Review of the Covenants to this Point
For the last several weeks we’ve been tracing the Covenant of Grace through the pages of Scripture. We’ve been emphasizing that each particular covenant we meet in Scripture enlarges and expands the original gracious covenant made in Genesis 3. Rather than introducing a change in God’s plan and a distinctly new epoch of history, we see fluid development God’s gracious plan of redemption.
Adam, having broken the first covenant (i.e. the Covenant of Works/Covenant of Life), was given a second chance. God entered into a second covenant, wherein he promised life and salvation through a Savior.
After the flood, God reaffirmed his covenant with Noah. God furthered this covenant by promising to never send another flood. God demonstrated his kindness by rescuing Noah & his family and by ensuring that the promised Messiah would come (i.e. all life would continue).
In time the earth seemed to have run amok again. It also appeared that God had given up on man by his dispersing the nations in his wrath. In that dark hour God appeared to Abraham & entered into a covenant with him. In this covenant we see with greater clarity to the scope of this covenant. God established this covenant with Abraham and his children.
To reiterate this, the Lord instituted circumcision. This rite had a twofold purpose: it served as a sign, pointing to our need for cleansing (life & salvation), and it served as a seal, confirming to each child & person the fact that they belonged to God.
The Covenant at Sinai & the Giving of the Law
A person standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai would have been amazed and grateful. They had been in bondage for a long time, and it might have seemed like God had given up on them. Now, they had witnessed some of the greatest miracles of all time. Millions of people had been freed, protected, and assured of God’s loving-kindness.
How should they respond to God’s kindness? How could they do to show their gratitude? God showed them exactly what would please Him most in the publication of His law.
It is important to recognize the continuity in the covenant that is established at Mt Sinai. For what happens here is a significant movement forward in the unfolding of God’s plan. The giving of the law is so significant that some have seen it as a break of God’s plan up to this point and an initiation of a new era whereby God’s people now gain salvation by keeping the law. This, however, is not true. The continuity with the overall plan of God is seen in a number of ways:
1) God’s promise to Abraham was that he would become a great nation, as numerous as the sand on the shore. The throngs camping out at the bottom of this mountain are a realization of this (or at least a partial one).
2) The people are standing on the very edge of the land which was promised to them through Abraham.
3) God had just graciously delivered the people out of Egypt solely because He had “remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob.”
4) The requirements of the covenant were still the same: God required perfect obedience. To Abraham God said, “Walk before me and be blameless.” To Israel God gives his moral law and they respond by saying, “All that the Lord has said we will do.”
Instead of being a new era, the covenant at Sinai simply reiterates God’s promise to save His people and clarifies how the redeemed should live in light of it.
Why did God give the law?
Up until this time the rules that governed God’s covenant had been defined by the “eternal truths.” God was a spirit, so they were not to make images. God had rested on the Seventh day of creation, and set it as a pattern to be observed by the people. Man was made in God’s image, and the one who harms the image bearer was worthy of death because it is essentially an attack on the One whose image he bore.
Although the moral law of God had been set forth since the creation, they were easily blurred by the corruption of man. At Mt. Sinai God publishes his 10 words to specifically spell it out so that there could be no blurring of the line. (Note: The law is good, it still is applicable today--3 uses of the law)
A blood bath
At the foot of Sinai the people vow to follow God and the law God had given (Ex 24:3, 7). Immediately after a most gory ceremony commences. Moses sprays the people with blood drawn from the animals that had been sacrificed. Why does he do this? Think of it as a blood shower; they are, for all practical purposes, “washed in the blood.” God knows that their devotion will not measure up, but He has provided a covering of blood.
1. God gives both the law and sacrificial system at Mt Sinai.
2. There is a distinction between covenant failure & covenant rejection
3. God begins to “dwell” with his people after this covenant in the form of the tabernacle. The law facilitates the relationship.
The Davidic Covenant: The covenant of kingdom
The author of the book “The Lord of the Flies” was once given an interview about his classic work. During the interview he commented that his intention was to write a book that gave a real depiction of what kids would be like if they were left to themselves. His book depicts how a bunch of boys devolve into raw pagans who have no sense of civility. It is only when the captain from a rescue boat shows up that the children regain a sense of morality.
Anyone who has kids knows exactly what William Golding had in mind. If you leave the room for a few minutes, it will not be long before your children start fighting.
Both Golding’s book and your regular home life illustrate the need for a righteous authority figure. It also illustrates part of the reason why God raises up David and establishes His covenant with him. If the law given in the mosaic covenant was going to be obeyed, it requires a king would administer it (Davidic covenant).
Israel was “prone to wander” and “do what was right in their own eyes.” This was much owing to the fact that “there was no king in Israel.” So, get a king and all will be well, right? Nope. Israel wanted a king like the “other nations.” They chose for themselves a robust looking fellow named Saul. He was the very picture of military might. But, in the end, Saul turned out to be an evil tyrant who oppressed the people and became to them a source of agony. God gave them what they wanted, a king like the other nations.
The people of Israel needed a unique king: a righteous one. God rejected Samuel and raised up David, a man after His own heart. He would be the Shepherd of God’s people who would go on to usher in and establish the kingdom of God.
In 2 Sam. 7 we read how David wanted to build a house for God. But these plans are halted. Instead, God says he will build a house out of David. In sum, the Lord vows to enter into a special covenant with David, promising him that he shall have an eternal dynasty.
The king though, is not just one who ensures righteousness within his land. He also is one who fights. Thus, the king of Israel was one who subdued nations and fought God’s battles.
It is easy to see how the king then becomes a messianic figure. It is easy to see how the covenant of David finds its fulfilment in Christ. He is the only Son of David who ensures an eternal dominion of perpetual peace.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.