Covenants In The Bible (Part 4): More Of God’s Covenants With Man
God has high ideals in His relationships, and this is evidenced by His covenants made with man. In part 3, we began unpacking 4 out of 8 of God’s covenants. Through the Adamic Covenant, God began His redemption purposes and continued building upon it with successive covenants. In Part 3, we concluded on the Abrahamic Covenant. God continues in his meta-narrative to unfold his redemption plan with the remaining covenants.
The Book of Exodus opens with Abraham’s descendants, the 12 tribes of Israel were in Egypt. The Israelites were multiplying rapidly, which threatened the new Pharaoh’s ego. So he forced God’s people into slavery. Consequently, the people of Israel cried out to God. God heard them and raised up a deliverer, Moses to be His instrument to deliver them out of slavery in Egypt and to lead them towards the promised land. When they reached the foot of Mt Sinai, God shows up in a big way and entered into a covenant with the nation of Israel.
5. MOSAIC COVENANT
The Mosaic Covenant is made specifically with Israel (the Jews). It contains the most number of words and instructions (Exodus 20-40 and Leviticus). Most scholars consider it to contain 3 groupings:
The Moral Law – Ten Commandments were written on 2 tablets of stone.
The Civil Law – which governs every area of life civically, socially, economically, personally and legally.
The Ceremonial Law – which are detailed and explicit set of laws governing sacrifices, priesthood, and providing atonement for sins. Dietary and hygiene laws are generally considered to be part of this.
PROMISES: Similar to Abrahamic Covenant
Obedience to the Law and all its commandments. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 (NLT) “Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! (27) You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today. (28) But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the LORD your God and turn away from him and worship gods you have not known before.
Love. Deuteronomy 6:5-6 (NIV) Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (6) These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Here, God reveals that He is more interested in loving obedience from our hearts. There is an invitation to an intimate relationship with Him, not just obeying the rules and regulations in the Law.
Elaborate system of continual animal sacrifices to atone for sin and purify from uncleanness, so that the people are acceptable to a righteous and holy God.
Sabbath. Exodus 31:13 (ESV) ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.
What is the Sabbath? The Hebrew “shabbath” means to rest from labour/work. So sabbath means a day of rest which is to be on the 7th day, which is Saturday.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MOSAIC COVENANT
God established laws for the people of Israel as a standard of righteousness. Revealing what it means to be “a holy nation, a people who are Set Apart to God”. Inadvertently, the Law also more comprehensively revealed man’s sin. It showed that no one can be justified by the Law and the Law cannot give life. Years ago, I (May) visited a Jewish Synagogue and the Rabbi explained that there are 613 Jewish commandments in the Law (mitzvot) they must fully obey.
The Mosaic Covenant is a temporary covenant; intended to be a school master, pointing towards the need for a Messiah (a perfect Saviour). This Covenant finds its perfect fulfilment in Jesus Christ. He was the only Man who ever perfectly kept the law in all its requirements, and thus was considered sinless. Ceremonial Laws and system of animal sacrifices point to the coming Messiah, Christ Who is the perfect, sinless, one-for-all sacrifice that can purify and take away man’s sinfulness (Heb 9,10). Sabbath points to righteousness attained by resting, by trusting in the finished work of Christ. See also article “Sabbath and the Christian” for a fuller discussion.
Further, only way we can truly love God with all of our hearts, soul, mind and strength is in Christ. Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NLT) And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. (27) And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
The only conclusion is that our Saviour has to be Jesus Christ!
6. PALESTINIAN COVENANT
This covenant was made with the second generation of Israelites out of Egypt, right before Moses died and Israel entering the Promised Land (Deut 29, 30:1-10). This covenant has many similarities with the Mosaic Covenant with the addition of commandments relating to Israel’s possession of the land. Such as every 7th year is to be a year of rest for the land. Thus, it is also called the Land Covenant.
In addition, we find Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV) And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul…
Once again, the emphasis on a love relationship with God! But better still, God again gives a glimpse of what is to come in the New Covenant. That it will be God, the Holy Spirit, who will circumcise/change our hearts to love Him.
Will we allow the Holy Spirit to circumcise our hearts? To remove the sinful, fleshly, worldly parts, so that we can be awakened more and more to love God more and more?
7. DAVIDIC COVENANT
Now we fast forward from Book of Joshua to Samuel. After Israel took possession of the Promised Land and 500 years of judges administering God’s law, God appointed a king after His own heart, named David. David loved the Lord with all of his heart. It is recorded in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 that God made a covenant with David.
2 Samuel 7:12-13 (ESV) …I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. (13) He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
PROMISES of blessings: God promises David that He will raise up a Davidic descendant(s) who would: (1) build a House for God (Temple), (2) his Throne and (3) his Kingdom will last forever.
This was not just naturally, but pointed ultimately to the everlasting House, Throne and Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
This covenant reveals clearly that the Messiah who will come from David’s royal line, is not only a sacrificial lamb seen in the Mosaic Covenant, but He is THE King who rules forever! He will build His House i.e. the Church. And His Kingdom lasts forever!
How wonderful it is to be under Jesus’ Kingship! As we submit to His authority, we are citizens of God’s Kingdom. We become people of authority under Christ and anointed to rule the earth.
So now we have several clues about God’s Redemption plan for mankind:
Adamic Covenant: God will bring forth a Saviour who will crush Satan’s head.
Noahic Covenant: God will save and preserve.
Abrahamic Covenant: God formed a chosen group of people Israel, through whom will be a blessing to the whole world.
Mosaic & Palestinian Covenants: God showed what it means to live set apart for God. However, we cannot do it by our own works. We need a sinless Saviour/Messiah who can truly save us. Also, God desires a love relationship, not religion.
Davidic Covenant: The Messiah will be a forever King of His Kingdom.
This leads us to the final but best one yet…
8. NEW COVENANT
The New Covenant is the culmination of God’s saving work in His people. Jeremiah prophesied about this New Covenant:
Jeremiah 31:31-33 (ESV) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (32) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. (33) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”
Hence, no longer is the Law and ways of God something we have to follow externally, but our hearts will be changed, or circumcised and there will be a genuine desire to love and follow God from our hearts!
Jeremiah 31:33-34 (ESV) And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (34) And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
We shall be the people of God and all who follow God can know God personally. An intermediary is no longer required. The word “know” is a translation of the Hebrew word “yadah” which means an intimate relationship, not an intellectual one. God also declares that our sins and wickedness will be completely forgiven once and for all! That is a huge step because in the Old Testament every sin had to be atoned for, every time, through the burnt offerings.
The New Testament declares that all of God’s new covenantal promises are realised in and through Jesus! Luke 22:19-20 (ESV) And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” (20) And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
That’s why the Old Testament is also called the Old Covenant; New Testament is also called the New Covenant. All the previous covenants from Adam to David, all the promises and more is fulfilled in the New Covenant. And it abolishes the temporal elements of the previous covenants. Thus some elements such as animal sacrifices are no longer needed, instead revealing their eternal elements.
PROMISES OF BLESSING
The promise of salvation includes all of the following:
We receive forgiveness of sin
We are justified (considered righteous before a holy and perfect God)
We are a new creation, the old is gone.
We have a new heart and a new spirit to love God and walk in His ways.
We are adopted as sons and daughters of God.
We have eternal life.
We have a heavenly inheritance.
We have victory over sin.
We are anointed.
We are blessed to be a blessing.
We enter into a personal relationship with God.
CURSES: Those who reject the gift of salvation are left in slavery to sin, will face spiritual death, eternal separation from God (i.e. Hell).
TERMS: It requires repentance, faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord, as well as to obey Him. What is repentance? It is turning away from our old ways, our sinful, self-focussed ways. What is Faith in Jesus Christ? It is trusting our whole life in Jesus Christ to save us, and to follow, obey and love Him whole-heartedly.
The once for all sacrifice of Jesus at the cross of Calvary.
The indwelling Holy Spirit in every believer. Ephesians 1:13 (ESV) …when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
Unless the Holy Spirit indwells us, we cannot be saved. Because without the seal, the New Covenant cannot be operative.
Rejoice that God lives in us! All the seals of the previous Old Covenants were objects, impersonal. But the seal of the New Covenant is God’s Spirit!
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NEW COVENANT
When we repent and have faith in Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, we enter into this New Covenant with God. This covenant is about a personal and eternal relationship with God. This invitation is for all! Doesn’t it blow your mind? That the awesome, holy and perfect God, would love us (though imperfect and weak humans) so much to desire to have a relationship with us for eternity.
HOW ALL THE COVENANTS TIE TOGETHER
The Edenic Covenant revealed God’s great purpose for mankind, His people. That is to bear God’s image (character), be fruitful, and rule the earth in a relationship with God.
The Fall resulted in a broken covenantal relationship and sin enter the world.
God put in place an incredible plan, spanning over 2000 years, to redeem man back to the original purpose. This involved 7 key covenantal steps.
Climaxing in the New Covenant with Jesus Christ, who is the Bridge to restore man’s covenantal relationship back with God and His original purpose.
In conclusion, the Covenants are the greatest manifestations of God’s love, grace and mercy to a fallen humankind.
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