The Holy Assembly and the Everlasting Covenant

8 - The Desecration of the Covenant

God has provided Israel with the perfect plan for a covenant relationship between Israel and himself. If Israel keeps the covenant, God promises to grant perfect peace, harmony and safety to Israel. As we know, this was not to be the case. The nation of Israel was eventually conquered by other nations and taken into exile. So what happened?

God is Holy, and all that belongs to God is holy, or consecrated, meaning to be set apart for himself. We can be certain, that whatever God has consecrated (made holy), Satan attempts to desecrate (make unholy) including God's covenant, people, Torah and Holy Days.

Satan has used three methods to desecrate that which has been consecrated. They are idolatry, legalism, and deception. Satan has used idolatry to turn Israel away from God and his covenant and bring them to the worship of other gods. Legalism is the keeping of the covenant and Torah out of obligation rather than a heart's desire to show love to God. Deception is used to change the intent or meaning of the covenant and Torah so that the people believe that they are keeping the covenant when in fact they are not.

In this chapter, we will look at how Satan has used both idolatry and legalism in the First Covenant to desecrate God's covenant. In a later chapter, when we get to the New Covenant, we will look at how he uses deception.


Desecration of the Community

God commanded Israel to be holy. This requires that Israel set themselves apart from the other nations by following God's Torah.

They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, "Do not do as they do," and they did the things the LORD had forbidden them to do. (2 Kings 17:15)

God knew that if Israel mingled with the other nations, they would eventually begin to adopt their pagan religion, culture and gods. To prevent this, God gave his Torah to separate Israel from the other nations. Israel disobeyed those boundaries set forth in the Torah and mingled with the other nations, and consequently became separated from God, instead. This desecration of the community was brought about by the desecration of the Torah.


The Desecration of the Torah

When Israel first arrived at Mount Sinai, God spoke the 10 commandments to them. Shortly thereafter, God called Moses up onto the mountain. While he is gone, Israel immediately turns away from this Torah.

The people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come make us gods who will go before us. (Exodus 32:1)

Within days of God telling Israel "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3) and "You shall not make for yourself an idol" (Exodus

20:4), we see Israel is turning away from God and making an idol. We can see this same story repeated over and over again throughout the entire First Covenant.

God is a just God requiring punishment for disobedience, but on the other hand, God is a merciful God and forgives their sins when they repent. Leviticus chapter 26 verses 3 through 45 give a detailed description of God's justice and mercy. I have condensed this passage to demonstrate the grace that God shows to his people.

If you keep My commandments, I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. But if you do not observe all these commandments I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. If you do not obey Me, then, I will punish you seven times more for your sins. But if you confess your iniquity and the iniquity of your fathers, then I will remember My covenant.

Over and over again through the First Covenant we see Israel breaking the covenant, then repenting and receiving forgiveness from God. As this cycle continues, generation after generation, we begin to see God's justice being poured out on Israel.

"It is because your fathers forsook me," declares the LORD," and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my Torah. But you have behaved more wickedly than your fathers. See how each of you is following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying me. So I will throw you out of this land". (Jeremiah 16:11-13)

By breaking the Torah, Israel has broken their promise to obey God. This disobedience of the Torah brings about the desecration of the covenant.


The Desecration of the Covenant

The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. (Isaiah 24:5)

"They have returned to the sins of their forefathers, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their forefathers." (Jeremiah 11:10)

Israel's disobedience had come to such a level that God says.

"I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them". (Jeremiah 11:11)

Eventually Israel is conquered by other nations, taken from their Promised Land, and have become captives in exile in other nations.


The Desecration of the Holy Days

Within the body of the Torah, are the holy days, which God commanded to be observed, the Sabbath and the yearly feasts.

Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations - I cannot bear your evil assemblies. (Isaiah 1:13)

Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?" Skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales. (Amos 8:4-5)

Here we see that the holy days were no longer being kept out of love, but instead, out of a legalistic obligation. Israel kept the Sabbath because they had to, but it appears that they despised it and could not wait until the next day when they could do their work. Even the work they performed was dishonest, and in violation of the Torah.


"Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy. "'Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws - although the man who obeys them will live by them - and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the desert. But for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the desert that I would not bring them into the land I had given them - a land flowing with milk and honey, most beautiful of all lands - because they rejected my laws and did not follow my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths. For their hearts were devoted to their idols. Yet I looked on them with pity and did not destroy them or put an end to them in the desert. I said to their children in the desert, "Do not follow the statutes of your fathers or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols. Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God. But the children rebelled against me: They did not follow my decrees, they were not careful to keep my laws - although the man who obeys them will live by them - and they desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in the desert. But I withheld my hand, and for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the desert that I would disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries. Because they had not obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their fathers' idols. (Ezekiel 20:12)


The Heart of Israel

We previously read that God told Israel to put his Torah on their hearts. There are many examples in the First Covenant of individuals who did place the Torah in their hearts, such as King David and Elijah. God blessed these men for their obedience, but Israel as a whole did not put the Torah on their hearts and the results of this was very devastating to the nation of Israel.


The Holy Assembly Lives On

Even though the community sinned greatly against God, there remained a group of Israelites who remained faithful to God with a clean and pure heart. This group revered the covenant and followed God's Torah. This minority is the remnant of Israel. This remnant remained as the Holy Assembly. The Holy Assembly can never be desecrated because, as we showed in chapter three, the word qahal always refers to those who have a love for God and his covenant, and keep his Torah and remains holy.

"I [the LORD] reserve seven thousand in Israel - all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." (1 Kings 19: 18)

In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. (Isaiah 10:20-21)

A remnant of people, set apart for God, always remains of those who kept the Torah within their hearts, even when all else within the nation have turned away from God. The First Covenant is full of people who have remained faithful to God such as Obadiah, Zechariah, Josiah and Daniel.

Even though God finally punished Israel for their disobedient heart, his grace and mercy continues to be poured out on Israel and, as we shall soon see, he will again forgive them of their sins and renew his covenant with them.


Chapter Summary

  • Satan uses idolatry, legalism and deception to desecrate God's covenant, people and Torah.
  • The community of Israel mingled with other nations and began to adopt their pagan practices and gods.
  • Israel's violation of the Torah caused their removal from the Promised Land.
  • Israel's observance of the Torah, Sabbath and Feasts became legalistic.

  • A remnant, the Holy Assembly, remained in the nation of Israel.
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