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Exodus 19:1–15

“If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine” (v. 5).

Covenants between God and mankind are central to Scripture, and so understanding the Bible requires us to understand the covenants found therein. Scripture is clear that the Lord has made two overarching covenants with humanity: the covenant of works between God and all human beings and the covenant of grace between God and His people.

The covenant of grace is actually unfolded through several covenants, one of which is the Mosaic covenant, otherwise known as the old covenant. Thus far in our look at this covenant, we have seen how the Lord redeemed His people from Egyptian slavery before giving them the Law, depicting the principle that God saves fallen people by grace alone no matter the covenant under which they live.

Besides the exodus, there are three other aspects of the Mosaic covenant. First is the enactment of the covenant with Israel as recorded in Exodus 19. Moses describes how at that point the nation of Israel gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai after being rescued from Egypt. The Israelites pledged to follow the Lord (vv. 7–8), but they had to go through a process of cleansing before God would reveal His Law to them (vv. 9b–15). In doing this, the Lord showed that His people must be clean before they will obey Him, which foreshadows the purification that Christ must give us before we will serve God with gladness.

The giving of the Law is the second aspect of the Mosaic covenant. Exodus 20 reveals the Ten Commandments, which are applied in each of the individual laws in the Pentateuch (Genesis–Deuteronomy). Doing this Law did not justify people, for only those who obey it flawlessly can find life therein (Lev. 18:5), and no one but Christ has kept all the commandments without sin.

The ritual of the Law is the last facet of the Mosaic covenant that we will cover. By including sacrifices and other regulations in the law code, God demonstrated that He knew Israel would fail to obey and would need regular atonement for sin. These offerings covered disobedience for a time and pointed to the one who by His full obedience would keep the old covenant perfectly on our behalf (Heb. 10:1–18), thereby sustaining our peace with God forevermore.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Jesus shows us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7) that true faithfulness to God’s commandments involves both outward action and inward attitude. Based on those requirements, none of us can claim to have obeyed the Lord flawlessly. Nevertheless, by His Holy Spirit God has changed us so that every true Christian wants to please the Lord and do His will. How can you live out the Ten Commandments in the situations you face this day?

For Further Study
  • Exodus 24
  • Jeremiah 32:36–44
  • Romans 13:8–10
  • Ephesians 5:15–21
Related Scripture
  • Exodus 19
  • Exodus

The Mosaic Covenant

Building David’s House

Keep Reading What N.T. Wright Really Said

From the February 2010 Issue
Feb 2010 Issue