, 8:6-13, 9:15, 10:16, 29, 12:24, 13:20, (Jer 31:31, 33), an eternal covenant (Heb 13:20).
One of the best and most succinct summaries of the New Covenant is found in 1 Peter 1, 2.
- Purpose: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may express the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light … Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:9, 12. (See also Matt 5:16.)
- The promise: Salvation by grace through the promised Messiah, 1 Peter 1:3-12, 20, and freedom from slavery to sin, 1 Peter 2:16. (See also 2 Peter 2:19.)
- Moral Requirements: holiness (1 Peter 1:15), Purity (v22), Obey the truth (v22), love (v22), “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1), abstain from sinful desires (1 Peter 2:11), submit to civil authorities (v13-17), see also Rom 13:1-7, etc.
- Sacrifice: Blood of Jesus, 1 Peter 1:18, 19, with its “sprinkled blood of the new covenant” of “Grace and peace” as per V2.
There is no direct lingustic link (other than a theological link) between the New Covenant and the Matt 7:12; except that we have earlier in the same sermon of Jesus the statement in Matt 5:17-19 -
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I
have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you
truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a
stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is
accomplished. So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these
commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in
the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be
called great in the kingdom of heaven.
APPENDIX - Old Covenant was a Covenant of the heart
In Ex 19 Moses is instructed in the Covenant directly by God. Moses then conveys the content of the covenant to the people which is recorded in Ex 20:1-17 as the 10 Commandments, and then explained and amplified in Ex 20:22-23:33. The people answered, three times, “whatever the Lord has said we will do”, Ex 19:8, 24:3, 7, thus creating the Israelite covenant. [Later they rejected the Covenant and a New Covenant had to be instituted with Christians with the same content.] This Covenant was open to all people from its inception and was voluntary. See “Israel”.
This Israelite Covenant consisted of the following:
- God promises to “save” Israel from Egyptian slavery and deliver them to the Promised Land as stated in the preamble to the 10 commandments, Ex 20:1, 2, 23:23, Deut 5:6. This was to fulfil God’s earlier promise to Abraham and others to give the Promised Land to Abraham’s descendants, Ex 2:24, 6:4, 5, forever, 1 Chron 16:15, Ps 105:8, 111:9.
- God promises to protect His people by sending a protecting angel, Ex 23:19, 20, and establish their borders, Ex 23:31.
- The benefits/promises of the covenant are also clearly set out in Lev 26:1-13, Deut 28:1-14 (blessings for obedience), and, Lev 26:14-39, Deut 28:15-68 (curses for disobedience). [Note that the curses for disobedience are specifically listed in Lev 26 as plague (V14-17), famine (V18-20), wild animals (V21, 22), sword/war (V23-26). Subsequently, these curses for disobedience are simply listed as “sword, famine and plague” in many places such as 1 Chron 21:12, 2 Chron 20:9, Jer 21:9, 24:10, 27:13, 29:18, 42:22, Eze 5:12, 17, 7:15, 12:16, etc, etc. The same is repeated in the first four seals of Rev 6.]
- The purpose the Covenant (Ex 20:1-17) is stated clearly in Ex 19:5, 6 – to make the Israelites God’s peculiar treasure, his special people, distinguished by the way they conducted themselves. Ps 50:16-18, 74:20, 78:36, 37.
This purpose of the covenant was stated in other ways as, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, … ” Ex 6:7. This is stated repeatedly: Lev 26:9-12, Deut 29:9-13, 2 Sam 7:24, 1 Chron 11:2, Ps 50:7, 95:7, 100:3, Isa 40:1, Jer 7:23, 11:1-4, 24:7, 30:9, 22, 31:1, 33, 32:38-40, Eze 11:20, 34:30, 31, 36:26-28, 37:23, 24, Hos 1:9, 4:6, Joel 2:26, 27, Zech 8:8. It is significant that the first of the 10 Commandments is a decree to have only ONE God, the LORD, Ex 20:3, Deut, 5:7, 6:4-6.
This same idea is also expressed another way – creating a people who would be “called by the name of the LORD”, or, “called by my name”, 2 Chron 7:14, Isa 43:7, 65:1; that is, to bear the character of a gracious, loving, kind God. The Jerusalem Temple was also a symbol of this covenant because it was “called by my Name”, 1 Kings 8:13, Jer 7:10, 11, 14, 32:34, 34:15. Such people, God declared, “out of all nations you will be my treasured possession … a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Ex 19:5, 6. See also Ruth 1:16.
Significantly, in Eze 36:16-38, the LORD sternly rebukes Israel because, “they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, yet they had to leave His land.’ But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they had gone. (v22, 23). That is, Israel had profaned the name of God by sinning.
The requirements of the Israelite covenant are the 10 Commandments as recorded on the tablets of stone and amplified in Ex 20:22-23:33, the book of Deuteronomy and elsewhere such as Lev 17-19, 26. This is shown by the following facts:
- Ex 24:7 introduces the “Book of the Covenant” (which see) as already existing, ie, Ex 20:22 – 23:33. It served as an expansion and legal context in which to place the Israelite Covenant of the 10 Commandments.
- These tablets of stone with the 10 Commandments are called “the covenant” (Ex 34:27, 28, Deut 9:9, 11, 15) and placed inside the ark (Ex 25:16, 21, 40:20, Heb 9:4). [The tables of stone were also called “the tables of Testimony” (Ex 31:18, 32:15, 34:29), or just, “The Testimony” (Ex 25:16, 21).]
- The “Ark of the Covenant” (Num 10:33, 14:44, Deut 10:8, 31:9, 25, 26, Josh 3:3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, 4:7, 9, 18, 6:6, 8:33, etc) or, “Ark of the Testimony” (Ex 25:22, 26:33, 34, 30:6, 26, 31:7, 39:35, 40:3, 5, 21, Lev 16:13, Num 4:5, 7:89, Josh 4:16, etc) is described thus precisely because it contained the stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God (Ex 31:18, Deut 9:10) with the Israelite Covenant of the 10 Commandments. 1 Kings 8:9, 2 Chron 5:10.
- The ancient sacred “Tabernacle”, also known as the “tent of meeting” (Ex 39:32, 40:2, 6, 22, 24, 35, Lev 17:4, Num 3:7, 8, 4:25, 31) was also called the “tent of covenant law” (Num 9:15, 1:50, 53, Ex 38:21) because it housed the Ark of the Covenant containing the Covenant Law.
- The re-statement and expansion of the 10 Commandments as the covenant in Deut 4:13, 23, 31, 5:2, 3 includes a reference back to the Covenant at Horeb, ie, Mt Sinai (See Ex 3:1, 17:6, 33:6, etc, and the statement of the covenant in Ex 19, 20, and restated in Ex 24).
- The 10 Commandments Covenant is distinct from the Levitical law and Davidic Covenant.
- The visible symbols of the Israelite Covenant solemnity and importance included: an altar of 12 stones (Ex 24:4), a sacrifice (Ex 24:5), sprinkled blood of the covenant (Ex 24:8). The blood of the covenant was used dramatically when painted on the door posts in Egypt at the first Passover (Ex 12).
- The tokens/signs of the covenant (Heb: “oth”) appear to have been the law of the 10 Commandments themselves (Deut 6:8, 11:18), and especially the Sabbath (Ex 31:13, 16, 17, Isa 56:4, 6, Exe 20:12, 20, see “Sabbath”); the blood of the covenant from the Passover Lamb is also used as a sign in Ex 12:13; the famous “Ark of the Covenant” containing the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone (Ex 16:34, 24:12, 25:16, 21, 31:18, 32:15, 19, 34:1, 4, 28, 40:20, Deut 4:13, 9-11, etc). [Note: This did not include circumcision as this was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant to which the Israelites fell heirs.]
- Lev 26:44, 45, Jer 31:35-37, 32, 40, 33:25 declare the Israelite covenant immutable and irrevocable. See also Heb 13:20, 1 Chron 16:17, Jer 50:5, Ps 105:8, Eze 37:26.
- The giving of the written 10 commandments at Sinai was NOT novel – they had always existed (see 10 Commandments) showing that God had always had a people made distinct by the keeping of the moral law.
Later Views on the Israelite Covenant
On numerous occasions, the Israelite Covenant, or “Old Covenant” was presented as fulfilling, or at least an extension of the covenant God had made with Abraham. Ex 2:24, Lev 26:42, Deut 29:13, 2 Kings 13:23, 1 Chron 16:16, Ps 105:9. See also Luke 1:73, Acts 3:25, 7:8, Gal 3:17, etc. This older covenant was the origin of the promises concerning the land of Canaan. This was fulfilled when Israel conquered Canaan. See 1 Kings 4:20, 21, 2 Chron 9:26.
The ancient Israelites were often reprimanded for assuming that God’s covenant with them was a mere matter of ceremonies, the stone tablets and the temple. 1 Sam 15:22, Ps 40:6-8, 51:16, 17, Prov 15:8, 21:3, Isa 1:10-17, Jer 6:3-6, 20, Hos 6:6, Micah 6:6-8, etc. That is, they confused the Levitical and Moral Covenant. More particularly, the Israelites were repeatedly told that the conditions of the Covenant were a matter for the heart and NOT external regulations (Deut 6:5, Ps 40:8, Jer 24:7, 31:1, 33, 34, 32:38-40, 36, 26-28), because God initiated the covenant to save Israel; it was a covenant of transforming grace and forgiveness! Isa 59:21 says the covenant is the eternal gift of the Spirit.
That this Israelite Covenant was a covenant of transforming grace is confirmed by several ideas:
- The Old Covenant was a covenant initiated entirely by God alone, to save Israel. God alone set out the requirements and blessings. God makes it clear that they were selected as the chosen people, NOT because of any Israelite merit, but simply because God wanted to. Deut 7:7, 9:5, 6, 10:15.
- The Old Covenant was a matter of the “heart” (Deut 6:5, 10:12, 16, 11:18, Ps 40:8, Jer 24:7, 31:33, 34, 32:38-40, Eze 11:19, 18:31, 36:26) and NOT mere regulations (1 Sam 15:22, Ps 40:6-8, 51:16, 17, Prov 15:8, 21:3, Isa 1:10-17, Jer 6:3-6, 20, Hos 6:6, Micah 6:6-8). These references make it clear that the Old Covenant did not really include the animal sacrifices, and that they could not define nor atone for sin. (Heb 9:9, 10:4, Ps 51:16, 17, 1 Sam 15:22). The animal sacrifices and the sanctuary ritual were part of the Levitical covenant which acted as teaching device that anticipated, and was a type of, the High Priestly ministry of Messiah.
- The Ark of the Covenant, containing the Covenant stone tablets of the 10 Commandments, was constructed in a highly symbolic way. The 10 Commandments were inside the box and the “atonement cover” or “mercy seat” was placed above them. Ex 25:17-22, 26:34, 30:6, 31:17, 37:9, 40:20, Lev 16:13; see also Heb 9:5. This arrangement was placed in the Most Holy Place, in the sanctuary, and always remained at the center of God’s Covenant people.
- In Solomon’s prayer of dedication, he describes the (Israelite) Covenant as God showing “lovingkindness”, or, “steadfast love”, to people. 1 Kings 8:23, 2 Chron 6:14, See also Neh 1:5, 9:32, Ps 89:28, 33, 34, 103:17, 18, 111:4, 5, 9, Isa 54:10, 55:3. This suggests that the Law of God, or the Moral Law, is an expression of God’s love and is just as eternal.
Note: Most of the confusion about the various covenants arises because people confuse the Israelite Covenant with the Levitical Covenant, or, assume that the Levitical Covenant and the Davidic Covenant are part of the Israelite (Old) Covenant. This confusion is perpetuated by the (erroneous) practice of labelling the Israelite and Levitical covenants, “Mosaic”, as if they are the same thing.