Hebrew Roots/The Law and the Covenants/Covenants:The Covenant of Israeli Priesthood–3
THE RECONSTITUTED ISRAELI COVENANT
This is a covenant which was made with the children of Israel before they were to go into the promised land. It established tenancy rights for them to the land of Israel, based upon the conditions in this covenant. It also included a reconstitution of the Law of Moses together with a reminder of the betrothal overtures which were made to them in their first encounter with Yahweh God at Sinai.
The previous covenant was conditional and only intended to be a temporary arrangement for their wilderness journey during the process of the purging out of their fleshly nature.
This covenant made at Moab focuses on obedience from the heart and has some aspects that were conditional and dependent upon their obedience to live in the land with judgments for disobedience, and some promises that were unconditional based upon Yahweh's grace and the fulfillment of His eternal purposes.
THE CONDITION OF ENTERING THE LAND
They had camped around the same mountain for forty years while the generation which had rebelled against Yahweh God fell in the wilderness. After the last one had passed away, Yahweh gave the command to Moses for the new generation to prepare to enter the land (Deuteronomy 1: 5-8).
That which was of the fleshly nature could not enter the promised land. So Moses begins in Deuteronomy Chs.1-3, to rehearse to them all that Yahweh had done for them in bringing them out of slavery and all the miracles and mighty victories He had given them against their enemies and along with it, their rebellion against Him. See also Deuteronomy 8: 1-5; 9: 7-24.
And then he begins to counsel them to listen to the statutes and judgments which he was commanding them that day, to do them (Ch.4: 1-2). He reminds them of the events at Sinai and that, in the revelation of Yahweh on Mount Sinai, they saw no form or likeness to earthly things and warns them against falling into the same type of idolatry in the future, as they did at Sinai (4:15-19; 32-40).
Just as Abraham was taken through a purification of his fleshly nature before coming into the final revelation of His purposes in and through him in the covenant of circumcision, so his descendants had a similar period of preparation during the wilderness journey to come to a consecration of heart for the establishment of this covenant with them. It would be later also be sealed by the rite of circumcision once they symbolically buried their old identity in the Jordan river and took up the resurrected image of the twelve tribes in the twelve stones which they set up as a witness on the other side of the river after they had crossed over at Gilgal (Joshua 3: 9-17 & 4: 1-9, 19-24).
Living in the land of Israel represented being part of the priesthood nation, for which complete consecration is required. Therefore, before entering to take possession of it, they needed to be circumcised (Joshua 5) To bring them to the required heart preparation, Moses carefully goes over all the events of the past, Yahweh's mighty dealings with them and His judgments upon their rebellion, and exhorted them, saying, "Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart and be no more stiff-necked" Deuteronomy 10:16
"And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in His ways and to love Him, to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, to keep the commandments of Yahweh and His statutes which I command you this day for your good?" (Deut.10:12)
THE COMMANDMENTS, STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS
"These are the terms of the covenant Yahweh commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant He had made with them at Horeb (Sinai). Deuteronomy 29:1
Here we see that it was actually another covenant from that made at Sinai. The entire Book of Deuteronomy is set out as a type of legal document as used in ancient treaties between a powerful king and a weaker vassal who is indebted to him. Moses took all the various facets of the previous covenants and presented them in the form of an ancient marriage contract whereby Israel becomes the betrothed wife of Yahweh God by her acceptance of the covenant. The new generation is again called to become His chosen, special treasure, His holy nation.
"For you are a holy people to Yahweh your God; Yahweh your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure (SEGULAH) above all peoples on the face of the earth." Deuteronomy 7: 6
The ten commandments which Yahweh personally spoke to them at Sinai are repeated, but with the difference that now, instead of the fourth command being the Sabbath of creation, the redemptive aspect of the Sabbath has now become known to them through their deliverance from bondage and oppression, and they are able to celebrate it as a spiritual rest. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 - compare with Exodus 20: 8-11.
Moses emphasises again and again, that the commandments are for their life, and for their good, and will give them great understanding and wisdom (Deut.4: 5-6).
His Word is to be foremost in their lives, "laying them up in your heart and in your soul", and to be displayed as an identifying mark upon their hand, as frontlets between their eyes, as well as writing them on their door posts and on their gates (11:18-21). They were to form no alliance with the inhabitants of the land (7:2-5).
Their first commission is to destroy the altars and places of worship of the heathen (12: 1-4) and to beware that their heart is not deceived to worship their gods (11:16; 12: 4) and not to copy any of their manner of worship (16:21-22). Yahweh will appoint for them a specific place for them to come to worship Him (5-14).
Then Moses proceeds to give them the statutes and judgments which they are to institute when they set up the structure of their society in the land of Israel. Because they are to be a holy people, their bodies are not to be defiled by eating unclean meats or by eating blood either directly, or from that which dies of itself and in which the blood is congealed (14: 3-22, 23-24).
For the same reason, they are not to disfigure their bodies (14: 1-2), or to defile themselves in the uncleanness of sexually immoral behaviour or abuse, for which there are to be specific judgments (22:13-30; 24:1-4).
Instructions are given to keep themselves from genetic defilement and contamination from unwholesome elements (23: 1-8), from defilement in the camp (23: 9-14), from corruption (23:15-25) and to have just weights and measures in their dealings with one another (25:13).
- Judges and officers were to be established to settle differences and controversies, to enforce the law and to execute the prescribed judgments (16:18-20;17: 8-12; 19:14-21; 21: 1-9; 25: 1-4).
- Cities of refuge were to be established for cases of unintentional manslaughter and for legal courts (19: 1-13).
- The Levites were to teach and administer the law and to maintain the sanctuary (18: 1- 9). for which service they were to be supported by the tithes and offerings of the people (22-29; 26:1-17).
- The poor were to be taken care of and servants treated fairly (15: 4-18; 24:19-22). The rights and property of others was to be considered and respected (22:1-12), as well as the tribal heritage of widows (25: 5-10).
- The statutes for the three Feasts every year were repeated (16: 1-17), as well as instructions for the Sabbatical year (15:1-3), upon which the Law was to be read to all the people (31:10-13).
- Statutes were given for them to follow in conducting warfare and for issues relating to taking spoils of war and for the treatment of female captives (20:1-20; 21:10-14)
- To guard against idolatry, any prophet who spoke contrary to the words of this law or who led the people to worship other gods, or to practice witchcraft or divination were to be severely judged by the death penalty (13:1-18; 18: 9-14, 20-22).
THE TERMS OF THE COVENANT
This covenant bequeaths to Israel the land which was promised to Abraham and to his descendants and is a fulfillment of that promise. However, although the land is given to them as their possession, their tenancy in the land is conditional upon obeying Yahweh's commandments, statutes, judgments and ordinances. So, the title deed to the land is given to them unconditionally in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, but Moses goes says to them that they would be cast out of the land and it would become desolate if they forsook the covenant of their fathers, to whom the promises were made (Deut 29:20-29).
Moses words therefore, were stated as not only being to the generation that stood before him that day, but also to the generations that were still to come forth from their loins, to convict them, lest they fall away and follow the dictates of their own heart, yet still believe that they were at peace with God (Deut.29:14-19).
Yet the provision is made that if, when they reap the results of the judgments upon them, if they should repent, then Yahweh God would have compassion on them, reverse the curse upon them by judging their enemies and restore them back to the land, from even the furthest corners of the earth where they will have been scattered. Deuteronomy 30:1-11 The blessings and the curses of the covenant are listed in Deuteronomy chapters 27:14-26; 28:15-62. The curses relating to their ultimate dispersion as a nation for continued disobedience, is in chapter 28:63-68. Moses also composed a song in chapter 32, which would testify against them in time to come and remind them and assure them of His ultimate deliverance of them in the adversity of the judgments upon them.
The Book of Judges is a record of the initial judgments which came upon them in the land by the surrounding nations in their periods of apostasy and their deliverance by Him when they repented.
After their glorious deliverance from their enemies in the reign of King David and the period of prosperity which extended into King Solomon's reign, the nation divided into two groups in the time of Solomon's son. The northern group became known as the House of Israel and comprised the main ten northern tribes and the other group comprised the remaining two, of the tribe of Benjamin and Judah and some of the tribe of Levi and was called in scripture the House of Judah, later called the "Jews" after their return from Babylon.
The prophetic declarations have had their fulfillment in one dispersion for the House of Israel from which they have not yet returned, as a nation, and two dispersions from the land for the House of Judah, the Jews.
The dispersion of the House of Israel was by Assyria and from there they were driven to the uttermost parts of the earth as a result of their idolatry, where in fulfilment of the prophecy, they would worship other gods in the lands of their dispersion (28:64) and the curse would consume them. Through the worship of other gods, they would actually lose their identity as Israelites and become assimilated in the nations of the world.
Ezekiel prophesied their restoration to covenant relationship through the new covenant. Ezekiel 11:14-20
The next dispersion of the House of Judah was to Babylon for a period of seventy specified years, of which Jeremiah forewarned them. Jeremiah 24: 5-7 Their second prophesied dispersion was after they "walked contrary" to Him in their rejection of the Messiahship of Y'shua, which resulted in them being dispersed to all the nations of the world.
They retained their identity as Jews in their dispersion and when the period of judgment was fulfilled, they were returned to the land of Israel in 1948 as a nation. Leviticus 26:24, 40-45; Jeremiah 32:37-41
THE RATIFICATION OF THE COVENANT
There is no sacrifice recorded by Moses to ratify this covenant. It is possible that there were sacrifices made, as this was the usual practice with ratifying covenants, however, this was not absolutely necessary as Yahweh God's sworn oath is enough to ratify a covenant.
Twice Moses mentions that it was established with an oath. Firstly, that it is the fulfillment of the covenant which He swore with their fathers (Deut.8:18), and again when Moses cites that it is a separate covenant from that at Sinai, he says to them, "Keep therefore the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do. All of you stand this day before Yahweh your God .. .. .. .. .. that you may enter into covenant with Yahweh your God and into His oath, which Yahweh your God makes with you today." Deuteronomy 29: 9-10, 12
Once they entered the land after reading all the terms of the covenant, they were to offer sacrifices of burnt offerings and peace offerings and confirm the covenant to which they had given their oath at Moab again, with a sacrificial meal (Deuteronomy 17: 1-8). The blessings and the curses are outlined in Chapters 27-28.
This was the ratification of the covenant when they were in the land.
THE SIGN OF THE COVENANT
When Moses began presenting to them the covenant, he warned them of the consequences of going after false gods again, calling heaven and earth to witness against them, that if they did so, they would not exist long in the land but would be destroyed and scattered among the nations. Deuteronomy 4:25-27 Again, after making known to them all the terms of the covenant with its commandments, its statues and judgements and its ordinances, he called heaven and earth to witness the second time, to hold them to account, that they had heard everything he had made known to them of the choices they had of life and good, death and evil, blessings and curses, by either keeping or breaking the covenant. Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Yahweh had said to them earlier that the land which they were going to possess was not like the land of Egypt which yielded its produce solely by their own efforts, but that the land was dependent upon the rain of heaven which He would withhold if they were disobedient, and they would perish. (Deuteronomy 11: 8-17) And to King Solomon He said, "When I shut up the heaven and there is no rain, or I command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
Having been called as a witness to the covenant given at Moab, the heaven and the earth would respond in accordance to their compliance with the covenant, or their breaking of it.
The heaven and earth were also called to be a witness and as an everlasting sign to the unconditional covenant made with David, which was also ratified by the oath of Yahweh God.
Once they were in the land, they were to set up large stones to act as a witness and write upon them all the words of this law, both the blessings and the curses and read them out, the blessings on Mount Gerizim by half of the tribes and the curses on Mt. Ebal by the other half. (Ch. 27: 1-14).
THE OLD COVENANT FULFILLED IN THE NEW
This covenant made at Moab looked forward to a fulfilment in the Messiah. Moses had said to them that "Yahweh your God shall raise up a Prophet like unto me from among your brethren, Him you shall hear" who would be, as Moses was, an intermediary spokesperson for God to them, to give them further revelation, and they were to listen to Him. Deuteronomy 18:15-19 They understood that there were mysteries yet to be revealed to them (Deut.29:20). Paul spoke of what was revealed in this covenant as a "schoolmaster", a tutor, to train them in righteousness and bring them to sonship in their relationship with Messiah which had previously been kept secret (Gal. 3:24; Coloss.1:25-26).
The Jewish sages, Rashi and Ramban, understood that there would be a fulfilment of this covenant made at Moab in the days of Messiah through a new covenant which would effect a restoration of man from the fall (Deuteronomy 29: 1-6), through the gift of the Holy Spirit (the Ruach HaKodesh). Ezekiel 36:26 Jeremiah also prophesied regarding this new covenant to be made with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, where He would forgive their iniquity and no longer remember their sin. Jeremiah 31:31-34
All Israel was looking for the emergence of the Prophet spoken of by Moses when John came baptising in the Jordan. The Pharisees and priests were constantly evaluating whether He measured up to their expectations of the prophetic word based on the revelation of Moses. John 1:21; Mark 8:28; John 7:16; 40-43; Luke 7:39
A new "Moses" with a progression in the revelation of His Word, came from the Father and they missed it.
The Adamic covenant had been priestly, the Noahic kingly, and the Abrahamic prophetic. The cycle began again with the Mosaic/Moabic covenant on a national level with them. This new priestly covenant bestowed greater grace than any of the covenants since the fall and meant that God would again dwell with man. This sanctuary gave access to the consecrated priestly class to come into His Presence. The original sanctuary was later replaced by the temple built by Solomon and the Shekinah Presence of the Almighty came and dwelt in their midst until the time of their apostasy and subsequent destruction of the temple and their dispersion from the land. 2 Chronicles Ch.5; Ezekiel Ch.10