God’s Covenant with His People
Lesson 5 | Sabbath, 31 July 2021
“In Exodus 19 we read: ‘Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bear you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself. 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: and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.’
“Wonderful condescension is this! God offers to make the Israelites His peculiar treasure, if they obey His law and glorify His name.” –Lift Him Up, p. 139.
1. Although not yet living, who were included in the covenant between God and Abraham? When the right time came, what did Lord offer His people?
Genesis 17:7. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
Exodus 19:5. 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.
“God, in His infinite wisdom, chose Israel as the depositary of priceless treasures of truth for all nations. He gave them His law as the standard of the character they were to develop before the world, before angels, and before the unfallen worlds. They were to reveal to the world the laws of the government of heaven. By precept and example they were to bear a decided testimony for the truth. 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.” –(The Southern Work, January 10, 1905)Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, pp. 1180, 1181.
Covenant of promises
2. What did God’s covenant with Abraham include? In addition to the promises made to him, what provisions did the Lord add to the covenant made with Israel?
Genesis 17:2, 6, 8. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly…. 6And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee…. 8And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
Exodus 19:5, middle part, 6 … Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people:… 6And 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.
“Soon after the encampment at Sinai, Moses was called up into the mountain to meet with God…. Israel was now to be taken into a close and peculiar relation to the Most High–to be incorporated as a church and a nation under the government of God. The message to Moses for the people was: ‘… 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. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.’ Exodus 19:4-6.”–God’s Amazing Grace, p. 135.
3. How did the people respond to the blessings offered to them by the Lord through Moses? What did the people promise after hearing the holy laws, conditions, and promises?
Exodus 19:7, 8; 24:3 . And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. 8And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord….24:3And 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.
“Moses returned to the camp, and having summoned the elders of Israel, he repeated to them the divine message. Their answer was, ‘All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.’Thus they entered into a solemn covenant with God, pledging themselves to accept Him as their Ruler, by which they became, in a special sense, the subjects of His authority.
“In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant…. Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God’s law, and their need of a Saviour…. God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience…. The people did not realize … that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law…. 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.”–God’s Amazing Grace, p. 135.
4. After the people, for the second time, gave their consent and expressed their willingness to obey, what did Moses build? Then, why did he also build twelve pillars and choose leaders from the twelve tribes to offer sacrifices to the Lord?
Exodus 24:4-6. And 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.
“Upon descending from the mountain, 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. And 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. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And 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. And 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.’
“Thus by a most solemn service the children of Israel were once more set apart as a peculiar people. The sprinkling of the blood represented the shedding of the blood of Jesus, by which human beings are cleansed from sin.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 506, 507.
Encompassing all the people
5. Why do you think it was necessary to strengthen the covenant between God and man, rather than simply making mutual promises? Why was everything written in a document called “the book of the covenant” and presented to the people a second time?
Exodus 24:7. And 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.
“God’s favor toward Israel had always been conditional on their obedience. At the foot of Sinai they had entered into covenant relationship with Him as His ‘peculiar treasure … above all people.’ Solemnly they had promised to follow in the path of obedience. ‘All that the Lord hath spoken we will do,’ they had said. Exodus 19:5, 8. And when, a few days afterward, God’s law was spoken from Sinai, and additional instruction in the form of statutes and judgments was communicated through Moses, the Israelites with one voice had again promised, ‘All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.’ At the ratification of the covenant, the people had once more united in declaring, ‘All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.’ Exodus 24:3, 7. God had chosen Israel as His people, and they had chosen Him as their King.”–Prophets and Kings, p. 293.
“This is the pledge that God’s people are to make in these last days. Their acceptance with God depends on a faithful fulfillment of the terms of their agreement with Him. God includes in His covenant all who will obey Him. To all who will do justice and judgment, keeping their hand from doing any evil,…” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 142.
6. Why was the ratification of the covenant made not through simple initials or signatures, such as we do today, but through a much more solemn, sacred way? What did it mean when Moses sprinkled the book of the covenant and the people themselves with the same blood?
Exodus 24:8. And 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.
Hebrews 9:18-20. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.
“Moses had written, not the ten commandments, but the judgments which God would have them observe, and the promises on condition that they would obey Him. He read this to the people, and they pledged themselves to obey all the words which the Lord had said. Moses then wrote their solemn pledge in a book, and offered sacrifice unto God for the people. ‘And 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. And 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.’ The people repeated their solemn pledge to the Lord to do all that He had said, and to be obedient.” –The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 240.
Royal covenant sealed with blood
7. What did the leaders of Israel experience after the covenant between God and His people was completed? Similarly, what took place after Jesus referred to His shedding the blood of the new testament?
Exodus 24:9-11.Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. 11And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
Matthew 26:26-28. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.27And 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.
“Moses obeyed the command of God, and took with him Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, with seventy of the most influential elders in Israel, who had assisted him in his work, and placed them at such distance that they might behold the majesty of the divine presence, while the people should worship at the foot of the mount….
“They did not behold the person of God, but only the inexpressible glory which surrounded Him. Previous to this, had they looked upon such sacred glory, they could not have lived, for they were unprepared for it. But the exhibitions of God’s power had filled them with fear, which wrought in them repentance for their past transgressions. They loved and reverenced God, and had been purifying themselves, and contemplating His great glory, purity and mercy, until they could approach nearer Him who had been the subject of all their meditations. God had enshrouded His glory with a thick cloud, so that the people could not behold it. The office of the elders whom Moses took with him, was to aid him in leading the host of Israel to the promised land. This work was of such magnitude that God condescended to put His Spirit upon them. He honored them with a nearer view of the glory which surrounded His exalted majesty, that they might with wisdom act their part in the work assigned them of guiding His people with His fear and glory continually before them.” –Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, pp. 271, 272.
For additional study
“In the most definite manner Christ through Moses had set before them God’s purpose, and had made plain the terms of their prosperity. ‘Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God,’ He said; ‘the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth…. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations…. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them. Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which He sware unto thy fathers; and He will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: He will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which He sware unto thy fathers to give thee. Thou shalt be blessed above all people…. And the Lord will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee.’ Deuteronomy 7:6, 9, 11-15.”–Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 288, 289.