Hebrew Roots/The Law and the Covenants/Covenants:The Covenant of Israeli Priesthood–1
THE NATIONAL PRIESTHOOD COVENANT
This is the covenant which was given to Moses at Sinai and is commonly called the Mosaic or the Sinaitic Covenant (Exodus Chs.19 - 24). It is a codified form of the principles of Yahweh God's eternal laws and an application of them to civil, religious and social functions in a national context for fallen man. It, like the Edenic Covenant, is a conditional covenant with great blessings for obedience, but curses in the form of penalties for breaking the covenant. It is in the form of a marriage betrothal covenant, in that Yahweh God betrothed Israel to Himself and entered into a pre-nuptial agreement with her at Sinai.
Although Abraham's descendants had largely turned away from Him, He graciously proceeded to redeem them and continue the fulfillment of the promises which He made to Abraham by bringing them into a new covenant with Himself to establish them as His priestly nation in the earth.
This marks the beginning of their calling to fulfill the three-fold function of the mandate given to Adam to be priest-king-prophet in the earth, to which Abraham had attained on a individual level. This now begins to be extended to the national level, the priestly function being more pre-dominant in this particular covenant.
THE PURPOSE OF THE COVENANT
From the time of Adam down through to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the traditions had faithfully been handed down and the patriarchs lived according to Yahweh God's principles in their lives, but the growth into a nation of Abraham's descendants required social and civil laws by which it would be governed, and an outline of religious ordinances for communal and individual worship. To come together in unity, a body of people need a common vision, a common standard or code of living, and an agreed-upon leader. Israel was to be a theocracy governed by His laws and precepts as a priesthood nation to the world. This covenant provided them with a formulated type of national constitution to cover these areas of need for it's functioning as a united nation under God.
This covenant did not annul the Abrahamic covenants but was added to it to serve their needs as a national entity and also because, in the period of time they were in Egypt, there had been a lapse of the people into idolatry, serving the gods of Egypt, and Yahweh's righteous laws had been neglected. Joshua 24:14 It was to serve a temporary purpose of revealing His righteous standards to them and like a 'measuring stick' with which to compare themselves, to show them their their transgressions, and to serve as a schoolmaster to direct and train them in righteousness until the Seed should come to whom the promises were made in the Abrahamic covenants. Also, it served to preserve them in the faith of His promises till He came to fulfill them. Romans 3:20; 7: 7; Galatians 3:16-19; 23-24; 1 Corinthians 15:56
These laws were given to them as His standards for living BECAUSE they were His redeemed people, not as a means of obtaining righteous standing with Him. He had redeemed them at the Exodus from Egypt in the offering of the Passover lamb, now as His redeemed people they needed to live according to His standards. Their redemption was on the basis of His extension of grace toward them and their faith in the salvation which He offered in the Passover lamb -- BY HIS GRACE, THROUGH FAITH! Ephesians 2: 8
Their adherence to His laws would determine whether they would be blessed or cursed under this covenant, but it would not determine their eternal state, unless they apostatised. Romans 3:28-30
Unfaithfulness was judged by various forms of physical punishment and death, not loss of salvation.
They had been called to be a kingdom, a holy nation who would be a light to the nations of the world. A kingdom of priests who could stand in righteousness and intimacy before the throne of God to intercede and bring redemption to the rest of the world, so that the Kingdom of Heaven would be established upon the earth, according to the original plan in Eden.
- Leviticus 11:45; Deuteronomy 4: 6; Acts 13:47
Israel was called to rule the world and govern it with His truth, to be the vehicle of His prophetic, priestly reign over the earth - a "kingdom of priests"; a "holy nation". Exodus 19: 6; Isaiah 2: 2-4
THE BETROTHAL TO THE COVENANT
The Biblical marriage pattern was that a suitor would go and address an eligible woman whom he desired with a marriage proposal. If she agreed to the terms of the proposal, she would enter into a covenant relationship with him which was binding upon both parties and during the following betrothal period they were regarded as husband and wife, although the marriage was not consummated until he had prepared a place in his father's house for them to celebrate their wedding at a future non-specified time.
Yahweh set His love upon Israel to bring her to Himself in a spiritual union of intimacy, to make her His Beloved Bride. It was here at Sinai that He enacted the first stage of the wedding procedures which was called the “kiddushin”, or “consecration” which was the formal betrothal contract after which the parties to it were set apart for each other. The marriage proposal was a legal document which was called the "ketubah" which set out the promises and benefits which the intended groom promised to his wife to be.
Moses went up to God and was given this proposition to take back to the children of Israel. He said, "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle's wings and brought you to Myself. 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. And you will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Exodus 19: 4-6 The promise was for them to be:
- 1. A special treasure
- 2. A kingdom of priests
- 3. A holy nation
He had demonstrated His power and love for them in delivering them from the Egyptians and bringing them unto Himself. The picture is of a mother eagle who gathers up her young and bears them on her wings, saving them from destruction. Then He sets forth the promise -- they were to be a special treasure, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
The word used here for "special treasure" is SEGULAH which means a highly valued treasure, a jewel. Something so precious that it is enclosed in a special setting like a jewel on the breast of the High Priest.
Although the whole earth is His, He has chosen Israel above all others. "They shall be Mine, says Yahweh of Hosts. on the day when I make them My jewels (S.5459 - SEGULAH)" - i.e. "My special treasure" Malachi 3:17
Although Israel as a nation failed to enter into the promise at that time, the promise was renewed to them in the Messianic Covenant and Peter says to the nation again, "You are a chosen generation (race), a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people (SEGULAH)"
- - His special treasure (1 Peter 2: 9).
And Paul also, in speaking of the coming redemption of the "purchased possession" (the equivalent word to SEGULAH) in the kingdom, calls them His treasured possession, which He has purchased with His blood (Ephesians 1:14). Here he speaks of them coming into their full inheritance, where we will see each of the 'stars" promised to Abraham, shining as jewels, each in their own glory in the heavenly city. 1 Corinthians 15:41-42; Revelation 21:10-11, 19-21 Again, although they failed to enter into it at this time, in the final redemption we see the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, of the holy nation which has become a kingdom of priests, including also a remnant out of all nations which have been grafted in to the Olive Tree, Israel.
- Revelation 5:10; Romans 11:13-18
The one condition to the covenant, "If hearing you will hearken to My voice and keep My covenant" (Ex.19: 5)
The emphasis is on hearing, being attentive and responding to His voice in order to keep the covenant. Just as Adam failed in the condition of the Edenic covenant, so Israel also failed in being attentive to His voice and was unfaithful to the betrothal commitment when Moses was up on the mountain. They returned in their heart to their previous lovers and played the harlot with the gods of Egypt. Exodus 32:1-6
The penalty according to the law for adultery was death (Leviticus 20:10), which was the reason Yahweh wished to consume them for their breach of their marriage agreement when it occurred (Exodus 32: 9-10).
THE SACRIFICE OF THE COVENANT
When the people said "I do" to the terms of the betrothal covenant (19: 8), Moses returned to the mount and he told the words of the people to Yahweh, whereupon He instructed the people to consecrate themselves and "wash their clothes" for a visitation on the third day. This included abstinence from their marriage relationships and keeping at a distance from the holy mountain.
- Exodus 19:8-13
The term to "wash their clothes" included immersion of their bodies also in water, to sanctify them.
Moses set up boundaries around the mountain to set the area apart as holy, as instructed.
Then with manifestations of thunder and lightnings and fire upon the mountain like a smoking furnace so that the mountain quaked and with a loud sound of the shofar, the people stood at the foot of the mountain and received Yahweh's spoken words of the ten commands. After which, they requested that instead of the remainder being spoken directly to them in the midst of such awesome manifestations, Moses would go and be a mediator for them to deliver the remainder of the words of the covenant. Exodus 19:16-20; 20:18-21
"And Moses wrote all the words of Yahweh. And he rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to Yahweh. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that Yahweh has said we will do, and be obedient." And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you according to these words." Exodus 24: 4-8
Moses sprinkled both the altar and the people with the blood of the covenant to consecrate them to Yahweh in the bond of spiritual matrimony. They had pledged themselves to be a faithful wife to their Bridegroom.
The people had affirmed the covenant three times. Once to the proposal of betrothal, once again to the verbal account Moses gave them of the terms of the covenant, the "Ketubah", and finally again after the covenant was ratified with the sacrificial offerings, he read it to them again from the covenant document which he had written of all the words that Yahweh said to him (19: 8, 24: 3, 7).
THE TERMS OF THE COVENANT
The covenant was ratified upon all which Moses had written in the document called "the book of the covenant" and included all that had been given to him up to that time (chapter 24). What was also intended was a sanctuary in which Yahweh would dwell amongst them, the details of which he went up the mountain again to receive. Moses had been up the mountain five times by this stage :(19:3, 8-9, 20, 20:21, 24:1).
This would be the first time that He had a place on earth again in which to dwell since the destruction of the Garden of Eden, but it was held in doubt after they sinned with the golden calf (Ch.32) and He only agreed to continue among them after Moses prevailed in intercession for Israel.
- Exodus 33: 1-17, 34: 8-10
What they had agreed to in this covenant was all that is contained in chapters 20-23, which was -
- 1. The ten commands
- 2. Instructions for sacrificial offerings (20:23-26)
- 3. Instructions for dealing with servants (21: 1-11)
- 4. Instructions regarding acts of aggression and violence (21:12-27)
- 5. Laws for animal control (28-36)
- 6. Responsibilities regarding property (22: 1-15)
- 7. Moral and ethical principles (22:16-28)
- 8. Principles of firstfruits offerings (22:29-31
- 9. Mediating Justice (23: 1-9)
- 10. Laws regarding the Sabbaths (23:10-19)
This gave them written commands, statutes and precepts for their functioning as a righteous community of Yahweh God. It contained seventy laws which were an amplification of the first ten commands that were spoken to them. It had no priestly class, each first born son was a priest over his household, and they were to serve God as had the Patriarchs before them. The only difference was that Aaron and his sons were to act as high priests as a type of Messiah, similar to the Melchizedek order. Exodus 28: 1-4
The Levitical priesthood only became necessary when the children of Israel fell into sin with the golden calf worship, then the Levites were chosen to replace the first-born priesthood which had failed in it's function of consecration unto Him and godly leadership of the people. Exodus 32:25-29; Numbers 3:5-13; 8: 5-19
THE PROMISES OF THE COVENANT
The promises He gave to them were --- 1. He would send His Angel before them to keep them in the way and to bring them to the place He had prepared for them. (23:23) 2. He would be an enemy to their enemies and an adversary to their adversaries (23:22) He would send His fear before them and cause confusion to the people of the land so that they would turn their backs to them, and He would deliver them into their hands. He would send 'hornets' before them to progressively drive them out as they increased in number in the land. (23:27-31)
- 3. He would bless their "bread and their water" and take sickness out of their midst, give them full length of life and none would be barren or miscarry among them. (23:25-26)
But, with the condition that they serve Him and make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land or with their gods to serve them (23:25, 32-33). Because they failed to walk in intimacy with Him as a nation, these promises were not fulfilled in their entirety and the covenant would need to be renewed. :Jeremiah 31:31-32
SIGN OF THE COVENANT
"And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, "speak also to the children of Israel, saying: Surely My Sabbaths (plural) you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies you. You shall keep My Sabbath therefore, for it is holy to you."
"Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed."
- Exodus 31:12-14, 16-17
This was the sign or token of recognition, of having entered into the marriage covenant with Yahweh God. It was the betrothal ring which set them apart from all others and reserved them unto Himself as His precious possession, His special treasure, His "SEGULAH".
As the Sabbath was instituted at creation and part of the Edenic covenant which had been continued through in the godly line until the apostasy of Abraham's descendants in Egypt, Yahweh restored the keeping of the Sabbath immediately after He had brought them out of Egypt, before they came to Sinai and entered into this covenant with Him. Exodus 16: 4-5, 22-26 It's inclusion in the ten commands was therefore not new to them and the reason why He said to them, "Remember the Sabbath day" (20: 8).
As well as the seventh day, weekly Sabbath, the other Sabbaths are also included in the covenant sign. These are the three Sabbatical feasts during the year, together with the Sabbatical years which they are to keep (Exodus 23:10-19). The keeping of these contribute to the observance of the weekly Sabbath as a sign which marks them out from other peoples of the world as those in covenant relationship to Yahweh God.
The keeping of the Sabbath is an invitation for His covenant people to enter into His spiritual rest and refreshment, to be a partaker of that eternal bliss with which He was refreshed when His work of creation was complete. It is a sign that those who keep the Sabbath are workers together with Him on this earth in His eternal purposes which will find their fulfillment in that seventh "Day" of rest which He has ordained, when all things will come to completion in Him. Although Israel was faithful to keep the sign of the covenant, it was often a meaningless symbol of a union that was estranged and could not be consummated without a renewal of their marriage vows (Jer.31:31-33).