CR News

The Old Covenant Broken

This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Covenant Reformed News, a publication of Covenant PRC, Ballymena, N.Ireland.

Referring to Hosea 1:6, “I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away,” a reader asks, “What is that saying to us about God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise? Did God break His covenant with the ten tribes?”

This question was already answered in part by the last News for, if the old covenant had passed away and a totally new covenant had come to take its place, then indeed Jehovah broke the old covenant with the ten tribes. But I explained that, when the old covenant passed away, it was only the form of its administration that passed away, while the essence of the covenant remained. Since the essence of the covenant remained while the form of its administration changed, God did not break His covenant. I used an example from Scripture itself, which speaks of our old and new man. The very same person is both an old man and a new man—even at the same moment, although the old man will be destroyed in the grave and the new man will live forever with God. The old man belongs to the old covenant; the new man is taken into the new covenant.

The figure can be used of wise parents who teach their children the truths of the Bible through the means of the historical books in the Old Testament and with books of many pictures. But when these children are old and have the ability to read and to comprehend the truths of Scripture, these parents put away the picture books and tell the now-grown children to read books on Reformed doctrine. The form of teaching is radically altered but the essence of the teaching is the same. One could call that change a putting away of the old and a change to a new method of teaching.

Hosea 1, to which the questioner refers, makes that clear. It is true that Hosea’s child by Gomer must be called “Loruhamah” (which name means, “no mercy”) because God declares, “I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away” (v. 6). It is also true that Hosea and Gomer were instructed to name their next child “Loammi” (“not my people”) for, Jehovah says, “ye are not my people, and I will not be your God” (v. 9). But in the very next verse, God explains, “Yet [notice that powerful “Yet”] the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (v. 10).

How can God say these two seemingly contradictory truths almost in the same breath: “Ye are not my people” and “Ye are the sons of the living God”? The first statement belongs to the old covenant. The second statement is the promise of the new covenant. The old covenant is the type, for Israel was a type of the church. The new covenant is established with a church that is gathered from every nation, tribe and tongue. The typical old covenant was essentially the same as the new covenant, but the form of its administration changed. In the old covenant, the covenant was administered under the law. Paul speaks of this most emphatically in Galatians 3. The law was never intended by God to save. It was not intended to save in the old dispensation, nor is it, as the premillennialists maintain, intended to save in some future millennium. 

It is worth our while to point out the serious error of these premillennialists. God’s promise is stated explicitly in Hosea 1:10. The contents of the promise of a new covenant are not fulfilled in a millennial reign of the Jews in Palestine. I am thankful that Scripture tells us what Hosea 1:10 means and how it is fulfilled. You may find the explanation in Romans 9, where Paul identifies “the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory” (v. 23): “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith in Osee [i.e., Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” (vv. 24-26). The Gentiles were not God’s people in the old dispensation but the Most High now says of them that they are His people. And we are told that Hosea prophesied this!

It is necessary that God’s seemingly contradictory statements in Hosea 1:9-10 be explained in terms of the old covenant and the new covenant of which God spoke through Jeremiah (31:31-34) and which is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12.

It is striking and important that covenant language in general is used. In Hosea 1:10, the Lord promises that “it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” This is the language of many places in Scripture where God’s covenant people are defined. One such passage is II Corinthians 6:17-18: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” So also covenant language is used in Hebrews 8:10, in which both typical Israel and the new dispensation church are referred to: “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.” 

This language ought not to surprise us, for the establishment of the covenant with Abraham defined the covenant: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7). Lest there be any misunderstanding about to whom reference was being made, Jehovah made it clear that He was referring to the “new” covenant, the fulfilment of the old, which includes Gentiles. “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee” (vv. 4-5). This is why Paul could say, “For ye [i.e., believing, largely Gentile inhabitants of Galatia] are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).   Prof. Herman Hanko

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 15
  • Issue: 2
Hanko, Herman

Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)

Ordained: October 1955

Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965

Emeritus: 2001

Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko

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