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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS and thank you for taking the time to be here today.
Last week we looked at the first four of 8 covenants in Scripture: the Edenic, the Adamic, the Noahic, and the Abrahamic Covenants. As the LORD God introduced each one of these covenants, the majority of them also ushered in a new dispensation or divine management of human affairs and events in the world.
The first eleven chapters of Genesis reveal how the LORD God dealt with the entire human race over a period of two thousand years. Beginning at or about 2004 BC, the LORD God established the Abrahamic Covenant with Abram and other covenants would follow and all of these would be with the new race of people, the Jews.
Please note the Adamic and the Noahic Covenants were not done away with by the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant and those that came after it belong to the Hebrew race, while the Adamic and the Noahic covenants pertain to the entire Gentile world. The dispensations of Conscience (Adamic) and Human Government (Noahic) still continue as they relate to the Gentiles.
If you’re wondering where we’re at in the Bible, we’re still holding at 2 Corinthians 3:6a because we still have 4 more covenants to look at. The next one on our list, in sequence, is the Mosaic Covenant.
The Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19-31)
This covenant was given to Moses on Mt Sinai, shortly after the Exodus from Egypt. It ushered in the Dispensation of “the Law.” This was a conditional covenant based on obedience and may be divided into three parts:
1: The Moral Law – (Exodus 20:1-26) – This consists of the Ten Commandments.
2: The Civil Law – (Exodus 21:24-18) –
3: The Ceremonial Law – (Exodus 25:1-40, 38) – This includes the Tabernacle, the Priesthood, and the order of service.
Unlike the previous covenants that had few requirements for both parties, the Mosaic Covenant is a much larger and complicated covenant with laws, rituals, and a holy tabernacle that allowed humans to enter the LORD’s presence, if certain conditions were met. Because of and how it relates to the Abrahamic Covenant, and its purpose it is also the most misunderstood covenant.
The Mosaic Covenant was an extension of the Abrahamic Covenant made with the descendants of Abraham. The Abrahamic Covenant was an unconditional covenant into which one entered merely by placing their faith (or trust) in the LORD God, thus entering also into a relationship with the LORD. The Mosaic Covenant, on the other hand, was a conditional covenant that determined what blessings the one who belonged to the Abrahamic Covenant would receive, based on their obedience. It is similar to a person receiving salvation by placing their faith in Jesus Christ (Abrahamic Covenant), but the depth of relationship with Him and whether they receive discipline or blessing is based on their obedience to Him (Mosaic Covenant). One cannot enter the Mosaic Covenant without first entering the Abrahamic Covenant.
The requirements and blessings for the Mosaic Covenant are found in Exodus 19:3-6. The “if-then” statement in these verses reveals that the Mosaic Covenant the LORD God was making with Israel was conditional based on their obedience to His requirements in order to receive blessings. If Israel was obedient, the LORD promised them three blessings:
First, they would be “My own possession” belonging to the LORD God (Exodus 19:5). This means that Israel would enjoy a unique relationship with the LORD compared with all other (gentile) nations, due to the unconditional promises of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Second, they would be a “kingdom of priests,” representing the LORD God before the gentile nations (Exodus 19:6). A priest mediates between God and man. Israel would be a holy people who enjoyed access to the LORD, therefore, one day future, they would go to the other gentile nations, revealing the one true God to them and bringing them into the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 33:9-10). Israel would not be a kingdom known for its politicians, government, and military might, but for its faith, righteousness, testimony, and for its Sovereign God.
Third, they would be a “holy nation,” unique from all the other nations (Exodus 19:6). The word “holy” means “separate.” In order to be a kingdom of priests, Israel could not be like all the other gentile nations in the way that they lived and worshiped false gods.
Leviticus 18:1-5 gives three more reasons why Israel must obey the LORD’s commands. First, they were to obey because He was their God; second, so that they do not become like the surrounding Gentile cultures; and third, so that they may live.
The idea of “live” in Leviticus 18:5 means to have physical life, as well as the LORD’s covenant blessings of eternal life as defined in Ezekiel 20:11. Ezekiel describes the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness, after which the LORD God judged them and destroyed them. Because they failed to obey Him, they did not receive His covenant blessings of life. Faithfulness to God’s Law (the Mosaic Covenant) would result in a full and prosperous life in the Promised Land, along with the ever-abundant blessings of the LORD God. However, a disobedient life would result in suffering, death, and exile from the Land.
Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, and the Sabbath was the sign of Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:12-18). Because the Abrahamic Covenant is built into the Mosaic Covenant, circumcision became an individual sign of participation in the Mosaic Covenant, while keeping the Sabbath was the corporate sign.
The Sabbath was only for the nation of Israel neither the gentiles nor the Body of Christ have any part of it. This covenant is eternal (Ezekiel 44:24, 45:17, 46:1, 3-4, 12) and sovereignly established. Since it is only for the nation of Israel and is eternal it is proof positive that the nation of Israel will exist forever (See Jeremiah 31:35-37).
The Mosaic Law consisted of three classes:
The first were those governing the moral life, which would be the Ten Commandments. The moral law instructed one on how to live righteously in relation to the LORD, their neighbor, and to the stranger in the land or the gentile.
The second were those laws governing the religious life, which would be those in and about the Tabernacle of the LORD, the sacrificial system, and the priesthood. These laws instructed one on how to enter the presence of a righteous and holy God and what was necessary to atone for sin, having broken the moral code.
The third included those laws governing the civil life, which were laws that dealt with civil law and the punishments given when one violated these laws. It’s important to note that the LORD God gave the “whole” Law specifically for the nation of Israel and to violate one law from any of these three classes was to violate the “whole law.” The phrase “Bust one and you’re done” certainly applies here.
The Purpose of the Mosaic Covenant
The purpose of the Law was not to grant the nation of Israel or an individual salvation; for no one can “earn” salvation through their own works or by trying to keep any one of these 613 laws (Galatians 2:16, 3:2). The Law was given by the LORD God to His chosen people in order to pave the way for salvation - to reveal the nation’s need for the Christ or the promised Redeemer.
First, the Law was given to the nation of Israel to reveal the righteousness and holiness of the LORD God (Exodus 19:23; Romans 7:12; 1 Peter 1:15) and His standard of righteousness for His people (Exodus 19:6, 22:31, 31:13; Psalm 24:3-5). In addition to that, for the first time in human history God gave mankind His requirements for living a righteous life.
Second, this righteous standard of God would reveal the sinfulness of man (Matthew 5:20; Romans 7:7-11; Galatians 3:19). As each person tried to live the righteous standards of the holy God, they would soon find, time and time again, that they could not meet the expectations of the Law. In addition, when they discovered what was expected of them, they would soon learn they desired to do the opposite, even if there had been no desire to do so before. This instinct to “rebel” is like the desire to drive faster than the posted speed limit. The roadway sign may read speed limit 35mph. But the “rebel” inside you has no intention of driving at that speed. Besides, no one else is – why should you? As one continually falls short of the expectations of the Law (Romans 3:23) and even rebels against it, they are forced to face the person in the mirror or their own sinfulness. Thus, they bring judgment upon themselves for they know the Law but do not obey the Law (Galatians 3:9-10).
Third, this failure on Israel’s part (and ours) to fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law would point to their need of a Savior (Matthew 5:17; Romans 8:2-4). The Lord Jesus Christ was hidden in the Law, the sacrificial system, and the Tabernacle, ready to be revealed in His coming (Luke 24:26-27). The dimensions of the Tabernacle are divisible by the #5. In Scripture, the #5 symbolizes God’s grace, goodness and favor towards humans and is mentioned 318 times. For those religious leaders who were willing to study the Law, i.e. to see it for what it truly was, they would see the Messiah (Jesus Christ), and when He came, as promised, they would not only recognize Him as their Messiah, they would drop everything they were presently doing and run to greet Him, worshiping Him as their Redeemer and LORD. But, we know that didn’t happen.
The Land Covenant (Deuteronomy 29; 30:1-10)
The Land Covenant is also referred to as the Palestinian Covenant by some people today. But the Bible does not say or recognize the label of Palestinian Covenant. It is the territory (and beyond) covering what is now established as the nation of Israel because of God’s specific promises to Abraham and his descendants through the line of Issac and Jacob.
Ishmael, the half-brother of Issac, was not in line for this covenant, but his descendants have been relentlessly fighting for the territory ever since. Ishmael (and his offspring) was also to receive blessings, but they were not to possess the Land (Genesis 17:20). Gradually, those who do not know the Word of God (and the history of the Land) have been taken in by the propaganda presented by the enemy of God and His people. Therefore, calling this covenant the Palestinian Covenant is a misnomer and by design.
The Land Covenant amplified the land aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. It was sovereignly established and it is eternal. That speck of land Israel presently occupies today, which is roughly the size of New Jersey, is not the nation of Israel as ordained by the LORD God and promised to His people. The LORD promised the nation of Israel the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River (Genesis 15:18). The river of Egypt is the Nile or its eastern branch, according to 2 Chronicles 9:26.
Moses, speaking prophetically, foretold of Israel’s disobedience and dispersion throughout the world. The nation was disobedient throughout its relationship with the LORD God and God disciplined it often. For example, the nation broke the Law by refusing to keep the land Sabbaths (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:2-7, 18-22). The LORD judged Israel for this behavioral lapse by bringing in the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. The nation had disregarded the land Sabbaths for 490 years. God declared that He would have His Sabbaths and brought the nation into captivity for 70 years (2 Chronicles 36:16-21; Jeremiah 25:9-12, 26:6-7, 29:10). Moses prophesied this would happen (Leviticus 26:32-35). During this time, the land lay fallow and was desolate (Nehemiah 1:3, 2:13-17). Both history and your Bible record that when the nation of Israel is out of the land, it becomes desolate. For instance, after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and the Jews were dispersed the desolation was recorded by Dio Cassius, a Roman statesman and historian of Greek origin.
If you study this passage (Deuteronomy 29:13-15), these points of the amended Land Covenant become clear:
The Israelites will be dispersed as a consequence of their disobedience
Their hearts will be circumcised
There will be a full repentance of the nation in the future
The LORD God will bring all the Jews back to the Promised Land of Israel
He will restore the Land and bring about national prosperity
The LORD will put curses upon Israel’s enemies and they will be judged
The Land will belong to the Jews forever, unconditionally
The promises of the Land Covenant are coming to full fruition. In May of 1948 the statehood of the Jewish Nation of Israel was officially declared. The displaced people began to return from all over the world as God said they would. Their Aliyah, which means being called up to the Torah reading at the Synagogue or moving to the Land of Israel (the immigration process) which is an ongoing process today (Romans 11:25-26).
The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:4-29)
The Lord gave this covenant to King David, through Nathan the prophet, at Jerusalem. God promised to establish the throne of David forever. It too was sovereignly established and amplified the “seed” aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. In addition, the Land of Israel (promised in the Abrahamic Covenant) is also mentioned in verse 10 of 2 Samuel 7 in which God promised to “plant” Israel permanently in the Land (Jeremiah 24:6, 32:36-41; Amos 9:15).
Backing up just a bit, you can see the “foreshadow” of the Davidic Covenant in Jacob’s blessing of his son right before his death. King David wasn’t identified but his tribe was. Reading the text, we find Jacob recognized that rulership came from the tribe of Judah: “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you. “Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. “He ties his foal to the vine, and his robes in the blood of grapes. “His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk (Genesis 49:8-12).
The LORD promised to preserve King David’s throne forever. The king of Israel had to be the firstborn from the bloodline of David. Some folks say there was a problem, but there are no problems when God is involved, only solutions. The LORD God had a “blood curse” on Coniah or Jeconiah, one of the kings in David’s blood line because of his wickedness (2 Kings 24:5-15; Jeremiah 22:24-30). Joseph, Mary’s husband, was from this blood line; the bloodline of King Solomon. If Jesus had been born the biological offspring of Joseph, he would not have been qualified for kingship since God had cursed this line. This was the LORD God solution. David had another son, Nathan. This line ended in Heli (Luke 3:23). Heli had no sons, but he had three daughters. One was named Mary. Now, in this culture daughters were not normally granted inheritance rights, but here’s the thing. Mary was eligible due to a case brought by the daughters of Zelophehad to Moses. In this case, Moses granted inheritance rights if there were NO SONS and the daughter married within her tribe (Numbers 26:33, 27:1-11, 36:2:12; Joshua 17:3-6; 1 Chronicles 7:15).
I don’t believe in coincidence – I believe in God who sees the beginning, the middle, and the end of mankind’s story. Mary, fit the requirements of the Law perfectly. She was a daughter; she had no brothers, and she married Joseph, a man from the same tribe as she – the tribe of Judah. Joseph, legally adopted Jesus, which meant he had the royal right of the firstborn. The “virgin birth” (a different subject altogether) was essential to the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant for Jesus Christ will fulfill the promise of the covenant as He reigns as king upon the earth (Zechariah 14:9).
As we turn our attention to the 8th covenant, I want to point out that the number 7 in Scripture denotes completion and 8 represents new beginnings and the New Covenant is most certainly a new beginning.
Two other things I want to mention are: a) beginning with the Abrahamic Covenant, and every covenant that followed after it, these covenants are between God and the nation of Israel. Gentiles are not God’s covenant people the nation of Israel is. b) The new covenant does not become a reality for the nation of Israel until they have realized the King and the Kingdom on earth. This is based on what the LORD God said in Jeremiah 31:31-34: “Behold, days are coming” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with (who) the house of Israel and with (who) the house of Judah (this was back when the nation of Israel was divided between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom), not like the covenant which I made with their fathers (Abraham, Issac, and Jacob) in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their (what) heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Now, if you will, please turn in your Bible to 2 Corinthians 3:6a, which is where we left our Apostle Paul a couple of weeks ago, we'll pick up our lesson from there.
2 Corinthians 3
6a: who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant (or the Lord called us to preach the requirements of the New Covenant, i.e. to make them known to a dying world).
The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
The New Covenant is a Sovereign Covenant which guarantees the nation of Israel a converted heart (Ezekiel 11:16-21, 36:24-38). This covenant replaces the old, Mosaic Covenant, which Israel failed to keep. Instead of the Law being written on tablets of stone (as the Mosaic Law was), God’s Law will be written on the hearts of His people.
When will this covenant be fulfilled? I’m glad you asked. It will be fulfilled when all the sovereignly established covenants will be fulfilled – in the Millennial or Messianic kingdom. The Lord Jesus Christ initiated the New Covenant in the upper room on the evening prior to His arrest, mock trial, and subsequent crucifixion (Matthew 26:28). While He initiated it, its fulfillment remains unrealized. Why is that? The generation of Jews Jesus Christ ministered to rejected Him as their Messiah and King and delayed the fulfillment of the covenant. A future generation of Jews will repent and experience its fulfillment. This future generation (Romans 11:26-29) will experience fulfillment of all the other covenants: Abrahamic, Sabbatic, Land, Davidic covenants in the future Messianic Kingdom.
Now, the question at hand is if the New Covenant is between the LORD and the nation of Israel, it’s waiting to be fulfilled at the coming of the King and His Kingdom, does God’s Church, the Body of Christ, have a relationship to it? The answer is, Yes. But, we must understand the context of the Church’s relationship to the New Covenant.
You can use your Concordance to look up references to the New Covenant in the N.T. Here are some: Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17, 11:25; Hebrews 8:8-13, 9:15, 12:24. The passages we’ve already looked at in Jeremiah and in Ezekiel and in the N.T. provided above state quite clearly the New Covenant was made with national Israel, i.e. the Jews. Since all the other covenants were made with national Israel, it stands to reason this one belongs to them too. We really don’t need more proof of this but there is more to be found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he writes the covenants were to and for Israel alone (Ephesians 2:11-12).
The Gentiles and God’s Church had no part of these covenants because the Scriptures teach us the Body of Christ was a secret entity. God kept it a secret until He revealed it to and through a most unlikely candidate named Saul of Tarsus – later to be known as Paul a called, apostle of the Lord. Neither God’s one Church nor the Body of Christ existed during Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. On top of that, Jesus Christ stated He came to the nation of Israel to present Himself as their King and announce the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:14-15; Romans 15:8). Here’s the thing, even though Israel rejected both Christ Jesus and His message this was a viable option. If the nation of Israel repented and accepted Him, the Messianic Kingdom would have been established. But the Sovereign God knew they would not (Psalm 2; Acts 2:22-24).
The nation of Israel was a new creation that began with one man named Abram and likewise God’s Church is a new creation that began with one man named Paul. Each of these entities, Israel and the Church, has its own destiny and purpose. A good portion of Christendom has been taught that God’s purpose for national Israel has come to an abrupt end. But you won’t find that sentence in your Bible; it’s merely an opinion of man. The LORD has declared Israel’s purpose continues according to God’s sovereign plan (Romans 11:1; Psalm 94:14). Israel has a past history and a future destiny distinct
from God’s one Church based upon the promises of YHWH from His sovereignly established covenants.
The gospel, or the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin, is the foundation and the basis of blessings for both Israel and God’s Church. While Israel and the Church are distinct and unique creations of God, we do well to remember there was a time when neither existed (See Genesis 1-11). Jesus’ death (His payment for sin) provided salvation for all who would believe. This includes both Jew and Gentile. Jesus Christ’s death was the defining moment event of history. In God’s plan, it was the redemptive event towards which all human history was working. In military terms, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ was God’s strategic victory which turned the tide in His campaign against sin, death, and evil (Genesis 3:15).
When God called Saul of Tarsus to be His apostle to the Gentiles, he ushered in the Dispensation of Grace or the Church Age. God is now calling out a people for Himself as the Body of Christ (the Church). After the fullness of the gentiles is complete or the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ, God will remove it from the earth (Rapture it) and sometime later He will pour out His long-delayed wrath upon this rebellious, Christ-rejecting earth. He will save a repentant Israel and initiate the long-awaited kingdom which Jesus Christ proclaimed to Israel but was rejected for doing by His generation. When God ushers in His Kingdom, it will be to a repentant national Israel which has accepted Jesus as Messiah. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ form the basis of blessings for God’s one Church as well as the covenantal blessings promised to national Israel. In Ephesians 2:11-12, Paul stated that Gentiles were strangers to the promises (covenants of Israel). Christ’s death ended the conditional covenants, the Mosaic Law (Colossians 2:13-14). Sin, which separated man from God, typified by the veil in the Holy of Holies, was removed (Hebrews 10:19-20).
At the present time, members of God’s one Church enjoy the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant based on Christ’s victory over sin and death. Our Apostle Paul related the New Covenant to the Church in these words to the Corinthians:
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which if for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Two things are worthy of note from this passage. One is Paul had a direct revelation from the risen Lord regarding the events of the last supper; he definitely was not present. Paul said, “I received from the Lord…” He didn’t get the information from any of the twelve. The info came directly from the risen, ascended Lord. The other noteworthy item is that through Paul we have additional information about the Lord’s supper to what Jesus’ spoke, i.e. a memorial to the Lord’s death (note also there is no set time frame for its observance) and a proclamation of His return.
This brings me right back to Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6: Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter (of the Law) but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
The Mosaic Covenant came from the LORD who is holy and perfect in every way, so how could there be anything wrong with it? However, it was a covenant of condemnation by divine design or as Paul put it the letter kills. It could do nothing else. There was no power in the Law to save anyone. The power was to come later in the shed blood of the Messiah (Jesus Christ) to all those who would believe (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The New Covenant not only replaces the Mosaic Covenant it is more glorious in that it brings life, and liberty. As Paul pointed out the letter of the Law kills… The Law could never give life to anybody. It couldn’t in the O.T. and it still doesn’t today. All the Law can do is show a person their sin and teach them that even on their best day they were “powerless” to keep it. Thus, there was no life in the Law. But when we are convicted of our sin by the Law what does give life? The Holy Spirit (3:6)!
(To be continued)
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