“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” Exodus 19:4
This week we study the Covenant made between God and His people at Mt SINAI; after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
This covenant and the post-flood covenant with Noah remind us that the work of redemption and deliverance begins with God. We are totally helpless in regard to escaping the bondage of sin. It is as we see the goodness of God in redeeming the ungodly (Romans 4:5) that we are led to repentance (Romans 2:4) – a life-changing attitude towards God. He becomes ‘our God’.
The Pattern of Salvation
And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”Exodus 19:3-6
Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. Exodus 6:6, 7
“Note the order here: the Lord first saves Israel, then gives them His law to keep. The same order is true under the gospel. Christ first saves us from sin (see John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4), then lives out His law within us (Galatians 2:20; Romans 4:25; 8:1-3; 1 Peter 2:24).” ‘The Law Giver becomes the Law Keeper in our hearts’. — The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 602.
The basis of all God’s covenants is His unfailing love for His people:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” Hosea 11:1
Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place. Deuteronomy1:29-31
“I will redeem you” literally means “I will be your kinsman-Redeemer.” i.e. to act as kinsman, do the part of next of kin, act as kinsman-redeemer to redeem from slavery. Jesus is our Kinsman- Redeemer; our Elder Brother before the throne of God.
For both He who ]sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Hebrews 2:11
“The Elder Brother of our race is by the eternal throne. He looks upon every soul who is turning his face toward Him as the Saviour. He knows by experience what are the weaknesses of humanity, what are our wants, and where lies the strength of our temptations…. He is watching over you, trembling child of God. Are you tempted? He will deliver. Are you weak? He will strengthen. Are you ignorant? He will enlighten. Are you wounded? He will heal. The Lord “telleth the number of the stars”; and yet “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Our Father Cares p 65
The Sinai Covenant
- Exodus 19:5-8…’if you will obey My voice…then you shall be a special treasure to Me.’
- ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’ Exodus 19:8
- ‘All that the Lord has said we will do and be obedient’ Exodus 24:7
This is a conditional or bilateral covenant. Both parties – the Israelites and God make agreements. The former will obey God’s commands and God will bless their obedience.
Were the Israelites sincere? Yes!
- What was the problem?
- They did not have a true understanding of their sinfulness.
They did not recognise their sinful nature made them totally incapable of revealing the character of God in their lives.
Was the Mosaic Covenant a Covenant of Grace?
- Yes. God graciously gave the Law so that they would recognise their sinfulness and turn to Him to fulfil all that He promised to do for us from Eden itself.
Ratification of the Covenant: Once the people agreed to obeying God’s requirements, the Ten Commandments were spoken to the people from Mt Sinai (Exodus 20). The covenant principles were declared (Exodus 21-23), the people again promised to obey, Moses was declared mediator and the covenant ratified by blood.
Now He said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. 2 And Moses alone shall come near the Lord, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.”
3 So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the [a]judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has said we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6 And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.” Exodus 24:1-8
‘Another compact—called in Scripture the “old” covenant—was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice. The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the “second,” or “new,” covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant. That the new covenant was valid in the days of Abraham is evident from the fact that it was then confirmed both by the promise and by the oath of God —the “two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie.” Hebrews 6:18.
But if the Abrahamic covenant contained the promise of redemption, why was another covenant formed at Sinai? In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant. In delivering them from Egypt, God sought to reveal to them His power and His mercy, that they might be led to love and trust Him. He brought them down to the Red Sea—where, pursued by the Egyptians, escape seemed impossible—that they might realize their utter helplessness, their need of divine aid; and then He wrought deliverance for them. Thus they were filled with love and gratitude to God and with confidence in His power to help them. He had bound them to Himself as their deliverer from temporal bondage.
But there was a still greater truth to be impressed upon their minds. Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God’s law, and their need of a Saviour. All this they must be taught.
God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience: “If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then . . . ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Exodus 19:5, 6. The people did not realize [p. 372] the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” Exodus 24:7. They had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant. Patriarchs and Prophets p 370-372
God and Israel
“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exod. 19:5-6).
All who believe God’s Word that He will do what He has promised to perform have entered into God’s rest… “It is no longer I, but Christ.” They have become a kingdom of priests unto their God.
In contrast, many Israelites did not recognise that ever since the Fall, even converted Man is totally incapable of producing a righteousness that pleases God, for his righteousness arises from a selfish and self-centred heart.
- Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one! Job 14:4
- Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil. Jer. 13:23
- “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Romans 3:10
…we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. Romans 7:12, 14
“We do not earn salvation by our obedience; for salvation is the free gift of God, to be received by faith. But obedience is the fruit of faith.” — Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 61.
- When God gave the Israelites His law and entered into the Old Covenant with them, He knew they could not keep them.
- The whole purpose of the Old Covenant, based on man’s promise and performance, was to make them aware that they were sinners and could not meet the obligations of the Law.
- It was to prepare their hearts to accept the New Covenant, God’s promise of salvation in Christ.
- So God allowed them to promise what they could not perform.
Their greatest failure was the rejection of Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant and His gift of righteousness
- I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. Romans 10:3
- The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. Romans 9:30-32
Today…are we in danger of living in an Old Covenant relationship with God?
“Today if you will hear my voice…do not harden your heart…” Psalm 90:5, 6
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:15-17
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” Rom 10:16
What happens when we add law-keeping to salvation by grace?
- We are stating that salvation is not in Christ alone, but that it is “Christ and I”.
- God condemns this attitude and behaviour.
You have become estranged (alienated) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4
We live in the time of the New Covenant.
Do not choose to live in an Old Covenant relationship with God…“All that You have asked me to do, I will do.”
Instead, choose to live in a New Covenant relationship with Him… “It is no longer I but Christ. I can of myself do nothing. I trust your Holy Spirit to keep the Commandments and produce the fruit of righteousness and holiness in my life.”
Today there are 3 groups of people in the world:
- God’s New Covenant servants (Not I but Christ/without Him I can do nothing)
- Satan’s followers (I did it my way/I have need of nothing)
- Those who aren’t sure…they are ignorant or uncertain of the issues involved (a lot of SDAs fall into this category)
When the gospel is preached in the power of the Spirit, there will be only 2 issues and 2 groups:
- New Covenant believers – Righteousness by faith (salvation by grace)
- Unbelievers/Old Covenant believers – Righteousness by works (salvation by works)
- New Covenant believers – Sabbath keeping will be the outward sign or the seal of the righteousness they have already received by faith.
- In contrast, Sunday as the Mark of the Beast will represent human attempts to earn the salvation by works. In this way accepting Sunday and deliberate rejecting the Sabbath will become an outward expression of rejecting the salvation by faith in Jesus.
That time of final decision is not yet upon us. So God keeps pleading, “Today, hear my voice and harden not your heart…enter my Sabbath rest.”
The New Covenant Sabbath Keeper is a citizen of Jerusalem – the Holy City
The Old Covenant Sabbath Keeper is a citizen of Babylon – the Great City.
What do you seek? Holiness or Greatness?
Your choice has eternal consequences.