Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent: Day 19

Today we continue our journey through the covenants of the Old Testament to see how they center around the covenantal refrain—"I will be your God and you will be my people"—and how they point us to Jesus. We have looked at God's covenant with Adam and Eve (after the fall), God's covenant with Noah, and God's covenant with Abraham. That brings us to God's covenant with Moses and the Israelite people. The specific passage about this covenant, since it lays out the covenant law for God's people, are numerous. It covers Ex. 19-24 and the entire book of Deuteronomy. It is far to much to read in a single blog post, so we will focus on God's words to Moses when He first promised to redeem Israel from Egypt and then talk a little about the Mosaic Covenant:
2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.'" (Ex. 6:2-8, emphasis added)
This is not only the story of Israel's redemption from Egypt but also our story of our redemption from sin. Like God covenanted with the Israelites to give them the land of Canaan, so He covenanted with us to give us heaven and eventually the new heavens and the new earth, in Jesus. Like God heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians held as slaves, so He heard the groaning of His elect whom sin held as slaves. As God said, "I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment," so He brought us out of the burden of slavery to sin and redeemed us from the power of death, through Jesus. And, as God promised to bring them into the land He swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and give it to them as a possession, so He will soon send Jesus back to bring us into the land we have been promised—the new heavens and the new earth—and give it to us as a possession. All of this was done for the Israelites and for His Church so He could fulfill His covenantal refrain, the thread weaving through all the covenants (italicized above): "I will be your God and you will be my people." God's physical redemption of Israel is a type, a foreshadowing of what He would soon do for all His elect in Jesus. This is why we have something celebrate at Advent. God brought us out of slavery into freedom in Christ, and "He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col. 1:13).

Now, let's talk specifically about God's covenant with the Israelites that He gave to Moses. God covenants with His people at Mt. Sinai, and this covenant is often called the "Mosaic Covenant" or sometimes the "covenant of law." Why add this covenant under the umbrella of the covenant of grace after the Abrahamic Covenant (AC)? In Ga. 3:19 Paul says, "Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…." The Mosaic Covenant (MC) was added to the umbrella of the covenant of grace "because of transgressions." It provided the covenant law and sacrificial system by which God's people could fellowship with Him—He as their God and they as His people—until "the offspring should come," i.e. until Jesus Christ came to fulfill the covenant of grace. The MC mediated the covenant of grace for God's people until Christ, and it ultimately pointed to Christ who was foreshadowed in its ordinances, laws, and sacrifices and who would one day fulfill and mediate a better, ultimate covenant (He. 7:22). It did not replace the AC but built upon it (again, giving more information about the covenant of grace and greater fellowship with God). This is clear from the beginning when God rescued Israel from Egypt: "And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob." (Ex. 2:24, emphasis added) So, God redeemed them from Egypt to give them the land which He "swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" (Ex. 6:8, emphasis added) and so He could "take [them] to be [His] people, and [He] will be [their] God" (Ex. 6:7), again repeating His covenantal refrain. The covenantal dealings with God before He made the MC with the Israelites at Sinai were founded upon His covenant with Abraham, and this did not change with the introduction of the MC. Even after the covenant was made at Sinai, God often repeated His covenantal refrain that He made to Abraham (Lv. 11:45; Dt. 4:20; 29:13). Also, in the MC God's mercy and grace were traced to His covenant with Abraham (Ex. 32:12-14; 33:1; Lv. 26:42; Dt. 1:8; 4:31; 7:8; 9:27; 29:12-13). And, the fellowship promised in the covenantal refrain found even greater fulfillment with His presence in the Tabernacle among the people (Ex. 40:34ff; Lv. 26:11-12). It was only upon the foundation of God’s covenant with Abraham that the MC could be built, and it was in the MC that God’s covenant with Abraham found a basic fulfillment. More was to come in His later covenants and ultimate Jesus Himself, who would bring final fulfillment. Thus, far from abrogating God's covenant with Abraham, the MC built upon it, further revealed God's covenant of grace, increased His fellowship with His people, and pointed to Jesus.

So, even though the MC may seem like a lot of rules and regulations, remember that it is founded upon the promises of redemption and grace given in the AC, and remember that all these laws, ordinances, and sacrifices were not an end in themselves but pointed to Jesus who would fulfill them all forever. Christ's advent did not replace the covenant with Moses; it fulfilled the promises, shadows, and types in it that pointed to Him all along. 

By His Grace,

No comments: