Bible Covenants - Mosaic

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A brief look at the Mosaic covenant in the Bible.

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Bible Covenants:

Bible Covenants Mosaic Covenant

Bible Covenants:

Bible Covenants God sovereignly chose the Israelites and extended His grace once more to them in covenant, but this time their relationship was conditional. They were to “keep the commands and laws” (Deut. 7:11) and suffer dire consequences if they did not keep them. Deuteronomy 28 and 29 records the promise of blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience (Deut. 28:1-2, 15).

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Bible Covenants It is interesting that the list of blessings in Deuteronomy 28 is arranged as an acrostic in the Hebrew, beginning with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and ending with the last letter (aleph to tau). The list of curses is not so complete. To the Hebrew reader it was probably apparent that the text displayed God’s blessings as far more comprehensive than His curses.

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Bible Covenants In the Mosaic covenant, the terms take the concrete form of law.

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Bible Covenants Background and Purpose Under Joseph’s tutelage in Egypt, God fulfilled His promise to Abraham to make his descendants numerous and great. As they grew to a great people, however, they were forced under the repressive rule of their Egyptian taskmasters.

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Bible Covenants Not only did slavery place a heavy burden on the Israelites, but also the Egyptians would have dominated their social and civil structure as a people. Nevertheless, God did not forsake His people, but raised up a deliverer in Moses who led the people out of bondage.

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Bible Covenants Pharaoh's daughter finds Moses.

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Bible Covenants Having led the people from Egypt to the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses ascended the mount to commune with God. As Moses tarried, the Israelites degenerated quickly into gross sin and debauchery. Even Aaron could not constrain them. The people had no civil structure or moral basis for living according to God’s way. They had not yet become a nation.

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Bible Covenants It is in answer to this dilemma that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Paul makes the same observation (Galatians 3:19a). The Law’s purpose was very practical. Such a large body of people, who had just been released from the confining structure of slavery in Egypt, would need an immediate civil structure to constrain sin and relate to one another as a nation.

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Bible Covenants Through the Ten Commandments, God provided the structure necessary to form a nation governed by God’s law. All the Mosaic civil, social, and religious laws were derived from the Ten Commandments. The laws are nothing more than a restatement of the Ten Commandments to a specific situation.

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Bible Covenants Even though the Law has great value, it was temporary, given “ until the Seed to whom the promise had come” (Gal. 3:19a). Its “ceremonies and civil institutions were mere copies of the heavenly reality (Ex. 25:9; Heb. 9:23) and temporary teaching devices until the ‘surety’ of the ‘better covenant’ arrived (Heb. 7:22)” (Kaiser 21).

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Bible Covenants Having an interim purpose, the Law was specifically given to the nation of Israel, not the nation of the Redeemed (both Jew and Gentile), who have the Law written on their hearts and live by the Spirit (1 Pt. 2:9; Jer. 31:33; Heb. 9:14).

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Bible Covenants The Law was never intended to replace God’s promises to Abraham, nor was it a substitute means of salvation. God’s unconditional promises to Abraham were still in force. What God wanted to do was to make the nation of Israel into a model society through which God would demonstrate His righteousness, mercy, and faithfulness to all the nations (Deut. 4:6).

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Bible Covenants This purpose was in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Ge. 12:2-3).

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Bible Covenants The Law and the New Covenant How do we relate to the Law under the New Covenant? Paul says we are dead to it (Gal. 2:19-21; cf. Ro. 7:4.). Just as we died to sin through our identification in Christ’s death, so we have died to the Law. We should never forget our present status as new creations “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal 6:15). When He died, we died.

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Bible Covenants As dead people through the power of faith and the Spirit, we are no longer subject to sin or the Law. Does this make us lawless? Of course not! The law of life in Christ Jesus enables us to live the life of heaven on earth.

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Bible Covenants The life of heaven is available to us because we are “in Christ”—whether seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3; 2:6) or whether continually approaching “the throne of grace with confidence” (He. 4:16). This life with Christ in heaven follows the perfect holiness of God (which is the ultimate basis of the Law).

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Bible Covenants The Mosaic Law, as good as it was, did not always reflect God’s perfect standard. Christ often taught a higher standard to the requirements of the Law. Matthew 5 records these comparisons between the Law and Christ’s higher standard.

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Bible Covenants At least in the examples of divorce and slavery, the law stipulated convenient terms for hardened hearts (Mt. 19:7-9; Philemon). Paul noted how we now meet the righteous requirements of the Law (Ro. 8:3-4).

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Bible Covenants The Mosaic Law brought death in that it condemned all who could not keep its requirements. The presence of God’s Spirit in us gives us the new heart that enables us to keep the righteous requirements of the Law.

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Bible Covenants Randall Gleason noted, “Thus the change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant does not entail a change in the Law but rather a change in the believer’s ability to obey the Law” (Gleason 74).

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Bible Covenants The Holy Spirit brings the life of the kingdom of heaven to us now by faith. In the future at the Lord’s return, we will live that life in fullness and perfection (Heb. 10:13-14).

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Bible Covenants Where we can adjust the culture of this life to reflect the culture of heaven, we should use every godly means. Our purpose is not to reproduce the Mosaic culture, but the life of heaven.

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Bible Covenants The Value of the Law Does this mean that we discard the Law as valueless for us? By no means! Since we live in tension between the fully realized life of heaven and our present fallen existence, and since we live with unbelievers who need restraints provided by the Law, the Law provides tremendous didactic, social, and civil application, at least in its principles.

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Bible Covenants However, where the cross has fulfilled the ceremonial aspects of the Law, we should not seek to duplicate them. For instance, we no longer need to offer animal sacrifices since Christ is our once-for-all sacrifice for sins (He. 9; 13:11-14).

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Bible Covenants We no longer worship at the tabernacle since we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). Since we can live continually in the Sabbath rest of heaven by faith, there are no special “holy days” (Col. 2:16-17).

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Bible Covenants The nation of Israel failed to keep the Law over and over again. Because of man’s weakness, the Law failed to adequately provide the means for righteousness. “The law is not based on faith...” (Gal. 3:12a) but on works. It could never provide salvation (Gal. 2:15-21; 3:21-22).

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Bible Covenants The failure of this model society once-for-all demonstrated that we need a Savior—the promised Seed to Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Gal. 3:24).

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Bible Covenants The Law, as an external set of rules, is not sufficient to produce righteousness. Under the Mosaic Covenant, the Law was written on tablets of stone. Under the New Covenant, the law is written on our hearts by the Spirit thus providing the necessary change of our inner nature (cf. Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:26).

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Bible Covenants Paul summarized all of this in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11. Let us go forward, then, as New Creations in Christ Jesus, dead to sin and the Law, made righteous by the blood of Christ, and empowered by the Spirit, to live the life of the kingdom of heaven.

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Bible Covenants Terms of Restoration The promise of restoration was an important covenant clause and one that holds important truths for us today (Deut. 30:1-6).

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Bible Covenants Solomon’s prophetic prayer in 2 Chronicles 6 is based on the terms of the Mosaic covenant. Solomon interceded for the people according to the promise of restoration. If the people sinned and were led away to captivity, and if they repented, then God would bring them out of captivity and restore their covenant blessings (2 Chron. 6:36-39).

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Bible Covenants God affirmed His covenant promises in answer to Solomon (2 Chron. 7:13-14). We should note carefully that unless the condition of national repentance was met, the hope of restoration could never be fulfilled . God made the covenant with the nation. Therefore, the whole nation was responsible to keep the covenant terms and the whole nation would need to repent.

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Bible Covenants Over the centuries, the nations of Israel and Judah did not keep the covenant terms and sinned before God. The Lord raised up the nations of Assyria and Babylon to take Israel and Judah into captivity.

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Bible Covenants During the days of Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem, the Lord pledged His word to Jeremiah to restore the nation of Israel and Judah. His pledge was as certain as His covenant with day and night (Jer. 33:25-26).

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Bible Covenants The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel frequently spoke of the restoration to come (Jer. 29:14; 30:3; 32:44; Ezek. 11:17; 20:41-42; 36:24; 37:21). In captivity, the prophet Daniel prayed a prayer of national repentance (Daniel 9:4-5, 9-11, 18-19).

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Bible Covenants Judgment had come to Israel according to the covenant terms. But the covenant terms included mercy even in the midst of judgment. It was on the basis of this restoration clause and God’s covenant mercy (“ hesed ”) that Daniel prayed the prayer of repentance for the nation.

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Bible Covenants Daniel acted as the representative of a humbled nation and moved the hand of God for restoration.

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Bible Covenants Will the nation of Israel receive all the covenant blessings? Not unless they too respond in the faith of Abraham and receive their Messiah. Paul addresses this question in Romans 11:23-27.

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Bible Covenants The restoration clause in the Mosaic Law demonstrates God’s mercy, longsuffering, and desire to restore relationship. Despite the backsliding of His People, God makes provision to restore them when they repent. He has always been faithful to keep the covenant and has not forsaken His people.

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Bible Covenants Fellowship at the Tabernacle Part of the terms of the Mosaic Covenant was God’s instructions to Moses to build a tent so that God could dwell (tabernacle) among His people (Exodus 25:8). The Israelites were to make the structure out of materials collected from the Egyptians when the Israelites departed from Goshen. They were to build this tent in the wilderness as a portable structure to be taken with the nation as they journeyed.

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Bible Covenants At the dedication of the structure, “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). God’s presence remained manifest in the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21-22), and in the Shekinah glory that appeared above the mercy seat in the compartment called the Holy of Holies.

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Bible Covenants God was “enthroned” on the Cherubim. Here God gave commands for the nation (Ex. 25:22). See 1 Sa. 4:4; 2 Sa. 6:2; 1 Chron. 13:6; Ps. 99:1; Is. 37:16.

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Bible Covenants The tabernacle was therefore a visible reminder of God’s presence and awesome greatness. “A new sense of the ‘closeness’ and active presence of God was to be Israel’s” ( Kaiser, Toward 119).

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Bible Covenants But since only the priests entered the Holy Place, and only the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, it was also a reminder of the separation between a holy God and a sinful people. Curtains and veils separated the people from God.

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Bible Covenants The tabernacle could not perfectly provide immediate and intimate fellowship with God. Only through the atonement of Christ has total freedom of access to God been made available (He. 10:19-22).

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Bible Covenants Summary The covenant to Moses and the people of Israel had a temporary application to forge a nation through law. The Law taught the people right from wrong and the various penalties for sin. The Law continues to have important didactic purposes for today.

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Bible Covenants Unfortunately, even though the penalties restrain sinners to a degree, the Law lacks the power to make anyone righteous. All of us are Law breakers. Even though repentance brings restoration, in the end, the Law condemns everyone—it ministers death.

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Bible Covenants New Covenant believers are dead to the Mosaic Law by faith in the Christ Event. We no longer have to depend on the outward effort of obedience, but on the inward agreement with the Holy Spirit. We can now meet the righteous requirements of the Law through the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

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Bible Covenants He has written the Law on our hearts. Even though New Covenant believers may sin, repentance brings immediate and complete restoration of fellowship with God — it ministers life.

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Bible Covenants God had to take His tabernacled presence and place it into each of us to make us righteous.

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Bible Covenants Randall Gleason , Paul’s Covenantal Contrasts in 2 Corinthians 3:1-11 , Bibliotheca Sacra , vol. 154, no. 613, Jan. 1977. Walter Kaiser, Jr., The Old Promise and the New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34 , Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society . Walter Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology , (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978).

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