Gift #1083: Covenant with Israel

Today’s covenant follows the descendants of Abraham.  A tumultuous history led his family to Egypt to avoid famine in Canaan, but 400 years passed before they would go home again.  The people of Israel endured centuries of slavery and were desperate for salvation.  God heard their cries and raised up a man to free the Israelites.  After a dramatic display of God’s power of authority, they left the land of Egypt, following God’s direction across the Red Sea and into the wilderness.  There God met with them at Mount Sinai and God made a covenant with this nation.

“This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:  ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.   Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole 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.”  Gen 19:3-6

The covenant relationship God initiates with the Israelites most closely resembles a marital contract in which both parties make pledges to conduct themselves in a manner that honors the pact and their marriage partner.  As such, God requires the Israelites to obey the law He gave to Moses and to honor and love Him.  God promises to bless the people’s obedience and to make them His treasure.  The Israelites enthusiastically pledge their obedience to God.  What follows for the rest of the Old Testament narrative is a spectacular display of Israel’s incapacity to keep the law and God’s faithful love in bringing His people back to Him.  The example of Israel highlights the failings of the entire human race.  Try as we might, desire as much as we can muster, but we cannot obey the law perfectly and consistently.  And as a result, we cannot attain to relationship with God on our own merit.   Foreseeing the weight of sin that would impair the covenant relationship, God instituted sacrifices and special observances that would cover their sin and allow them to enter the temple and worship God.  And so things remained until God sent another Savior to rescue His people.

Jesus would perfectly keep God’s law and fulfill in Israel’s place their side of the covenant.   When teaching the people, Jesus said

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  Mt 5:17

In many ways, Jesus’ life mirrors the history of the Israelites.  After 400 years of silence from God, Moses is protected from infanticide and called to rescue His people.  Likewise, Jesus is also divinely spared while all the young males of Bethlehem are destroyed.  The people of Israel spend 40 years in the wilderness learning to trust God for provision.  Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness relying on God the Father’s strength and resisting temptation.   God affirms His power by miraculously parting the Jordan River to allow the Israelites to enter the Promised Land.  God affirms the divinity and authority of the Second Person of the Trinity when Jesus Himself is baptized in the same river.   The Israelites were saved from their enslavement on the night of Passover.  On this night, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts of their homes so they would be spared when judgement came to the Egyptians.  It was a sacred observance that the Israelites commemorated every year once they returned to their homeland.  Jesus fulfilled the foreshadowing of the observance as the Lamb of God.  It was on the eve of Passover that Jesus was crucified and offered up as the sacrifice to cover all sin.

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.  Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.   Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Heb 9:24-26

On Good Friday it is especially timely to reflect on how Christ perfectly kept the law of God and stood in man’s place to offer His obedience in exchange for our sin.  Because of Him we can live in communion with God, knowing that we are declared righteous.  And we can rejoice in God’s faithfulness which keep His covenant with us and for us.

Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Romans 10:4

Image result for law of moses

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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