Friday, September 12, 2008

The Old or Sinaitic Covenant


The Sinaitic, or Old Covenant, made with Israel was in keeping with the covenants made between kings and their subjects. It was of the Suzerain-vassal type and came with conditions that had to be maintained in order for the covenant to remain in effect. Israel confidently boasted, "All you have said, we will do." Before the ink was dry on the tables of stone, the conditions had already been broken. Symbolic of the nullified covenant, Moses threw the tablets to the ground, physically echoing the metaphysical chards they had made of their promises to God.

The Old Covenant: The Ten Commandments and the Entire Book of the Law

The following scriptures will define what is included in the Old Covenant. Adventists have been taught that there are two parts of the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandments (which Ellen White said is everlasting) and the rest of the Book of the Law (which she calls the ceremonial law). Those distinctions are never used in scripture. They are an artificial separation. If you are going to teach that the Ten Commandments (and therefore the Sabbath) are still in effect since the death of Jesus, then you must somehow separate them out of the law since Paul clearly states that the law was nailed to the cross. Col. 2:15 So we will go to scripture to see what was included in the Old Covenant.

“There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers when he brought them out of Egypt." 1 Kings 8:9 & 21 (NIV)

Notice that it is the Ark of the Covenant and that the covenant was made with the Israelites after God brought them out of Egypt. Therefore it did not exist before that time. And what was in the Ark of the Covenant? The Ten Commandments.

“Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant--the Ten Commandments.” Ex 34:28 (NIV) So, here we see that the Ten Commandments are the very words of the covenant, so they cannot be separated out from the law or the Old Covenant.

“He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stones.” Deut 4:13 (NIV). Keep this in mind as we will be seeing a repeat of this statement by Paul in 2 Corinthians. 'rugged Peaks, by Cherry Brandstater

“When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD had made with you…” Deut 9:9 (NIV)

“At the end of the forty days and forty nights, the LORD gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant.” Deut 9:11 (NIV)

“So I turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands.” Deut 9:15 (NIV)

Paul recognized the Law to include the Ten Commandments, “I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’” Romans 7:7 (NIV)

“The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moons and appointed feasts as written in the Law of the LORD.” 2 Chron 31:3 (NIV) So the Law included all of the regulations given to Moses including the Sabbath, the festivals and sacrificial system.

“So … Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly… He read it aloud from daybreak till noon …and all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.” Neh 8:2-3 (NIV) It doesn’t take six hours to read the Ten Commandments.

“They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month.” Neh 8:14 (NIV) Festivals were being described as coming from the law.

"Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Mal 4:4 (NIV)

“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone…” 2 Cor 3:7 (NIV) If the Ten Commandments were gloriously highlighted in Heaven as Ellen White said, with the fourth commandment being more glorious than the rest, would Paul refer to them as a ministry that brought death and say that they were fading away?

“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.” Heb 9:1-4 (NIV) So the first covenant included the regulations for worship, the sanctuary with the sacrificial system and the Ten Commandments.

Jesus understood this: “One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matt 22:35-40 (NIV) In answer, Jesus quotes Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:13, not one of the Ten Commandments showing, that He understood the Old Covenant to include the whole Book of the Law. In other places he quoted the Ten Commandments as in His discussion with the rich young ruler. So the Ten Commandments along with the rest of the law are considered the Old Covenant. There is nowhere in scripture where the Old Covenant is broken into the Ten Commandments and the ceremonial law. In fact that term is never used; it was an invention of Ellen White.



The Old Covenant Was Made Only With Israel

One of the notable aspects of the Old Covenant is that it was not made with any other people group or nation. It was designed specifically for Israel and was designed to turn a rag-tag bunch of slaves into a nation that would represent God to the other nations. One day they were building the pyramids, the next they had become God’s chosen people. They had no laws, no rules, no organization and after 400 years in captivity the people had nearly lost all knowledge of the God of their father Abraham. And so God, with a majesty that made the people tremble, took Moses onto the mountain and dictated to him the constitution for this new nation.


However, it was not just a constitution. They were the people God had selected to be the ancestors of His Son. He wanted them to recognize Him when He came. He wanted them to understand His mission and to be able to move with Him into the ministry He had destined for them. So every detail of every law, festival, and regulation - even the sanctuary itself -pointed to Him. God put everything in place to lead them to know His Son. When Jesus came all of those models that were just mock-ups of Him would have no function because the real thing would be here. Even in the Old Testament the prophets realized that the Old Covenant had been broken and would require a new covenant that would recognize a new order of things. This covenant was tailor-made for the people who would give birth to the Savior of the World. No other nation could fill this role. No other nation could be given this covenant.5

“And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” Deut 4:8 (NIV) Moses then goes on to identify the decrees and laws: “Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote t'City on a Hill' by Cherry Brandstaterhem on two stone tablets. And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” Deut 4:12-14 (NIV) Only Israel qualifies here.

Before delivering the Ten Commandments, God identified the group to whom they applied: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Ex 20:2 (NIV) No other people qualify here either.

"'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.” Ex 31:14-16 (NIV)The word 'owlam has been translated here as "lasting," not "everlasting." Its definition in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says it is “used often of time indefinitely long.”

"You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.” Neh 9:13-14 (NIV) This speaks exclusively of the Israelites. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Mal 4:4 (NIV)

“Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain.” Deut 5:1-4 (NIV) Not only was the covenant made solely with Israel, it was made with them at the time of Moses, not before. The Ten Commandments, the law, did not exist before that time.

“I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers when he brought them out of Egypt." 1 Kings 8:21 (NIV) When? The fact that no other nation had the law was fully understood and confirmed by Paul: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law…” Romans 2:14 (NIV)

“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenant, the receiving of the law, the temple worship...” Romans 9:3-4 (NIV)

Notice how Ellen White has to resort to replacement theology to claim otherwise. “I am instructed to say to our people, Gather together from the Scriptures the proofs that God has sanctified the Sabbath and let the words of the Lord be read before the congregations, showing that all who turn aside from a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ will be condemned. The Sabbath has been the test of the loyalty of God's people in all ages. ‘It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever,’ the Lord declares.” {RH, March 26, 1908 par. 7} Only Israel of old received this covenant.


This point was brought forcefully to my understanding in 1993 as I stood overlooking the men's section of the wailing wall in Jerusalem. A Hassidic Jew, complete with side curls, was prayng nearby. I struck up a conversation with him out of interest in making contact with someone so far out of my sphere of experience. He asked me to tell him about myself. With a bit of pride and misguided evangelistic zeal I replied that I was a Sabbath-keeping Christian. He gave me an unamused look and what sounded suspiciously like a scoff as he told me, "That's impossible. You gentiles are free from the Law, that was given only to Israel. You have no obligations to keep the Sabbath. It was never your Law, but ours." Many years later, as I related this story to one of my Jewish partners, he quipped, "So, it took a Hassid to set you free." Indeed. It stuck, like a seed caught in soil until the time for germination had come.


The Sign of the Sinaitic Covenant is the Sabbath

Every covenant had a sign. You will remember that with Noah it was the rainbow, with Abraham it was circumcision, with David it was the virgin birth. In the new covenant baptism is the entrance sign and the Lord’s Supper is the repeating sign that brings remembrance. Circumcision is the entrance sign to the Old Covenant. It was clear that unless someone had been circumcised they could not take part in any of the Old Covenant or be a part of the covenant people. Sabbath was the repeating sign of remembrance in the Old Covenant.10

"An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you." Ex 12:48-49 (NIV) So when there is such controversy about circumcision in the early church, the significance is that with circumcision one enters into all of the regulations and practices in the Book of the Law. Circumcision stood for the whole package. Unless one was circumcised they couldn’t take part in any of it. After circumcision they qualified to be a part of the nation of Israel and participate in all of their constitution and practices.10

“It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested." Ex 31:17 (NIV). This identifies the covenant partners: Israel and the God who also made the Earth in six days. There were not seven creation days. Seven represents God Himself and is repeated throughout the Old Covenant. There was the weekly Sabbath, there were seven seasonal festivals, every seven years there was a Sabbatical year and there was the year of Jubilee, which was the seventh occurrence of the Sabbatical year, or seven sevens.6

"Say to the Israelites, you must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” Ex 31:13 (NIV)

“The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting (‘owlam, indefinite period of time) covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever (‘owlam), for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.” Ex 31:16-17 (NIV)


Summary of Old Covenant Chapter

1) The Old Covenant is everything that God gave Moses on Mount Sinai.

2) The Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments.
3) The Ten Commandments make up the words of the Old Covenant.

4) The Law includes the Ten Commandments and everything included in the Book of the Law along with the whole sacrificial system.

5) God could not make this covenant with any other nation than Israel, because this covenant pointed to the coming Savior Who would come only through Israel.

6) Circumcision and was mandatory for participation as a member of the nation.

7) The Sabbath was given as proof of God's authority to make a covenant with Israel.

8) All of the religious practices of Israel revolved around the number seven. Seven is the number of completion and represents God, the Creator who put the world into place with perfect completion symbolized by the number seven.

9) The Old Covenant was of the Suzerain-vassal type that came with conditions that were broken almost immediately.



Ultimate Rest Table of Contents
The Next Chapter: Are the Ten Commandments Immutable?
What does immutable mean? It means unchangeable, everlasting. The argument is that God never changes, ergo, the Ten Commandments cannot change. Is that a valid theorum?

2 comments:

Randi said...

Did you also notice when being Baptized SDA you are baptized into the beliefs of the church. I always thought that was weird because if you are a baby Christian you don't even understand all those beliefs shouldn't baptism just be you outward acceptance of Jesus Christ and your belief of what he has done for you? Again a legalistic approach to salvation which you are doomed to fail on your own accord . Baptism is the start of your journey!!!!!

Gently Broken said...

I couldn't agree more. There is no place in scripture that suggests baptism has anything to do with church membership, denominational distinctives or anything other than the acknowledgement of our need for our Savior. We are to be baptized into Christ, not into a church. Unfortunately, at the time I didn't think "it was weird." I thought it was normal. Thank God for grace!