Understanding the Old Testament

The Covenant

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

The Israelites reached Mount Sinai about two to three months after leaving Egypt. (See Exodus 19:1.) There God made a covenant with them.

A covenant is like a solemn contract. As in modern American contract law, the covenant in Exodus 19 takes the form of an offer and an acceptance. The offer was made by God in Exodus 19:5-6: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The people’s acceptance is in Exodus 19:8: “All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do!’ ” The covenant was later renewed before the Israelites entered Canaan. (Deuteronomy 29:10-29)

God promised His people many wonderful things if they performed their part of the covenant by remaining faithful and obedient: peace, victory, prosperity, children, health, long life, and God’s presence. (Leviticus 26:3-13)

Similarly, He warned them of dire consequences for disobedience, such as disease, defeat, famine, poverty, fear, humiliation, oppression by their enemies, captivity, destruction, exile, and desolation. (Leviticus 26:14-39.) Unfortunately, the Israelites were frequently unfaithful and disobedient.

But God never threatened to disown them for their disobedience. From His perspective, this covenant was everlasting. So no matter how unfaithful the Israelites might be, God would remain ever faithful to the covenant: “Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God.” (Leviticus 26:44)

Questions to ponder or discuss: Out of all the peoples on earth, why do you think the Lord chose the Israelites with which to make a covenant? How does 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 impact your answer? How do verses like Genesis 15:18 and Genesis 22:15-18 impact your answer?

Copyright 2017 by Don Davidson

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