Why Another Covenant?
God first made the New Covenant with Adam. Then renewed it to Noah and his children forever:
“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.” (Genesis 17:7).
Abraham and his decedents were to be saved under the New Covenant:
“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of One, And to thy Seed, which is Christ.” “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” (Galatians 3:16, James 2:23).
It is obvious that Abraham’s “decedents” would have included the Jews at Mount Sinai. So if they were already offered salvation under the New Covenant, why did God give them another covenant?
Over time, men had lost sight of the original promise.
But . . . the Children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. Living as vile slaves among the corrupt, idol-worshipping Egyptians. And from the story of their Exodus we can see that they had:
- Lost the true conception of God and His holiness.
- They did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts.
- They didn’t realize their utter weakness and inability in themselves to obey a Holy law.
- And they didn’t feel a their need of a Savior.
These lessons needed to be taught: Since they did not feel their need of the New Covenant—they did not appreciate or desire it.
Teaching these important lessons was the only purpose of the Old Covenant.
The First Shall Be Last?
This means the New Covenant existed before the Old Covenant. That seems a little backwards at first! But it makes sense actually: In order for a covenant to be ratified, blood must be shed.
Which sacrifice happened first? The Old Covenant’s of course. Which covenant was then ratified first? The Old Covenant—that’s why it’s called the First Covenant or the Old Covenant.
Finding The Old Covenant
Where do we find the Old Covenant in the Bible then? It’s pretty easy. Paul talks about the Old Covenant in Hebrews 9:
“Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.’” (Hebrews 9:18-20 NKJV)
Here we have that ratification of the Old Covenant. And if you look at your marginal references, it takes us back to Exodus 24, which reads just like Hebrews 9:
“And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, ‘All the words which the LORD hath said will we do.’
“And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
“And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, ‘All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.’
“And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.’” (Exodus 24:3-8)
The blood was shed, and in the most solemn manner the covenant was ratified.
God referenced the laws that would govern the contract (Exodus 20-23). A well-written contract today will do the same thing.
These laws were not the Old Covenant, for many of them existed before this time (Passover, Sabbath, adultery, murder, etc.) and they all continued to be enforced, even after the Old Covenant had been broken, for they were the foundation of Israel’s moral and civil code for the following centuries.
A few examples of these laws continuing—there are a great many more:
- Exodus 22:1—the principle of fourfold restoration in case of theft: 2 Samuel 12:6, Luke 19:8.
- Exodus 23:14-19—the feasts of unleavened bread (Passover), the feast of Weeks, and the feast of harvest (Tabernacles), which were still kept when Christ was on earth.(John 7:2, John 13:1)
- Exodus 21:26-27—Eye for eye, tooth for tooth: Leviticus 24:19-20, Deuteronomy19:21, 1 Samuel 15:33, Matthew 5:38.
- Exodus 22:18—Prohibition of witches: Leviticus 20:27, 1 Samuel 28:3.
These laws were were not the contract, but were what we would call the “governing laws" of the contract—the covenant was made, “concerning all these words”.
The Old Covenant In Scripture
The Old Covenant contract itself is found in Exodus 23:20-33:
“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
“But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.
“Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.
“There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil. I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
“I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
“Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.”
Since the Old Covenant was an object lesson to teach specific lessons, how did it do?
- The true conception of God and His holiness.
- In the giving of the Old Covenant God came down in fearful majesty.
“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, ‘Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’” (Exodus 20:18-19).
- In the giving of the Old Covenant God came down in fearful majesty.
- The sinfulness of their own hearts.
- In giving the Old Covenant God said, “If thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak” then I will bless you. (Exodus 23:22). Their only hope of blessing was if they kept the laws that the covenant referenced. However only a few weeks went by before they made the golden calf, breaking the covenant.
- Their utter weakness and inability in themselves to obey a Holy law.
- After making the golden calf and giving themselves up to worship it, they realized they had been unable to do “all that the Lord had spoken”. Nowhere in this covenant had God offered any power to open “prison to them that are bound” and deliver them from Satan’s control.
- And their need of a Savior.
- “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin.” (Exodus 32:30) The people realized the huge problem they had now: in giving the Old Covenant God had said, I “will not pardon your transgressions.” (Exodus 23:21).
The Old Covenant did exactly what God designed it to do: it showed them their need of the New Covenant that had already been given. The Old Covenant was useless to them now—they had broken their contract (covenant) with God—and had no hope for His blessings.
“And I have made with the house of Israel And with the house of Judah a New Covenant, Not like the covenant that I made with their fathers, In the day of My laying hold on their hand, To bring them out of the land of Egypt, In that they made void My covenant, And I ruled over them.
“For this is the Covenant that I make, With the house of Israel, after those days, I have given My law in their inward part, And on their heart I do write it, And I have been to them for God, And they are to me for a people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33 Young’s Literal Translation).
Now they felt their need of the Savior, “the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises”—promises of forgiveness, promises of Divine power to bind the strong man and enable them to obey! (Hebrews 8:6).
(To be continued…)