13 – The Old and New Covenants

13 – The Old and New Covenants2016-11-27T17:36:32+00:00

Sabbath, September 26, 2015

“Man gains everything by obeying the covenant-keeping God. God’s attributes are imparted to man, enabling him to exercise mercy and compassion. God’s covenant assures us of His unchangeable character. Why, then, are those who claim to believe in God changeable, fickle, untrustworthy? Why do they not do service heartily, as under obligation to please and glorify God? It is not enough for us to have a general idea of God’s requirements. We must know for ourselves what His requirements and our obligations are. The terms of God’s covenant are, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.’ These are the conditions of life. ‘This do,’ Christ said, ‘and thou shalt live.’ ” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 932. 

The Lord’s covenant

1. What promises did the Lord make to His people on condition of their obedience?

Exodus 19:5, 6 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 19And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. 

“A covenant is an agreement by which parties bind themselves and each other to the fulfillment of certain conditions. Thus the human agent enters into agreement with God to comply with the conditions specified in His Word. His conduct shows whether or not he respects these conditions.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7. p. 932. 

“God desired to make of His people Israel a praise and a glory…. Their obedience to the law of God would make them marvels of prosperity before the nations of the world. He who could give them wisdom and skill in all cunning work would continue to be their teacher, and would ennoble and elevate them through obedience to His laws. If obedient, they would be preserved from the diseases that afflicted other nations, and would be blessed with vigor of intellect. The glory of God, His majesty and power, were to be revealed in all their prosperity. They were to be a kingdom of priests and princes. God furnished them with every facility for becoming the greatest nation on the earth.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 288.

The covenant ratified at Sinai 

2. What followed after the promises and God’s law were made known? What promise did the people make before the covenant was ratified? 

Exodus 24:3-8 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do. 4And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord. 6And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. 8And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words. 

“Another compact–called in Scripture the ‘old’ covenant–was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice…. 

“God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience: ‘If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then … ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.’ Exodus 19:5, 6. The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, ‘All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.’ Exodus 24:7.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 371, 372.

The covenant dishonored

3. Did the people of Israel keep the promises they made under the covenant? How was it renewed on the border of Canaan? 

Exodus 32:1, 4 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him…. 4And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 

Deuteronomy 29:5, 9-15 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot…. 9Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do. 10Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, 11Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: 12That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: 13That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 14Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; 15But with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day.

“They had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image….

“While God was writing down His law, to be committed to His covenant people, the Israelites, denying their loyalty to Jehovah, were demanding gods of gold! When Moses came from the awful presence of the divine glory, with the precepts of the law which they had pledged themselves to obey, he found them, in open defiance of its commands, bowing in adoration before a golden image.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 372, 335. 

Other violations

4. After those of the adult generation that left Egypt and Joshua passed away, what did the next generation do? What happened to the spirituality and faithfulness of later generations? 

Judges 2:11-13 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: 12And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. 13And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.

“Prophets had wept over the apostasy of Israel and the terrible desolations by which their sins were visited. Jeremiah wished that his eyes were a fountain of tears, that he might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of his people, for the Lord’s flock that was carried away captive. Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17.” –The Great Controversy, p. 21. 

“During the ages preceding the first advent of Christ the world seemed almost wholly under the sway of the prince of darkness, and he ruled with a terrible power as though through the sin of our first parents the kingdoms of the world had become his by right. Even the covenant people, whom God had chosen to preserve in the world the knowledge of Himself, had so far departed from Him that they had lost all true conception of His character.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 738. 

A new covenant

5. After centuries of weakness and departure from the covenant, what did the Lord present through His grace? What does this covenant consist of?

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. 

“Under the new covenant, the conditions by which eternal life may be gained are the same as under the old–perfect obedience. Under the old covenant, there were many offenses of a daring, presumptuous character, for which there was no atonement specified by law. In the new and better covenant, Christ has fulfilled the law for the transgressors of law, if they receive Him by faith as a personal Saviour. ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.’ Mercy and forgiveness are the reward of all who come to Christ trusting in His merits to take away their sins. In the better covenant we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ….

“The blessings of the new covenant are grounded purely on mercy in forgiving unrighteousness and sins. The Lord specifies, I will do thus and thus unto all who turn to Me, forsaking the evil and choosing the good…. All who humble their hearts, confessing their sins, will find mercy and grace and assurance.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7. p. 931.

Ratified by the blood of Jesus

6. When the time of the new testament came, who announced it? How and when was it ratified? 

Matthew 26:27, 28 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 

“In partaking with His disciples of the bread and wine, Christ pledged Himself to them as their Redeemer. He committed to them the new covenant, by which all who receive Him become children of God, and joint heirs with Christ. By this covenant every blessing that heaven could bestow for this life and the life to come was theirs. This covenant deed was to be ratified with the blood of Christ.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 656, 659.

“This covenant deed was to be ratified by Christ’s own blood, which it had been the office of the old sacrificial offerings to keep before the minds of His chosen people.” –(Review and Herald, June 22, 1897) Evangelism, p. 276. 

Comparison of the old and new covenants

7. What is said about the new covenant? What do you see as the main differences between the old and the new covenants? 

Hebrews 8:6-12 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 

“Christ’s death and resurrection completed His covenant. Before this time, it was revealed through types and shadows, which pointed to the great offering to be made by the world’s Redeemer, offered in promise for the sins of the world. Anciently believers were saved by the same Saviour as now, but it was a God veiled. They saw God’s mercy in figures. The promise given to Adam and Eve in Eden was the gospel to a fallen race. The promise was made that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, and it should bruise His heel. Christ’s sacrifice is the glorious fulfillment of the whole Jewish economy. The Sun of Righteousness has risen. Christ our righteousness is shining in brightness upon us.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 932. 

For additional study

“The terms of the ‘old covenant’ were, Obey and live: ‘If a man do, he shall even live in them;‘ but ‘cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.’ Ezekiel 20:11; Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 27:26. The ‘new covenant’ was established upon ‘better promises’–the promise of forgiveness of sins, and of the grace of God to renew the heart, and bring it into harmony with the principles of God’s law.” –The Faith I Live By, p. 78.

“The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the ‘second,’ or ‘new,’ covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant. That the new covenant was valid in the days of Abraham is evident from the fact that it was then confirmed both by the promise and by the oath of God–the ‘two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie.’ Hebrews 6:18.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 371.

  • What do you feel when you consider that the Lord has always been willing to make a covenant with men?
  • What do we learn from the Lord’s dealing with His people in the time of the old covenant? 
  • Knowing that the new covenant was granted by the life of God’s dear Son, how much do we value it?

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