7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:7–13)
Hebrews 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
We have been looking at the New Covenant described here in Hebrews 8. The author lists four provisions; we’ve covered the first two already:
A. First Provision: A Heart For Obedience
“I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts:” — God gives us a heart to obey him. In the Old Covenant, this was not the case. The commands were given, but by and large God gave no power to obey them.
The lesson is clear: we cannot obey God with sheer willpower; we need his Spirit to empower us.
B. Second Provision: Belonging To God
“and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:” —
As believers we belong to God, making us responsible to avoid idolatry to maintain the purity of our belonging to God.
Idolatry happens when we allow our desires to become demands and control our thoughts. Often, without our knowing it, our desires slowly become the gods that we worship instead of the true God (although we will always claim allegiance to him in some form).
The Fourth Provision will be: Total Forgiveness Of Sins. But now, the Third Provision: Knowing The Lord Personally.
Hebrews 8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
I. What Does It Mean To Know The Lord?
“And they shall not teach” — What? Are we not to have teachers? Obviously, he doesn’t mean that there won’t be people teaching each other in the New Covenant—just look at Hebrews 5:12.
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (Hebrews 5:12)
So what does he mean? I believe the key to understanding what he means by “they shall not teach” lies in understanding what he means by “Know the Lord.”
In the Bible, the words used for “know” have a broad range of meaning.
1. Know can mean being acquainted with someone (we might say, “I know of so and so”). This is knowing information about someone.
2. Know can also mean having a relationship with someone (“yes, I know them very well”).
3. Know can also have an intimacy to it, in the KJV we find “Adam knew Eve” and we know it means a whole lot more than knowing about her.
You might say that “Know” has an aspect of information and an aspect of relationship.
One of the definitions of γινώσκω, the Greek word used here in Hebrews 8:11, says “to possess information about.”
It has to be correct information. We just can’t make up what we know about God anymore than we can make up what we know about any other person we know. They are who they are and God is who he is, and he tells us who he is in the Bible.
In Judges 2:10, for example, we find that after Joshua and his generation all died off, knowledge of the Lord dropped off:
10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. 11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: (Judges 2:10–11)
This seems to be a complete lack of information about the Lord (i.e., they did not know the work that he had done for Israel).
Incredibly, it seems that the previous generation had largely neglected their duty to pass on information about the Lord. Yes, many families probably had done so, but it seems that most had not.
This in turn led to a lack of relationship with the Lord which in turn led to the people doing evil and serving false gods and idols.
LESSON: Knowing the Lord is vital in keeping ourselves from sin. We can even say that the more you know the Lord, the more likely you will avoid sin (although that certainly doesn’t mean that you will!).
But it is not enough to just know information about God, as the next passage in 1 Samuel 2 informs us.
12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord. 13 And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; 14 And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.
15 Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden [boiled] flesh of thee, but raw. 16 And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. [As priests, they were entitled to partake of the offering after it has been offered. But they were taking part of the offering before it was offered and threatening anyone who did not comply.]
17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord: for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. (1 Samuel 2:12–17)
Here we find that the sons of Eli had high informational knowledge of the Lord. They were priests and sons of the high priest, so it is safe to assume so. Yet they did not have any relational knowledge of the Lord.
So we find that, while knowing information about the Lord is vital to having a relationship with him, it doesn’t mean that you will have a relational knowledge of the Lord.
There are many people who call themselves Christians today who are just like the sons of Eli. They have knowledge of the Lord, but no relationship with him. Biblically, they cannot say that they “Know the Lord,” because knowing the Lord always includes an informational and a relational aspect.
II. Knowing God Is Knowing God Personally
Another definition of γινώσκω that I found interesting is “to learn to know a person through direct personal experience, implying a continuity of relationship” (Louw-Nida).
Look at the parts of the definition with me:
A. “to learn to know a person”
This is the informational aspect. We know things about all the people we know; we know information, sometimes good information, sometimes bad.
But how did we come to know those things? Sometimes we might read about it, for example, we read what someone did in the newspaper; but most often we learn that information…
B. “through direct personal experience”
This is the main thing that Hebrews 8:11 is teaching us today. No one has to (nor can they) teach us “know the Lord” in a relational way. Teachers can impart information, but the relationship—the direct personal experience—is between you and God.
CAUTION: This does not mean that you can go and just do your own thing and skip church and teaching—the author of Hebrews has been encouraging his readers to do those very things (5:11-14; 10:25). Many cults are formed because someone thinks they have the direct line with God. Always check your knowledge with God’s Word.
That warning aside, think about who can know God. Anyone. From the least to the greatest. Intelligence is not a requirement; reading isn’t even a requirement, because you can gain information in other ways.
Race is not a requirement. The Jews do not have the monopoly on God anymore (they never really did); you don’t have to go see a priest to maintain your relationship with God because Jesus is your high priest.
The New Covenant blows open to the door to God to all sinners: rich and poor, drunk and sober, good people and bad people; all you have to do is follow Jesus Christ.
C. “implying a continuity of relationship.”
It seems to me that we might sometimes present Christianity as a decision you make and then you are done with it.
I know that everyone always says that after you accept Christ into your heart you should read the Bible, pray and go to church, but I think the emphasis is so much on the decision that what comes across is something like: “Make a decision for Jesus and you’ll be set for eternity—nothing else required or expected.”
Christianity is an ongoing relationship. Knowing the Lord is learning more about him every day, every week, every year of your life.
It is growing closer to him until at the end you and God are like the couple who have been married for 60 years. You know God deeply and intimately. You know what he expects and what pleases him. You care about him deeply; so deeply that you wouldn’t do anything to hurt him.
And that’s what it means in verse 11, “And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”
It’s not about having no teachers in the New Covenant, it’s about knowing The Lord personally and intimately.