“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples.”-Exodus 19:4-5
Moses arrives at the foot of the Holy Mountain and climbs towards the same spot where God appeared to Him in the form of a burning bush two years earlier.
Wasting no time, the Lord informs Moses He has a message for the people of Israel.
First, God tells Moses the people are free NOT because of anything they did.
He makes it clear “It was I who struck the Egyptians and carried you here to this spot”.
The utter helplessness of the Israelites is made even more vivid in the grand imagery of the expression “I carried you on eagles’ wings”.
The soaring eagle’s supremacy among birds suggests a majestic divine power that miraculously scooped up the Hebrews and bore them off from their house of bondage.
This metaphor so powerfully brings home the idea that the Hebrews themselves were totally helpless and unable to fly on their own.
Second, we come to that most important part of the covenant contained in the word “IF”.
“If you will hear, accept and follow this New Covenant , then you will become my own treasured possession in the earth”.
The implication is crystal clear here.
The realization of the divine promise that Israel will become God’s treasure is CONDITIONAL on Israel’s upholding the terms of the Covenant.
If they obey, Israel will become a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation.
Nevertheless, we will see moving forward that the chasm between that ideal and the actual behavior of the people will continue to preoccupy the biblical writers all the way through to the prophets.
Now notice I said that God here is giving Israel a New Covenant.
This covenant that is generally called the “The Law” or “The Mosaic Covenant” was a NEW covenant.
Does that surprise you?
The covenant that Israel was under at this point in time was the Abrahamic Covenant.
The terms of this covenant promised Israel their own special land, that they would grow into huge numbers, and that through them, the whole world would be blessed.
Now I want to ask you an important question.
Did this covenant at Mount Sinai replace the covenant God made with Abraham 600 years earlier?
The answer is OF COURSE NOT!
It’s not like God will-nilly said, “I am now REPLACING the promise I gave you for a land of your own with My Law instead”.
This newer covenant at Mount Sinai was for a DIFFERENT PURPOSE than the Abrahamic covenant.
The two covenants were meant to be complementary, both alive and working in harmony with each other, not one replacing the other.
This is why I don’t like to use the term “New Covenant” when referring to the New Testament.
Because in the non-Hebraic or Gentile mindset, the word “new” creates this idea that once we have a new covenant, the older one is now obsolete or abolished.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
What happens when a newer covenant is made is that it TRANSFORMS some elements of the earlier covenants from being shadows or types into the complete fulfillment of what these shadows or types were always pointing to.
For example, Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross did NOT end the sacrificial system, it TRANSFORMED it.
I know the first part of that last statement sounds borderline heretical but it isn’t.
Let me explain.
The sacrificial system requires the blood of an INNOCENT SUBSTITUTE to atone for sin.
Prior to Yeshua, animal sacrifices were used for this purpose.
The shed blood of these animals were shadows that pointed FORWARD to Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross.
However, once Yeshua came, His shed blood was the last and final sacrifice for atonement of sins that would ever be needed.
However, this doesn’t mean Yeshua ended the sacrificial system.
In fact, it was because of the requirements of this sacrificial system that He had to be crucified in the first place.
And the requirements of the sacrificial system remain valid to this day.
That is why, every day of our lives every time we sin, we count on the blood of Yeshua as having already atoned for our sins according to the requirements of God’s sacrificial system.
The sacrificial system didn’t end, it was transformed.
And, interestingly, the prophet Ezekiel tells us that in the millennial temple, the sacrificial system will be reinstated.
Whereas prior to Yeshua’s death, the animal sacrifices pointed FORWARD to His ultimate sacrifice on the cross, I believe the third temple sacrifices will serve as a sort of commemoration pointing BACK to Yeshua and His saving work on the cross as an eternal sacrifice.
But this is a topic for another time.