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The Mosaic Covenant[1]

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THE MOSAIC COVENANT (EXODUS 19:5)

The Mosaic Covenant is likely the most well-known covenant in existence. Believers and non-believers alike are aware of it, though their understanding of it varies from knowing it in name only to knowledge of the most learned researcher. This covenant has affected more than just the lives of the Israelites but has affected the everyday lives of millions from generation to generation.

How it all began:

Genesis chapter 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” [1] These words begin the greatest story ever told. A world made for God’s creation resulted from this beginning. God placed Adam and Eve in His prepared paradise to care for it, to have dominion over it, to multiply and to fill the earth. They did. This tranquil setting was interrupted by Satan who was successful in his attempt to lure them into sin.

When I look at the account of the creation in Genesis, I notice immediately that Moses’ account of Genesis appears to describe a full account of the creation from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3. At verse four, Moses begins to describe what God did when there was no man (the sixth day) to care for the Paradise He had created. That narrative continues throughout the scripture and will conclude when God rest from his work.

Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden after their blessings were taken away. But God began the journey to restore man and to provide him with the hope of restoration. The New Bible Commentary says:

The long-term effects of sin then started to appear. The serpent was condemned to crawl and to constant warfare with mankind, the woman’s offspring (15). In that her offspring will crush the snake’s head, the latter will come off worse in the long battle. Thus, though this was a judgment on the snake, it was at the same time a promise to man. It has, therefore, traditionally been seen by Jews and Christians, as the first hint of a saviour for mankind, and 3:15 is often called the ‘protevangelion’ the ‘first gospel’. Allusions to it in the NT include Rom. 16:20; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 12. Within Genesis the promise to Abraham that ‘through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed’ (22:18) starts to make the vague promise of 3:15 more specific. It is also notable that this first judgment on sin is tinged with hope, something that recurs throughout Scripture (cf. 6:5–8), as God’s mercy outweighs his wrath (cf. Ex. 20:5–6).[2]

Genesis 3:15 is the first hint of what God might have had in mind to restore man to his former state after being “duped” by the most subtle of creatures, the snake. Let us keep in mind that the scriptures reveal to us how God institutes and carries out the “restoration of man” to his former state of tranquility in the Paradise God has made for him. God’s intent was to restore man through his own seed:

The progeny of the species Homo sapiens was also regarded as ‘seeds’ n. 3:15; 13:15). Thus the seed of Abraham constituted Isaac and his descendants (Gn. 21:12; 28:14). The relationship between God and his people provided a perpetual establishment for the seed of Israel (Ps. 89:4), who would be ruled over by a descendant of the house of David (Acts 2:30), interpreted by the early Christians in terms of Christ the Messiah (2 Tim. 2:8).[3]

The seed of Adam and Eve continued to Noah and his son Shem and then Abraham. It is with Abraham that we see more clearly than ever that God has a plan of restoration for man. The Abrahamic Covenant is stated in Genesis 12:1-3, 7

1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.  7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. [4]

The Abrahamic Covenant is believed to contain three covenants; The Palestinian Covenant (Land), The Davidic Covenant (Seed), and The New Covenant (Blessing) as illustrated by Enns.

 

            [5]

Abrahams’ seed was Isaac and Isaac’ seed was Jacob. The story of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel leads directly into the need for the deliverance of God’s Chosen people after 430 years enduring slavery. Jacob’s descendants become the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob entered Egypt by the generous and faithful hand of his son Joseph who saw to it that Jacob and his family received the choicest of land, Goshen. And a fruitful land it was. The children prospered and multiplied until Pharaoh, who knew not Joseph, feared they would join with their enemies and placed them into servitude perpetually.

It was then that God continued His plan of restoration by delivering the Children of Israel out of Egypt by His Mighty Powers of plaques, signs and wonders. God delivered the Children of Israel to the Mountain Sinai where God gave through the hands of Moses, His prescription for transformation from heathens to a peculiar people. His transformation was intended make them useful for service. Enns summarizes the Jacob experience and the deliverance as follows:

When Jacob, his sons, and their families descended into Egypt, it was a large family that was migrating to Egypt; however, as the book of Exodus opens, the family of Jacob has grown into a nation. This nation will be the key instrument of God’s revelation to humanity. When the Hyksos people and later the Egyptians oppressed Israel, God determined to bring the Israelites out of bondage. In Exodus 12, at the climax of the plagues, God sent the death angel through Egypt. Whoever had applied lamb’s blood to the doorposts and above the doorways of their houses was redeemed—it took an act of faith to apply the blood to the house. This great act of delivering Israel from Egypt foreshadowed a greater act of redemption that God would accomplish through a descendant of Jacob—the Messiah. God led redeemed Israel down to Sinai where He entered into a covenant with the nation. He was setting the Israelites apart as a special people for Himself. Israel became the mediator of God’s theocratic kingdom on earth through the Mosaic Covenant.[6]

The Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant that God made with this new nation. Conditional means that there were obligations to be fulfilled by the Children of Israel in order to receive the benefits of the agreement. It should be pointed out that this “nation” is not much of a “Nation” at this stage. They have just been freed from slavery no more than three months; they have not functioned as a “Nation” for 430 years. Their theocratic teaching is unclear, they are unclear about their present leadership and what is required of them as followers. They have no laws or country or overseers. They are unsure about their future. The oldest person among them has never been free. They don’t know the God that has just delivered them although they are about to be introduced. Therefore, this is not a nation in the full sense of the word but they will become a nation. This is God’s plan.

The Purpose of The Mosaic Covenant:

An indication of God’s intent for the Children of Israel is given during the call of Moses at the “burning bush” in Exodus 3:10-12:

10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. 11 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? 12 And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. [7]

God said “… ye shall serve God upon this mountain.” One of God’s purposes was for His people worship. He intended that this people would worship Him and Him only. In Exodus 19 after three months, God speaks to Moses with instructions for the Elders and the Children of Israel:

5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.[8]

God intends that he Children of Israel:

1.                  Worship Him

2.                  Obey His Voice

3.                  Keep His covenant

If they do this God will:

1.                  You shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.

2.                  You shall be a kingdom of priest

3.                  You shall be a holy nation

And the people agreed. “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.” At this point, the covenant was sealed. There were two parties in agreement. God’s purpose was clear. He would make them a peculiar treasure, a kingdom of priest, a holy nation, a people that worshiped Him and Him only.

The elaborate Mosaic Covenant revealed at Sinai is the instrument whereby this servant people became the fulfillment of promise and the vehicle of the redemptive message. …The election of Israel and her redemption from hostile Egypt were acts of divine grace without precondition and without the possibility of retraction (Ex. 2:24–25; 3:15–17; 4:21–23; 6:2–8). It was only the acceptance of servanthood with all its blessings that was conditional (19:4–6). The creation of Israel as a servant people was a fait accompli, an act of the sovereign God in accord with His own eternal promises. The function of Israel within that framework depended on Israel’s obedience to the terms of servanthood spelled out in the Sinai revelation.[9]

The Duration of The Mosaic Covenant:

The time in which a covenant is in effect may coincide with a dispensation, as in the case of the Mosaic Covenant. It may cover many dispensations (e.g., the Noahic Covenant, which has been in effect since the flood), or be worked out through several dispensations and climaxed in one (e.g., the Abrahamic, New, Palestinian, and Davidic, which all find their ultimate fulfillment during the kingdom).[10]

Israel experienced many failures. They were punished many times but never carried out their promise to God to obey His voice and keep His covenant. As a result, they wondered in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses did not enter the Promised Land nor did the Children of Israel that were 20 years and older at the time the spies returned with their reports from Jericho. Only Caleb and Joshua entered. They entered the land and Joshua led the children through conquest after conquest until his death. At his death, Israel has entered the land promised and had divided the land to all the tribes. They entered the land as twelve tribes but Rueben, Gad and one-half of Manasseh received their portions on the east side of the Jordan River.

 Israel continued to be disobedient, serving other gods. God punished them during the time of the Judges and gave them their first king (Saul) upon their request. The Nation of Israel was a united kingdom under David and Solomon but divided after the death of Solomon into a Northern (Israel) Kingdom and a Southern (Judah) Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom was later dispersed and taken into exile by Assyria and 130 years later Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians. The promise of the return and uniting of the Nation of Israel is embodied in the Davidic, Palestinian and the New Covenant.

The Significance of The Mosaic Covenant:

The Mosaic Covenant had far reaching affects upon mankind. It was intended that Israel be the vessel through which this affect occurred. It has succeeded in bringing to the world an awareness of an All Mighty God. The people have not been as faithful and obedient as hoped but because of them, we became aware of the power of God. Enns says it this way:

God promised to make Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). She was set apart to the Lord to mediate His truth to other nations. This was a missionary injunction. A priest was a mediator, representing the people to God; in that sense the entire nation Israel was to be a mediator of the kingdom of God to the nations of the world. Israel’s was a universal priesthood. “They were to be mediators of God’s grace to the nations of the earth even as in Abraham ‘all the nations of the earth were to be blessed.’ ”[11]

The covenant with Israel was more than a covenant with a slave nation. Its effect has been felt throughout all the earth through many generation and people. We have become aware, because of this people, that there is a God that sees, hears, feels and delivers:

Exodus 3:6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. 7 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; 8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. [12]

 

The Mosaic Covenant has moral, civil and ceremonial significance. The Moral Law (The Ten Commandments) has directed our relationship with God and with our fellow man. The Civil Law teaches us how to live peaceably with our fellow man and The Ceremonial Law teaches us how to worship and All Powerful God.

The Results of The Mosaic Covenant:

 

The unchanging character of God comes to the fore in the relationships He secures with humanity by means of promises. These promises appear in Scripture as covenants, sovereign pronouncements of God “by which He establishes a relationship of responsibility” between Himself and individuals or groups. In one sense they are the glue that holds God’s plan for humanity together, for they connect His redemptive acts with the recipients of the results of those acts. And everywhere in the Bible God’s covenants are connected with His nature.[13]

We get to know God by the relationships we form with Him and the promises He makes with His people. We have grown to know that God is faithful. He keeps His promises. The Mosaic Covenant caused the Children of Israel to know firsthand, the God of their Fathers and to eventually introduce that God to the world as we know it today. It is God’s plan to “restore man to his original state and God’s original intent” The result of The Mosaic Covenant is that through it, man has moved a step closer to his restoration. The complete restoration of man will be in the

“New Jerusalem” (Revelations 21:1-2).

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [14]


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[1]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Ge 1:1-2). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2]Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) (Ge 3:9). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

[3]Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (1073). InterVarsity Press.

[4]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Ge 12:7-8). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[5] Enns, P. P. (1997, c1989). The Moody handbook of theology (35). Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press.

[6]Enns, P. P. (1997, c1989). The Moody handbook of theology (55). Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press.

[7]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Ex 3:10-12). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[8]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Ex 19:5-8). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[9]Zuck, R. B. (1991; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (87). Chicago: Moody Press.

[10]Karleen, P. S. (1987). The handbook to Bible study : With a guide to the Scofield study system. "This book is intended as a companion to the Scofield Reference Bible"--Pref.; Includes indexes. New York: Oxford University Press.

[11]Enns, P. P. (1997, c1989). The Moody handbook of theology (56). Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press.

[12]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Ex 3:6-9). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[13]Karleen, P. S. (1987). The handbook to Bible study : With a guide to the Scofield study system. "This book is intended as a companion to the Scofield Reference Bible"--Pref.; Includes indexes. New York: Oxford University Press.

[14]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Re 21:1-3). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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