Since chapter 19 of Exodus, we have been witnessing the making of a covenant.
Well, actually let me rephrase that.
To put it in more exact Biblical language, we have been witnessing the CUTTING of a covenant.
When we get to chapter 24, we will see the RATIFICATION of this covenant.
“To ratify” means to express agreement in accepting the conditions of a contract.
However, a covenant is far more than a contract.
More than just a cold legal agreement, a covenant creates a binding together of two parties.
Because of this, some scholars have likened the covenant process here in Exodus to a marriage.
It is interesting to note that in terms of style and structure, archeologists and papyrologists have discovered that the Mosaic covenant does very much resemble the treaties and pacts of other Middle Eastern people and nations.
We know this because of the many copies of ancient written treaties and covenants available for comparison.
These ancient documents also confirm that the Covenant of Moses was indeed given around 1300-1400 BC.
Now although there may be strong similarities between the Mosaic Covenant and other ancient treaties and covenants, there are also some glaring DIFFERENCES!
Here are three major differences:
No covenant ever discovered from any ancient culture anywhere was a written agreement between man and a god.
Every document ever found that has a legal code separates people into classes.
There are varying degrees of privilege and deference extended with the rich and royalty at the very top and the poor and the slave class at the very bottom.
However, the Mosaic Covenant was radically different in that it starts off by giving rights to slaves and even had provisions whereby a gentile slave could eventually become a full-fledged Israelite citizen.
God, through the Mosaic Covenant, sought to destroy the lines between slave and freeman.
The legal codes of other nations tended to separate religious rituals from civil law.
Religious law had practically zero bearing upon civil law and the opposite was also true.
Obviously, the Mosaic Covenant was revolutionary in this sense as God Himself was a covenant partner with the people of Israel.
The Lord made religion and civil law one and the same.
There is also a fundamental difference between the Mosaic Covenant and the covenants God made with Noah and Abraham.
The covenants God made with Noah and Abraham were unilateral or unconditional.
With these covenants, there was nothing man could do that would cause God to go back on His promises.
On the other hand, the Mosaic Covenant was bi-lateral or conditional.
BOTH parties (God and the people of Israel) had obligations and responsibilities to each other.
If the people of Israel didn’t live up to their side of the deal, disciplinary actions and even a temporary (only temporary!) withdrawal of God’s blessings would occur, and as we’ll see in Scripture, this is exactly what happened.
There is one final key difference between the Mosaic Covenant and the law codes of other nations that I want to bring to your attention.
As they are now, law codes in those days were very formal, cold in nature and highly legalistic in their structure.
However, God’s Laws are not so.
They are full of warmth, rich in symbolism and accompanied by much narration and explanation.
One important reason why God’s Laws are fleshed out so thoroughly in Scripture is because our Father in Heaven wants us to grasp the underlying “principles” behind the commandments.
Although the Law of Moses is very Hebrew in its cultural content, the underlying PRINCIPLES are eternal and can be APPLIED to ALL HUMANS in any culture anywhere.
I remind you that the word TORAH actually does not mean “law”, it means “teaching”.
In obeying these Laws of God, we put ourselves in harmony with how God’s universe operates.
And we also experience God’s love first-hand.
Because these laws are the very expression of God’s love to His people.
We trespass and ignore these heavenly Teachings at our own risk.
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN EXODUS CHAPTER 24