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The Covenants — Exodus Chapter 24

This blog post will cover the devotionals #143-148 for Exodus Chapter 24.

**Pictures will be added at a later date.

Please note that this devotional book WILL SOON be for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[#143] Exodus 24:3-8 (Part 1)

In devotional #82, we saw the general conditions of the ‘First Covenant’ (‘obey My voice and keep My covenant’), but Israel hadn’t yet heard God’s voice or known what the conditions involved. Three days later (as we saw in devotional #86), God came down in glory with an earth-shaking voice and declared the ten commandments—and they finally heard the voice they’d agreed to obey. Then God gave Moses instructions (the precepts) concerning the religious and civil matters that fell under the agreement (devotionals #109-142). To continue forming the covenant, he was to give these precepts to Israel. He told them God’s words and laid out His judgments a second time, showing that all the blessings God had promised were conditional on their obedience. They'd consented to obey His commandments in a broad sense. Now they’d heard His voice for themselves, and the laws were broken down in detail to show how much this obedience entailed. Thus, they had a second chance to decide if they wanted to agree to the covenant. In verse 3, they repeated their Exodus 19:8 response. They promised obedience, but were they able to obey of their own ability? Of course not! God made a covenant with Israel, and they thought they could do something to make it succeed—when it contained nothing on man’s part except to cooperate (surrender). God formed it, and man has the privilege to believe in the Savior—empowering him to become a son of God. When we discussed the purpose of the rainbow in Genesis devotional #65, God appeared to be making a promise between Him and His creatures, but deep-down, He was making a promise to Himself—with Himself—and Creation was merely the beneficiary. Doing this, the contract couldn't be broken by man. For God’s conditional covenant promises to be fulfilled, man can’t make the promise. So how do God’s conditional promises work? In devotional #89, I mentioned that the ten commandments—often looked at as a set of rules—were themselves a promise (which we’d look much deeper at that in devotional #___ (Exodus 34). I want to hint at the concept for some context here. ‘You shall not’ doesn’t just mean, ‘You must not’, but it’s a promise that, ‘You will not’. In other words, if we hide God’s law in our hearts (minds), God Himself will keep the commandments in us. He will do what we can’t do ourselves. Romans 8:7 says that the carnal mind is enmity against God because it isn’t (and can’t be) subject to His law. In Genesis devotional #89, we saw that, just before God changed Abram’s name (representing a change in character), He repeated His promises to him and called him to walk in His ways and be perfect. He reminded Abraham of the covenant He made with him, and what Abraham’s side of the agreement was (he and all his men must be circumcised). In devotional #95, we learned that, as the Sabbath (which commandment #4 instructs us to keep) is a memorial of Creation (and our acknowledgment of God as our Authority), circumcision was to be a memorial (symbol) of their covenant, etc.—not a condition of it. Circumcision was a representation of the works we do in faith, rather than righteousness that people believe(d) we gain by doing works. Thus, Israel’s promise to obey was less valuable than it would’ve been for them to simply trust and pray that He would enable them to keep the law when tempted to do otherwise. Consider the prodigal son and his brother (see Luke 15:11-32). The son who left denied his father, but later returned to serve him. The son who stayed claimed he’d serve his father but didn’t. God doesn’t look so much at what we say we’ll do (our promise, pledge, oath, covenant, etc.), but what we actually do. As they say, actions speak louder than words.

[#144] Exodus 24:3-8 (Part 2)

After the precepts were finished in devotional #142, God promised to protect and provide for them if they kept the conditions of the covenant. To make sure they wouldn’t misunderstand, misinterpret, or misapply the conditions—or try to claim later that they didn’t understand what they got themselves into with the covenant—Moses wrote the judgments down in a book as Christ plainly dictated the words to him. Then he read it to Israel so they could carefully review and contemplate everything again (and refer back to it any time). Now they were given a third chance to stick to their decision or change their mind. They unanimously consented to complete obedience by repeating their first two responses, adding, ‘and be obedient’ (verse 7). Thus, they vowed to obey the practical aspects of the law. This means that if they’d obey His requirements, they’d be Christians in a practical sense—not just by name. Keeping His ways instead of following their natural inclinations would’ve made them happy. So, as with the initial agreement to the covenant proposed in devotional #82 (and agreed a second time in devotional #143), Israel promised they’d govern every word and action by God’s law, and God promised that if they did, they’d be designated as His peculiar people. We’ll see (in Exodus 32) whether they kept their ‘promise’ to stay true to God and His law. Thus, the next step was the covenant’s ratification, which involved a symbolic ceremony. Before reading the book, Moses had gotten up early and built an altar under the hill, along with twelve pillars (one for each of the tribes of Israel). He sent young men who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings (using oxen) to God. Then he put half the blood in basins and sprinkled the rest on the altar. After reading and receiving Israel’s response, he sprinkled the blood (from the basins) on the people and said, “‘See the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you concerning all these words.’” This shedding (and sprinkling) of the blood closed, sealed, and ratified the covenant. Sprinkling the blood represented the shedding of Jesus’ blood—which cleanses humanity from sin. Sprinkling the blood on the altar indicated that they’d consecrated themselves completely (physically, mentally, and spiritually) to God. Sprinkling the blood on the people indicated that God accepted them as His peculiar treasure through the blood of Jesus. Thus, the solemn covenant they entered with God represented the covenant made between God and everyone that believes in Jesus Christ. They were set apart and established to God. We’ll take a deeper look at the doctrine of the two covenants (in devotionals #145 and 146), which is so often misunderstood—with detrimental results.

[#145] Exodus 24:3-8 (Part 3)

The names of the covenants may be confusing because they refer to neither the order nor the relative ages of the covenants, but rather to the ‘date’ each was ratified in relation to each other. To ratify a covenant is to sign or give formal consent to it (or even to seal it), making it officially valid. The Bible also refers to ratifying as ‘establishing’ or ‘confirming’. The ‘Old Covenant’ (or ‘first’ covenant) is named thus because, though it wasn’t made first, it was ratified first (at Mount Sinai), with the blood of bulls, rams, and goats. Ironically, the ‘New Covenant’ (or ‘second’ covenant) is actually the oldest covenant there is, despite its names—given for the same reason (for being ratified second). However, it’s more appropriately termed the ‘Everlasting Covenant’ because it’s been in existence from everlasting—before humanity even came into being. The Godhead discussed this in Their council concerning how They would handle the sin problem when it finally arose. In Genesis devotional #23, we discussed the Genesis 3:15 gospel promise (aka, the ‘New’ / ‘Everlasting Covenant’) for Christ to die on the cross to save them from sin—which God announced to humanity when Adam sinned. Thus, the ‘New Covenant’ (announced very early in human history) was ratified roughly four thousand years later at the cross with the blood of the Lamb of God. Why were there two covenants to begin with? Hebrews 8 shows that there must have been something wrong or insufficient with the ‘first’ covenant (and why). A new one wouldn’t have been needed if there wasn’t anything wrong with the old one. 'Why fix what isn’t broken?’ It also shows how it was wrong. One major reason (as we saw in devotional #143), is that for the covenant to succeed, man would have to keep his promise. In other words, the covenant included man’s promise. The One Who made the promises of the ‘New Covenant’ was God Himself. If faulty people make promises, then the promises are faulty by default, and thus, the covenant founded on those promises would also be faulty. However, if a perfect person makes promises, it automatically makes the promises (and thus, the covenant) perfect. The other major—and perhaps most important—reason there were two covenants is how the covenant would be satisfied. God didn’t change or get rid of the moral law (the commandments) at the cross, but rather, the ceremonial law (the feasts and sacrifices that pointed to Christ’s sacrifice). So, even the blood (of the sacrifices) within the ratification of the ‘Old Covenant’ represented (aka, ‘shadowed’ / ‘typified’) the blood of Christ, and the blood of the ‘New Covenant’ was the actual blood of Christ (the fulfillment or ‘antitype’ of the covenant). Thus, the blood of the ‘Old Covenant’ wasn’t what took away their sins up until Christ died—as many people believe(d). Hebrews 10 says that the blood of bulls and goats can’t take away sins, and that God ‘takes away’ the first covenant to establish the second one (through which we’d be sanctified by Christ’s sacrifice). God promised to instill His law within their hearts—and as a result, they’d be His people, and He would be their God. This was to be done by God through their faith. God wanted it to be a living experience—where they’d naturally keep the law because it was in their hearts. However, the people thought they could make themselves His [righteous] people by trying to keep the law themselves—of their own ability. It was merely an action to them (to earn righteousness), not a natural outworking (result) of their faith. Thus, though it discusses replacing the old covenant with a new one, it didn’t mean God was changing His way of working salvation, but rather, the mindset they had of working to be saved. [#146] Exodus 24:3-8 (Part 4)

In devotional #145, we learned the difference between the two covenants, and I mentioned the ‘Old Covenant’ and works, and the ‘New Covenant’ and grace, and that some believe that the two covenants existed at separate times (in other words, the ‘Old Covenant’ existed before and/or until the cross, and the ‘New Covenant’ existed afterwards). However, this belief sparks a misinterpretation of the covenants. Since the ‘Old Covenant’ is a covenant of works, they think that means that God required them to do sacrifices, etc. in order to be saved until the ‘New Covenant’ would come into effect, where they’d then be saved by grace—regardless of whether they keep God’s commandments (and hence, one reason why people dangerously misinterpret the idea of ‘once saved, always saved’). The obedience God required of them wasn’t to earn salvation, but to change their hearts—to come to a place where they were led by God’s principles rather than their natural inclinations. Romans 10:1-4 says that Israel didn’t know of Christ’s righteousness, and thus, couldn’t submit to it. Therefore, they’d try to create (‘establish’) their own righteousness. This is why laws were given—not to make them righteous—but to point them to Christ’s righteousness (since the commandments are a transcript of His character), so they could learn of it and how to live by faith (see Romans 10:17). Galatians 3:19-25 shows us that, once they learn to live by faith (in Christ’s righteousness, not their own), then they’d no longer have need of a law because His righteousness would naturally exist within them. That didn’t mean God no longer required them to live by the principles of the law (nor that He abolished the law) as soon as Christ died. What it meant was that the law wouldn’t need to be enforced once it was no longer being transgressed (see 1 Timothy 1:9). Throughout our devotionals, we’ve seen that sacrifices and commandment-keeping were designed to keep before them both a discouraging reminder of the results of their sin (the death of an innocent being) and an encouraging hope they could cling to in spite of it (thanks to the sacrifice of the sinless One). The blood of sacrificial animals (and/or the act of sacrificing them) couldn’t save man—only Christ’s blood could do that (if they believed). Romans 4:14-16 says that the promise had to be fulfilled through faith (and not by law-keeping / works or even inheritance) so that it could be a gift of grace that all could receive—otherwise the promise would be destitute of results. If they could get the reward by working (earn it by keeping the law), they’d have no need to believe—and thus, couldn’t produce fruit. We learned that the two covenants didn’t exist in two completely different times (they were both made and put into effect before the cross)—the main difference between the covenants didn’t have to do with timing, but rather, the person making and fulfilling the promise. We also learned that the two covenants weren’t two ways that God used to save people—but rather, mentalities. We can see a clear Biblical example of how the Old and New Covenants both existed long before the cross, through the story of Abraham and Isaac (Galatians 4:22-28 says so!). Recall that God promised Abraham he’d have a son with Sarah (in other words, God would do the thing, and in His way). Yet, they tried to make it happen themselves, in their way (with Hagar). Their attempt to fulfill the covenant promise was what we could call an ‘Old Covenant’ experience. When they finally surrendered and had faith in God’s promise, they entered the ‘New Covenant’ experience—in which God would fulfill the covenant promise. Thus, the Old and New Covenants weren’t two different methods of salvation, but rather, two different spiritual experiences.

[#147] Exodus 24:1,2,9-11

In the verses before and after those discussing Moses’ presentation of the laws, Israel’s naïve response to it, and the ratification of the covenant (devotionals #143-146), we see a scenario that God calls Moses, the priests, and the elders to. In verses 1 and 2, God tells Moses along with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (two of Aarons sons, whose births were discussed in Exodus 6:23, in devotional #30), and seventy of Israel’s elders to come up to Him. Why did God have the seventy elders join Moses? They were to aid him in governing and leading Israel to the Promised Land. Of them, all but Moses were to worship afar off while he approached God, as God couldn’t fully reveal Himself to everyone. Yet, He still put His Spirit on them and they were honored with the opportunity to see His power and greatness. They went up “and 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” (verse 10). Let’s break this down a bit (I’ll use Strong’s Concordance to define certain words in parentheses). First, what did they see? Under His feet there was a paved (‘transparent’ or ‘whiteness’) work (likely ‘workmanship’) of a sapphire stone. Note that the sapphire is an incredibly beautiful gem of an azure or sky-blue color that glitters with golden spots, and its luster, hardness, and value are second only to the diamond. In the sapphire’s clearness (‘purity’ or ‘brightness’)was the body (‘substance’ or ‘strength’) of heaven (the ‘sky’). It was a cloud. Next, let’s notice that the verse uses the phrase, ‘as it were’, twice. There are several variations to the meaning of this phrase, but a general summary would be that the thing which the phrase describes isn’t exact or completely accurate but is more of a metaphorical or figurative image. So, we can see that what Israel saw was probably symbolic of something. In Ezekiel 1:26; 10:1, we see a similar revelation. “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above it.” This passage shows the Eternal One sitting on a sapphire throne. There’s something incredibly powerful that stood out to me in the study of this passage. One of the definitions used by Strong’s Concordance (in Exodus and Ezekiel) for ‘sapphire’ is: ‘as used for scratching other substances’. It also references another definition: ‘to score with a mark as a tally or record’—that is, ‘to inscribe or enumerate (or ‘list’, ‘itemize’, ‘spell out’, etc.). If for nothing more than a neat coincidence, I can’t help but think of how God inscribed His law on a table of stone using His finger. He literally ‘scratched’ a list—'spelling out’ into another substance. What was it, then, that these nobles witnessed in verse 10? They couldn’t see God Himself—because He dwells in unapproachable light—but they did see the glory of His presence (see 1 Timothy 6:16). They were never prepared to survive seeing something like this, but they were awed into repentance by God’s exhibition of power. As they contemplated His glory, purity, and mercy, they reached a place where they could come closer to the beloved and revered Subject of their meditation. He concealed His glory in a thick cloud so they couldn’t see it. Because the work that God was appointing these men to assist Moses with was so great, He saw it fit to pour out His Spirit on them—honoring them with a closer look at His glory so they would do their work wisely and constantly keep the fear and glory of God before the people. It was Jesus Christ who stood on that sapphire cloud, and these noble men of Israel stood in the reflection of His presence unharmed, and they ate and drank. As we’ll see (in devotional #148), God called Moses to come even closer than the rest.

[#148] Exodus 24:12-18

After the covenant was ratified, God called Moses to join Him in the mountain, where He would give him stone tablets and a law and commandments that He had written, so Moses could teach Israel. They were written down in a book to prevent us from doing unjust things and to lead us in how we treat others. Aaron had long stood with Moses, and Hur had been trusted with great responsibilities. They’d held up Moses’ hands at the battle with Amalek at Rephidim. Thus, they were left in charge of Israel (to be helped by the elders who saw God’s glory in devotional #147) while Moses was gone. Moses told the elders to tarry in that place until they returned from the mountain, and to have the people bring their matters to Aaron and Hur. Moses took Joshua (his minister) and went up, and the mountain was covered with a cloud. God’s glory rested on Mount Sinai (covered by the cloud for six days), and the sight was like a devouring fire on top of the mountain in the eyes of Israel. We could go deep into study about what the Bible means when it refers to God’s glory as a devouring fire, but let’s keep it simple here. We know that ‘devour’ means ‘consume’ or ‘destroy’. Many have a picture in their minds of a God that destroys, and maybe it doesn’t help that the Bible writers used language that provokes that idea. Yet, if we return to Exodus 3:2, we see the burning bush that wasn’t consumed (feel free to revisit devotional #16). We’ve seen multiple events throughout Exodus where Israel saw God’s glory / presence in a way that others (or they themselves, in different circumstances) couldn’t have survived. If we study Malachi 3:1-6, we can gain absolute clarity about how God’s glory consumes. “‘Look, I will send My Messenger, and He will prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, Whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple—even the Messenger of the covenant, in Whom you delight: look, He will come”, says the Lord of hosts. ‘But who can abide the day of His coming? And who will stand when He appears? Because He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and He will sit as a Refiner and Purifier of silver: and He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, so they may offer an offering in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you in judgment; and I will be a swift Witness against the sorcerers…adulterers…false swearers…and those that oppress the hired…the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and do not fear Me’, says the Lord of hosts. ‘Because I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore, you sons of Jacob are not consumed.’” We’ve been talking about the covenant, and here we see the Messenger of the covenant coming. What He comes to consume is what needs to be refined, washed, purified, and purged out of the precious metals. The One that made the covenant is the One that makes us righteous—and to do that, He doesn’t destroy sinners, but the sin inside them. If they surrender to that process, they won’t be consumed along with the impurities. If they fight against it—they hang onto those character defects / flaws and are consumed along with them. He comes as a swift Witness against sin and those that love it. The Messenger of the covenant brings the law (the record of His character) to purify us of those things. Only then can we please God with our offerings. God called Moses out from the midst of the cloud on the seventh day, and he was in the mountain for forty days and nights. While he was there, God gave him instructions to build a sanctuary—where the divine presence would be manifested (as we’ll see, starting in devotional #149)—and urged one particular commandment yet again.

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