It is Fitting for God to Give – by Milton Hook
Feb 12, 2015 1268
Hebrews 8:6-13 speaks of Jesus as mediator of a better covenant with us than the one which He made at the time of Moses. It’s based on “better promises.”
I want to highlight the word “covenant.” The Greek language has two words for covenant that are interesting in their similarities and their differences. Diatheke means literally to cut a covenant. Suntheke means literally to cut a covenant together.
The similarity of “to cut” has reference to slaughtering an animal for sacrifice. The Mosaic covenant had many sacrifices associated with it but the covenant that Hebrews is talking about is better because Jesus offered Himself as the once-for-all perfect sacrifice. The covenant that Jesus has made with us is based on His shed blood.
In 1565 when the Spanish entered the Philippines they made a covenant with the local people to live together in harmony. The leader of the Spaniards and the local tribal chief each made a small cut on their bodies, enough to draw a few drops of blood which was dropped into two bowls of wine. The bowls were exchanged and each drank the others blood and wine. This was a suntheke, cutting a covenant together on agreed terms between two groups of people who saw themselves as equals. David’s covenant of friendship with Jonathan was also between equals (1 Samuel 23:18).
However, diatheke is used for the covenant that God makes with us. Even though it, too, is based on a blood sacrifice, it is not a covenant between equals. This word in Hebrews 8, diatheke, is often used of a will. The terms of a will are one-sided, being set by the person who makes the will. The beneficiaries cannot alter the terms but can simply accept them or refuse the inheritance offered. This type of covenant relationship is offered to us solely on the initiative and grace of God. When we think of this covenant that God has made with us we must always remember that it does not mean we have bargained with God for advantageous terms. The initiative for salvation is entirely with a loving God and the terms are of His making. He has done it all. We can spurn the inheritance He offers in His covenant or accept it with rejoicing.
Philo of Alexandria, the Greek/Jewish philosopher wrote, “It is fitting for God to give and for a wise man to receive.”
– Milton Hook