Hebrew Roots/The Law and the Covenants/Covenants:The Covenant of Israeli Priesthood–2
THE RENEWED PRIESTHOOD COVENANT
When the nation broke the covenant with Yahweh in their idolatry with the gods of Egypt in the golden calf image of Apis, Moses stepped in as a guarantor and the covenant which Yahweh made with them was on a different basis. The priesthood also was changed and a covenant was made with the tribe of Levi to take the place of the first-born priesthood which had functioned up until that time.
- Note that the covenant was broken by their adultery, not by failing to keep the terms of the covenant. From the time of Adam, a way of forgiveness and restoration was provided through the sacrifice of a sin offering.
But Israel had violated her marriage agreement and committed adultery with the gods of Egypt, joining herself in spiritual union with them and coming under their headship and dominion (1 Corinthians 6:16). She was now "married" or joined to another, the whole covenant itself was broken. The issue was bigger than transgressing the first and second commandment and being restored with repentance.
A new covenant was necessary with a different priesthood. This meant that the relationship between Israel and Yahweh was not the same after that and the process of the marriage arrangement could not continue.
CHANGES TO THE PREVIOUS COVENANT
Because they refused to walk in intimacy with Him, Yahweh introduced many more instructions so that it became a very "lawful" covenant, one which by His own declaration was not good, now containing 613 commandments which spelt out every aspect of their lifestyle (Acts 7:38-41; Ezekiel 20: 25).
Rather than a walk of hearing and obeying His voice, a walk in relationship with Him with simple guidelines (Exodus 19: 5), it became a walk at a distance of seeing His mighty acts which He did on their behalf, but not knowing the intimacy of His "ways" from personal encounter (Psalm 103: 7).
Although He did not divorce them, He distanced Himself from them as a nation and because they walked contrary to Him, He walked contrary to them and except with persons on an individual basis, the nation only saw His mighty acts toward them (Leviticus 26:27-28).
He renewed a covenant through Moses and added two more covenants as adjustments. He ordained the Levitical priesthood making it into a covenant with Phinehas and his descendants (Numbers 1: 50-53; 25:10-13), and added the Covenant of "Marvels" (Exodus 34:10), which was a demonstration of His power - but not His Presence among them as before (Exodus 33: 7-11). The Presence of Yahweh only continued with them until they came to the promised land, which was according to the petition that Moses had made, so that they would not have to go up to the promised land without His manifest Presence in the Pillar of Cloud (Exodus 33:12-17). After they reached the border of the land, the Cloud of His Presence withdrew from their midst and the only literal manifestation of His Presence after that was in the Tabernacle.
The first covenant was hewn and written by the Finger of God on tablets of stone, but the second set was to be chiseled out by Moses and all the commandments written by him, as he was now standing in as the Mediator and Guarantor of the covenant, and initiating it on God's behalf (Exodus 31:18; 32:19; 34:1, 27-28). This was a conditional covenant and became referred to as the "law of Moses" (Acts 15: 5).
The Levitical system was set up which required that the people give tithes of all their produce and increase to maintain them in their religious duties and their service to the community. The change in the priesthood meant that because the first-born sons were no longer His priests and were replaced by the Levites, the first-born sons which belonged to Him, had to be redeemed (Exodus 13: 2; 34:19-20)
The people had withdrawn initially from direct contact with such an awesome God by asking Moses to be an intermediary for Yahweh speaking to them, then with the establishment of this new covenant of which Moses is the mediator, the covenant is not made with them directly and is set out as a more legal contract. As well, with the Levites performing the service of the Tabernacle, they are further removed from the Presence of God and distanced from personal involvement. Anticipating the repetition of the pattern in which they have begun, the covenant is now given as a series of blessings and dire judgments. Leviticus 26
TERMS OF THE RENEWED COVENANT TO MOSES
In Leviticus Ch.26, we have the terms of the covenant that was made through Moses (v.46).
The promises for walking in His statutes and keeping His commandments were:
- 1. Rain in its season and the land yielding its produce and being sufficient for their needs (vs. 4-5, 10)
- 2. Victory in war, peace and rest in the land and deliverance from evil beasts (vs. 6-8)
- 3. Prosperity, honour, freedom, population growth, His Presence with them and ownership of them (vs. 9-13)
But the judgments for not obeying and for breaking the covenant would be -- Fear, wasting diseases, fevers, sorrow, depression, poverty, pestilence, enemy attack and defeat, their cities, sanctuaries and property destroyed, dispersion and oppression among the nations till they repented (14-45). But, with the promise that He will not utterly destroy them, but remember the covenant of their ancestors.
They reaped the judgments in history, but He also remembered His covenant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, restoring them to the land when they acknowledged their sin and repented.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE LAW
The administration of Israel was not based on a political system as with the nations of the world, but on a priestly service. It was a priestly kingdom which was founded upon Yahweh God's principles for living.
The covenant with all its stipulations, outlined the various aspects of the law to regulate their life in an acceptable form of worship to God. The ten commands are the foundation of all the other laws and the essential principle of the rest are contained within it. The rest of the law is an explanatory commentary.
Y'shua gave the summary of all the law in citing the basic principle that man is to love God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength and his neighbour as himself, a summary of the ten commands (Luke 10:27).
True worship of God will be reflected in our behaviour to our neighbour, to their social rights and property.
The moral aspect of His law transferred into daily life comes under the terminology of civil law. It is the principle of sin in man which makes it necessary for these to be made into actual laws. Galatians 3:19
As laws, when they are not obeyed from the heart in the spirit of the law, they become a "ministration of death" and a "ministration of condemnation". What is of the letter of the law, kills. 2 Corinthians 3: 3, 6-7
The ceremonial laws in the covenant were for the purpose of the nation being able to approach a holy God and maintain ritual purity. The appointed times of the Sabbath and the Festive seasons set a pattern for their spiritual progress in His redemptive plan for them.
While a division is often made into moral, civil and ceremonial laws for the law given to Moses, they are not so clearly defined. The moral laws infringe on the ceremonial, the moral into the civil and the civil laws have many priestly characteristics. On every level it was a lifestyle of priestly service to Yahweh God.
THE CHANGE OF PRIESTHOOD
In the beginning we have the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8: 1-10) and the consecration offerings to make atonement for them (Leviticus 8:11-36). Then the elders of Israel are called to participate in offering burnt offerings and sin offerings for the people (Leviticus Ch.9). But with the institution of the Levitical ministry, the elders and heads of the other eleven tribes are replaced with the tribe of Levi, who then are appointed to serve Aaron and his sons (Numbers 3: 5-7). The children of Israel were no longer to come near the Tabernacle, but instead the Levites were to bear their iniquity (Numbers 18: 1-7, 22).
They were to be consecrated to the service of the Tabernacle in lieu of the first-born sons and tribal heads, and the function of priesthood was separated from the people (Numbers 3:40-41).
Now, instead of being a kingdom of priests, they were a kingdom WITH priests.
The Levites were presented with offerings from the tribal leaders (Numbers 7: 1-11) to supply them with articles for their ministry and then were dedicated and offered to Yahweh for His service (Numbers 8: 1-22). Thereafter the Levites were supported by the various tithes and offerings of the people (Numbers 18:21-24). They were also appointed forty eight cities with surrounding land for the husbandry of the sacrificial offerings and six additional cities which were set aside as places of refuge for the accused. (Numbers 35:1-8) These cities would be cultural centers of trade, education and music, with Levitical courts of law.
The law system was established with a supreme court, later called the Sanhedrin, and lower courts for each local area, called the Biet Din (Matthew 5:22). The priests as the judges of the supreme court dealt with the difficult cases which the local courts could not handle (Deuteronomy 17:8-13). Matters of ritual purity, a major concern of the law, were all judged by the Levitical priests (Leviticus Chs. 13-15). They also had the administration of the national welfare system (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12-13).
The tribe of Levi was chosen for these duties because of their loyalty and zeal for Yahweh's principles, firstly in the occasion of the rebellion with the golden calf (Exodus32:26), and then it was further demonstrated by Phinehas in the matter of Israel's seduction by the women in Moab (Numbers 25:10-13). It was the Levites who taught the people the law and who adjudicated between the people in matters of dispute and legal action. They were the officers that maintained the law and order in the community and as a result, the spiritual life of the nation was determined largely by the faithfulness of the priesthood. If the priests became corrupt, as they did in the time of Eli (1 Samuel 2:12,22-25), the nation went into decline. Likewise, when righteous, they preserved the nation from corruption (2 Chron.22:10-23: 1-11).
Yahweh made an everlasting covenant of peace with Phinehas and his descendants which continued down to Zadok, which then became the prominent line of priests. 1 Kings 2:26-27; Ezekiel 43:18-19; 44:15-16
THE TERMS OF THE COVENANT OF MARVELS
At the time that the children of Israel fornicated with the golden calf, worshiping and offering sacrifices to it, Moses was up the mountain receiving the pattern of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:40). He went up again for forty days and nights to intercede for the nation's sin and for His continuance with them to the promised land. Moses' intense desire was for a greater revelation of Yahweh, to know Him in more intimate ways and to see His glory. He said, "I will make My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of Yahweh before you" and He proceeded to reveal to him the greatness of His love and compassion and to allow him to see the fading glory of His "back parts." Exodus 33:12-23, 34: 5-7; Deuteronomy 9:18-19
It was after this glorious encounter that Yahweh proceeded to renew the covenant and display His great compassion and goodness in pardoning Israel's iniquity and giving them also the Covenant of Marvels.
"And He said: Behold, I will make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of Yahweh. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you."
The content of the Covenant of Marvels which was added to the tablets of the ten commands was ---
- One Promise - That He would drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan (Exodus 34:11)
- Two Warnings - To make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land (Exodus 34:12-16)
- - and not to worship any other god (Exodus 34:13,17)
- Instructions - To keep the Sabbath and the other appointed feasts (Exodus 34:18, 21-25)
- - To maintain the offering of their firstfruits (Exodus 34:26)
“Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Write you these words: for according to the tenor of these words (or literally, "according to the words of My mouth") I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.’” Exodus 34:27 This covenant was according to Yahweh God's own oath and would be demonstrated by the manifestations of His mighty acts on their behalf, performing wonders in the wilderness (Psalm 78:12-29); Dividing the Jordan river (Joshua 3:9-16); Throwing down the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6); The sun and the moon standing still (Joshua 10:12-14); The stars and the elements fighting on their behalf (Judges 5: 5-6); Driving out the Canaanites (Joshua 24:11-12); Gideon's victory (Judges 7: 7, 20-21); The Battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:5-13); Samson's power (Judges 15:14-17) and so many others -- Judges 3:31; 2 Chron.14: 8-12; 20:20-25; 2 Chron.32:21-22; 1 Samuel 14:12-16; 2 Kings 6:13-18 etc., etc..
According to His promise, He cast out the nations before them (Psalm 78:55; 44: 3) and gave them the apportionment of the land that He had promised them (Psalm 80: 8-11).