Five hundred years after the Abrahamic covenant, we come to a detour on the covenant train. We find ourselves face to face with what is known as the old covenant. Abraham’s descendants have gathered at the foot of Mt Sinai. Here God initiated the old covenant, also known as the Law, through His prophet, Moses.
“Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 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.” These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.’ So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD” (Exodus 19:3-8).
The rest of the Old Testament is a record of Israel’s struggle to keep their “we will do it” part of the old covenant.
Let’s compare and contrast what we know about the Abrahamic covenant and the old covenant of the Law. Let’s start by listing the five distinctives of the Abrahamic covenant that we covered in our first post and contrast them with their old covenant counterpart. (AC = Abrahamic covenant, OC = old covenant)
1. AC: It was a covenant based on God’s promise, not Abraham’s action.
OC: It was a covenant based on man’s obedience.
2. AC: It was a promise to bless all the families of the earth, both Jew and Gentile.
OC: It was only for God’s chosen people at that time; the Jews.
3. AC: It was a promise fulfilled in the one who “believed”, not based on religious activity or behavior.
OC: It was a blessing given based on one’s obedience.
4. AC: It was a covenant that was transformational, not transactional, signified by changing Abram’s name to Abraham.
OC: It was a covenant that was purely transactional; blessing based on obedience, a curse for disobedience.
5. AC: It was a covenant between God and God; Abraham was the beneficiary.
OC: It was a covenant between God and man.
Next time, we will talk about where the new covenant fits into this picture. But I will give you a hint while we are waiting. The new covenant aligns with ALL of the Abrahamic provisions and NONE of the old covenant requirements.