PART ONE: THE FIRST COVENANT
1 - What Is A Covenant?
2 - The Covenant with Israel
3 - The Holy Assembly
4 - The Torah
5 - The Sabbath Covenant
6 - The Feasts of the Lord
7 - Other Nations Enter the Covenant
8 - The Desecration of the Covenant
9 - The Promise of A New Covenant
PART TWO: THE NEW COVENANT
10 - The New Covenant
11 - The Holy Assembly
12 - The Torah
13 - The Sabbath Covenant
14 - The Feasts of the Lord
15 - Gentiles Enter the Covenant
16 - The Desecration of the Covenant
2 - The Covenant with Israel
After the flood, Noah and his family began to repopulate the world. Just as in the days of Noah, sin began to increase and once again man forgot about the God who created him and began to seek after other gods. God chose one man, Abraham, to be the father of his people. It is through this man and his descendents that God chooses to reveal his plans for the redemption of mankind.
Abraham lived in the land of his fathers when God gave him the following instruction; "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1) Over the span of many years, God gave Abraham many blessings and promises.
"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. ...To your offspring I will give this land (Canaan)". (Genesis 12:2,3,7)
"Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring, forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted". (Genesis 13:14-17)
After many years of Abraham's wanderings through the land of Canaan, God makes his covenant with him (Genesis 17:1-14).
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendents after you; and I will be their God."
Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner - those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
Let us look at this covenant, breaking it down into its six parts.
God said, "I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come". The covenant is not only with Abraham, but also with all of his descendants.
God said; "I will make you very fruitful", "I will make nations of you", "kings will come from you", "I will be your God and the God of your descendants", "I will give [Canaan] as an everlasting possession" and "I will be their God".
The only requirement put on Abraham and his descendents for the covenant was that; "Every male among you shall be circumcised".
God said; "I will establish my covenant as an everlasting (olam) covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come".
The sign of circumcision is a lifelong reminder to the circumcised that they have taken part in the covenant. It is also a sign of obedience to God. Anyone who chooses not to partake of the sign is showing disobedience to God and His covenant and therefore will be cut off from the people and from the covenant with God.
The dedication is the act of circumcision performed on all the males in Abraham's household immediately following the giving of the covenant. Again we have the shedding of the blood as a part of the dedication of the covenant.
Looking back at Genesis 17:2 we read that God will confirm his covenant with Abraham and his descendants. God went to each of Abraham's descendents and confirmed his covenant with them beginning with Abraham's son Isaac.
That night the LORD appeared to [Isaac] and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham." (Genesis 26:24)
Again God confirms his covenant with Isaac's son Jacob.
There above [the stairway] stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are living. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Genesis 28:13-14)
Jacob, also called "Israel", had twelve sons. They became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Due to a great famine throughout the land of Canaan (Genesis 46:26), Jacob and his sons moved to Egypt. The descendants of Jacob continued to live in Egypt where they became "fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them" (Exodus 1:7). The king (Pharaoh) of Egypt became fearful of Israel's size and enslaved them. After 400 years of slavery and bondage in Egypt, God chose Moses to be the deliverer of Israel. Through Moses, God confirms his covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
"Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD." (Ex 6:6-8)
Through a series of ten plagues that God brought upon Egypt, the Pharaoh released the Israelites from the bondage. God then led them to Mount Sinai.
While the nation of Israel was still enslaved in the land of Egypt, God sent 10 plagues on Egypt to cause them to release Israel.
[The LORD said to Moses] "Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die." Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field. (Exodus 9:19-21)
This is the sixth of the ten plagues that God brought on Egypt before Israel's deliverance. Here we see that there were some Egyptians who feared and believed God and brought their animals in to protect them. Once Israel is delivered out of Egypt we read.
The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. Many other people went up with them. (Exodus 12:37,38)
In this passage we see that "Israelites" and "other people" journeyed out of Egypt. These "other people" are people belonging to nations other than Israel who have joined Israel and may very well include some of those officials of Pharaoh mentioned in Exodus chapter 9. These "other people" were also at Mount Sinai for the giving of the covenant for God instructed all people to come to the foot of the mountain and we also read that all people (including the "other people") said that they would obey God.
For the next year, Israel camps near Mount Sinai. It is here that God reveals his complete covenant with the descendants of Abraham. Exodus 19:1 to 24:8 give all the details of the covenant. Each of the six parts of a covenant can be found within these verses.
Is the covenant given to Israel at Mount Sinai a renewal of the covenant originally given to Abraham or is it a new and different covenant? God's word shows that the covenant God gives Israel at Mount Sinai are a renewal of the covenant for two reasons. First God told Abraham that the covenant he was making with him is also for his descendants and he will confirm his covenant with them (Genesis 17:2) which, as we have seen he did with Isaac, Jacob and the nation of Israel in Egypt. The second reason is from a statement by King David.
He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant". (1 Chronicles 16:15-17)
The LORD said to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you,"... On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. (Exodus 19:9,16-19)
The two parties, God and Israel, have come together for the giving of the covenant. God has descended on Mount Sinai and Israel has come to the foot of the mountain to meet with God.
"Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." (Exodus 19:5-8)
So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together "We will do everything the LORD has said." Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
In this passage, both parties declare their promises to each other. God promises Israel that they will be his treasured possession and that he will be their God and they will be his people. We can also add to these original promises given to Abraham that they will be the inheritors of the Promised Land. Israel also declared their promise to God that they will obey all that he asks of them.
At the conclusion of the giving of the covenant, both parties affirm their promises to each other.
Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you. And none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. (Exodus 23:25-27)
[Israel] responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said, we will obey." (Exodus 24:7)
God is bound to his promises only on the condition that Israel keeps their promises to obey him. Just as our earthly fathers lay down the rules of the home and the punishments for disobedience of those rules, God, our heavenly father also lays down the rules, or commands, and punishments for disobedience of those commands to His children.
What has God required Israel to obey? Exodus 20:1 to 23:19 outlines the commands God gave to Israel. These commands can be broken down into eight different sections; they are.
The eight sets of commands identified above, lay the foundation for all the other commands, which God will give Israel over the next 40 years. Those who lived a life obedient to the commands of God would be blessed, while those who lived a disobedient life would be cursed. In the next chapter, we will discuss these commands and how they affect Israel's relationship with God.
My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. (Genesis 17:13)
He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant. (1 Chronicles 16:17)
God can never break his promises within the covenant. If the covenant were only dependent upon God, then this covenant would last for an eternity. But, as we have seen the condition of the covenant requires that Israel obey His commands. The duration of Israel's covenant relationship with God is dependent upon their obedience to him. As we will see later, Israel has a tough time keeping their promise, but God is very patient and full of grace. Leviticus 26:3-45 shows us just how patient God can be. I have condensed this rather large passage down to just a few sentences so we can see the patience of God.
If you keep My commandments then I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. But if you do not obey Me I also will set My face against you. If you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers then I will remember My covenant.
Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. ... Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. (Exodus 24:4,7)
After God presented the covenant to Israel, he commanded Moses to write it all down. This would be the "contract" of the covenant. It was to be a reminder to each party of the promises that they made to each other. This book which Moses wrote was called the "Book of the Covenant". Israel kept this book as the sign of the covenant.
There are many other signs of the covenant, but we cannot go into all of these here. But, let us look at one as it will be examined closer throughout this book. The Passover Feast was to be a celebration held each year on its anniversary of God's redemption of Israel.
Circumcision remains as a sign of the covenant that was given to Abraham. It is interesting that from the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai to the its conclusion in Deuteronomy, there are only three references to circumcision. Two of these are commanding Israel to circumcise their hearts (Deut 10:16; Deut 30:6). The third is only used as a time reference for the cleanliness of a woman after childbirth (Lev 12.3). The significance of this will be discussed later.
Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. (Exodus 24:4-8)
He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."
Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."
At the conclusion of the giving of the covenant the parties again come together for the dedication of the covenant with God on the mountain and the people gathered at the foot of it. Moses constructed an altar where offerings of animals were made. The blood from these offerings were sprinkled on the altar and Moses reads the "Book of the covenant" then sprinkles the blood on the people. Again we see the shedding of blood sealing the covenant.
Copyright © 2004
Jeff A. Benner
Please feel free to use, copy or distribute any material on this site for non-profit educational purposes only.