By Eugene Garner
THE MOSAIC COVENANT
AND THE THEOCRATIC KINGDOM
Scripture Lesson: Exodus 19:4-24:8; Deuteronomy 29-30.
Of all the covenants that God made with men, the one made on Mt. Sinai is more detailed in the Biblical record than any other. It will not be possible, in the limited scope of these lessons, to make an exhaustive study of this covenant. An attempt shall be made to examine its basic elements and consider something of their far-reaching implications.
The Divine purpose and grace manifested in the Mosaic covenant is probably more widely misrepresented than any other phase of God's covenant-dealings with His people. Somehow, through the centuries, a strange attitude has come to prevail toward this covenant. There has developed a deep-seated repugnance for "the law" which is rooted in an inexcusable ignorance of the Divine intention. The Mosaic covenant is viewed as something despicable; it is almost universally set in a position of contrast, and outright opposition, to the blessings of Divine grace as found in the Abrahamic and New Covenants. Such abhorrence has not developed through an objective examination of the covenant itself; it may have been influenced by the nation's perversion of the Divine Order -- through the weakness of their sinful flesh.
It cannot be stated too emphatically that this covenant with Israel was established in pursuance and fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, (Ex. 2:24; 3:16; 6:4-8; Psa. 105:8-12, 42-45; 106:45). There is no way to justify oneself in charging God with inconsistency in making to Abraham a "covenant of grace" (confirming it with Isaac and Jacob), and then making to the sons of Israel a "covenant of works." The Mosaic is as emphatically a covenant of "grace" as was the Abrahamic; the entire sacrificial system established under this covenant served as a perpetual reminder to the nation that continuance in covenant fellowship was ever dependent on Divine grace. Of all the covenants, this one places greatest stress on the total bankruptcy of human merit, (Rom. 3:19-20).
I. ISRAEL'S ELECTION AS A SPECIAL, NATIONAL PEOPLE WAS A GRACIOUS ACT OF DIVINE LOVE, (Deut. 14:2).
It would be most interesting to observe one attempting to establish evidence for a Divine election apart from God's covenant-intentions, or a corporate dealing of God with men. Where is to be found any Scriptural evidence of God's electing INDIVIDUALS to personal salvation in heaven or condemnation in hell? Who, indeed, is able to find in the Scriptures any Divine election apart from God's covenant-dealings with men, and His purposed Kingdom on earth? And that question is as pertinent to the doctrine of election in the New Testament as in the Old.
- GOD WAS FAITHFUL IN REMEMBERING HIS PROMISE TO ABRAHAM, (Gen. 15:13-16; Ex. 2:23-25; Deut. 4:37-38).
- WITH A MIGHTY HAND, HE HAD DELIVERED THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FROM EGYPT -- redeeming them from the house of bondage, (Ex. 6:6-8; 15:13; 20:2; Deut. 7:8; 9:26; 21:8-9).
- OUT OF PURE LOVE, GOD CHOSE ISRAEL FOR HIMSELF -- that He might be a Father to him, and that (the corporate sons of) Israel should henceforth be regarded as His "firstborn," (Ex. 4:22-23; Deut. 8:5; 14:1; 32:6; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:19; 31:9; Hos. 11:1; Mal. 1:6; 2:10).
- The love-motive, springing from Divine grace, is clearly evident here, (Deut. 7:6-7).
- The exaltation to a position of Divine sonship was also an act of pure grace -- the covenant people never meriting such blessedness.
- They could never say: "My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth," (Debt. 8:17).
- Nor could they ever claim to have attained any blessing through their own righteousness, (Deut. 9:4-6).
- In a special sense, God "knows" this people; the strangeness between themselves and God has been removed so that they may experience an intimate fellowship with Him, (Hos. 6:3; 13:4-5; Amos 3:2).
- AT MT. SINAI A SPECIFIC PROPOSITION WAS MADE TO THE SONS OF ISRAEL, (Ex. 19:3-6).
- God offered to establish His covenant with them.
- To this end He had brought them this far, (Ex. 19:4).
- He would, Himself, lay down the condition for establishment and maintenance of the covenant.
(1) The condition is clearly stated: "If ye will OBEY my voice INDEED, and KEEP MY COVENANT," (Ex. 19:5a; 15:26).
(2) This is, in essence, a call to walk in faith before God.
(3) It is a strange quality in men that can envision faith as divorced from faithfulness; to claim faith in God while walking in disobedience to His revealed will is self-contradictory in any age.
- Acceptance of, and faithfulness to, God's proposition will bring incomprehensible blessings.
(1) "Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine."
(a) Just how highly God valued them can be gleaned from the many references made to the covenant people from Genesis to Revelation, (See Lesson Five, under I-F).
(2) "Ye shall be unto me a Kingdom of priests, and an holy nation."
(b) There is a special sense in which Christ ultimately shed His blood for the covenant people, (Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:7, 14; Titus 2:14; I Pet. 1:18-19; 2:9; Rev. 5:9).
(a) As a kingdom of priests they would fill a vital role in bringing all men to worship and submit themselves under the benevolent authority of the covenant-God, (I Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6; 5:10).
(b) This would be possible ONLY as there was exhibited in their corporate life the very holiness of God, (Deut. 26:16-19).
- 2. The covenant-proposition was mediated by Moses, (Gal. 3:19).
a. God had previously chosen and prepared him as an instrument of blessing to the beloved people.
b. So, Moses called together the elders of the people and laid before them the covenant-proposition as God has delivered it to him.
- Recognizing the bounty of grace being freely offered them, the response of the elders was united: "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." And this commitment was re-affirmed when Moses later read the "book of the covenant" in their hearing, (Ex. 24:7).
- E. WHEN THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL ACCEPTED GOD'S COVENANT-PROPOSITION, HE CONSTITUTED THEM A NATION AND, IN AN INITIATORY FORM, ESTABLISHED IN THEM HIS THEOCRATIC KINGDOM.
- This was not merely a "type" of what God purposed to do; it was the actual commencement of His rule as King over His subject people, (Num. 23:21; Deut. 33:5; Psa. 89:15-18).
- Some things were provisional and temporary because of the nation's sins.
- Other blessings would be added when appropriate.
- Had Israel rendered the required obedience, that Kingdom would have extended itself until all nations were brought under its influence and subjection, (Psa. 78:10-11; 81:13-16).
- It was this very Kingdom over which David reigned -- after Israel had desired a king like the other nations, (I Sam. 8:4-9, 19-22; Comp. Deut. 17:14-15; Hos. 13:9-11; I Sam. 12:12-24).
- When overthrown, because of unbelief, the prophets declared with one voice that it would be restored in splendor and glory, (Isa. 33:20-22; Ezek. 37:22-28; 21:25-27; Dan. 7:13-14; Amos 9:11-12; Zeph. 3:14-17, 20; Zech. 6:12-13).
- It is this very Kingdom that is covenanted to Christ, as David's son -- His real and glorious inheritance, (Psa. 2:6-9; 132:11; Lk. 1:32-33; Rev. 22:16).
- John the Baptist announced it as "at hand" -- calling the nation to repentance.
- Jesus offered it to the nation -- conditioned on such repentance as would bow their hearts in subjection to His sovereign authority.
- But He was rejected and crucified! The nation said: "We will not have this man to reign over us!"
CONSIDER: What a wonderful opportunity was offered to Israel! What a glorious prospect of eternal blessedness lay before them when they vowed, at Mt. Sinai, to do all that the Lord commanded! But how miserable was the failure of the nation -- not willing that God alone should rule their hearts.
On what have you set your heart's deepest affection? It still makes a difference in our day, (Matt. 6:33).
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
- Where did Israel, as a nation, enter into the covenant relationship?
- What other covenant did this one begin to fulfill?
- Did the covenant at Mt. Sinai overthrow the Abrahamic?
- What was the great emphasis of the Mosaic covenant?
- What was the basis on which God chose Israel to be a special people unto Himself?
- What lesson may be learned here about Divine election?
- To whom was God faithful in remembering the sons of Jacob?
- Could Israel claim any merit or righteousness of her own?
- On what condition did God establish His covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai?
- What would Israel be, to God, if they truly obeyed His voice and kept His commandments?
- What new order was established at Mt. Sinai?
- What was to be the relationship of God to Israel under the Mosaic covenant?
- Was the nation faithful to her vow?
- What happened?
- Did God's promise fail? Was God unfaithful?
- Should we take great care concerning the object of our hearts' affections?