Start point: Biblical Covenants week 3, Mosaic and Davidic (click here for PDF version)
Mosaic: Part 1
The most encompassing covenant in the Old Testament is found in Exodus under the leadership of Moses. If you recall, Moses led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. On the way to the promised land, God meets Moses at Mount Sinai to initiate a new covenant with the Israelites:
Exodus 19:3-8 (NRSV)
“3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” 7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 The people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.”
The Mosaic covenant calls the Israelites to obey God’s voice and keep the covenant. The result of obeying will lead the Israelites to be a holy nation and blessed by God. Exodus 20 gives the particulars of the covenant in which the Israelites are to follow. We call these particulars, the Ten Commandments:
Exodus 20:2-20 (NRSV)
Then God spoke all these words: “2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8 Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it. 12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 You shall not murder. 14 You shall not commit adultery. 15 You shall not steal. 16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. 18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.”’
Questions for dialogue?
Why do you think God set forth another covenant?
What are the particulars of the Mosaic covenant?
How did the Israelites respond to God initiating the covenant?
Mosaic: Part 2
A covenant is a binding commitment, or agreement, in which two or more parties agree to follow. The next scripture, Exodus 24:3-8, highlights the affirmation of the covenant by the Israelites:
“3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to the Lord. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, “See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”’
Notice, for a second time, the Israelites agreed to the covenant. In this covenant, like the others, the covenant is specific. The Mosaic covenant is the most specific in regards to behavior that needs to happen, or not to happen.
Why do you think God is so specific about the behavior of the Israelites?
Could it be that God is letting the people know the behavior God’s does not want? God is really starting to develop the concept of sin. Sin, as defined by Wikipedia, “is an act of transgression against divine or natural law.” Basically, sin leads to a separation between God and the other party of the covenant. We have surely seen the separation between God and Adam in an earlier covenant.
Notice that the covenant is sealed with the sign of blood through sacrifice. An animal is sacrificed and the blood is spread on the altar and dashed on the people who agreed to the covenant. The sign of the covenant with Noah was a rainbow. The sign of the Mosaic covenant is blood
Questions for dialog:
Are these 10 laws still in place today?
What is sin?
What is the result of sin?
Why would sacrifice and blood be used for the sealing of the Mosaic covenant?
How is this covenant conditional?
In the New Covenant, an empowered community is formed through which God can do more than we ask or imagine according to Ephesians 3: 20. Why is this New Covenant potentially more impactful in blessing the world than prior covenants?
The Davidic covenant was made with King David, 2 Samuel 7:10-16:
“10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”
Notice, this covenant is primarily with an individual, or family, like Adam, Noah, and Abraham. The Mosaic covenant was with the Israelites as a whole while Moses was the deliverer. David’s kingdom will be developed and last forever. This is an unconditional covenant. God’s steadfast love will always be with David. Interestingly, if David transgresses, then God will discipline, rather than abolish the covenant.
How are these Old Testament covenants similar? Different?
What do you see is the function of a covenant with God?
When a person is presented with a covenant by God, what is God’s desired outcome?
A covenant is designed by God to develop a mutual relationship of love and devotion. A covenant gives the extent and boundaries of a mutual relationship. In response to the presentation of the covenant, the receiver has to decide whether to accept it or not.