What was God demanding in the Mosaic covenant?

Status
Not open for further replies.

John Yap

Puritan Board Freshman
1. Pure obedience? (Republication?)
2. An upright life, albeit one that presupposes sin because of the sacrificial system.

To restate the question, were all Israelites doomed to be Deut 28 covenant-breakers because of innate sin?
Or could Israel (or individual Israelites) avoided being covenant-breakers, if they had lived an upright Job-like life, one that looked forward to a Mediator and thus obeyed the sacrificial system (because though they were upright, they still sinned).

Witsius says, "We are not to think that God, by these words, required Israel to perform prefect obedience in all parts and degrees, as the condition of the covenant. For in that case the whole of this proposal would be nothing but an intimation of an inevitable curse; seeing it is absolutely impossible for sinful man to give such a perfect observance, even though he is regenerated and sanctified.
...
The man indeed is still bound to perfect holiness, so far that the least deviation is a sin: but yet supposing a covenant of grace, among the benefits of which is remission of sins, God stipulates with his people in this manner; if, with sincerity of heart, you keep my precepts, and recover from your falls by renewed repentance, I will upon that give you an evidence that I am your God. Here therefore he requires a sincere, though not, in every respect, a perfect observance of his commands."

I believe that the turning point for Israel that caused the covenantal curses to come is the desecration of the first commandment with the Baal worship and the desecration of the sacrificial system (Isa. 1). That along with the blindness to their sins.
 
Last edited:

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
He required what He does today: repentance and faith. The law showed their necessity of forgiveness; the sacrifices pointed to the Mediator. The whole shebang was a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ. They kept the law not because they thought it would make them good, but because God, who brought them out of Egypt, commanded it; they made sacrifices believing in God to forgive their sins.
Well, ideally.
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman
I believe it was a post-fall covenant of works that required outward obedience to the letter of the law for temporal blessing in Canaan.

I have found A.W. Pink helpful. Note his response to Witsius:

Herman Witsius took the view that the Sinaitic compact was neither, formally, the covenant of grace nor the covenant of works, but a national covenant which presupposed them both, and that it promised “not only temporal blessings . . . but also spiritual and eternal.” So far so good. But when he states (bk. 4, sec. 4, par. 43-45) that the condition of this covenant was “a sincere, though not, in every respect, a perfect obedience of His commands,” we certainly cannot agree. Witsius held that the Sinaitic covenant differed from the covenant of works—which made no provision or allowance for the acceptance of a sincere though imperfect obedience; and that it differed from the covenant of grace, since it contained no promises of strength to enable Israel to render that obedience. Though plausible, his position is not only erroneous but highly dangerous. God never promised eternal life to men on the condition of an imperfect but sincere obedience—that would overthrow the whole argument of Romans and Galatians...

“The national covenant with Israel was here (Ex. 19:5) meant; the charter upon which they were incorporated, as a people, under the government of Jehovah. It was an engagement of God, to give Israel possession of Canaan, and to protect them in it: to render the land fruitful, and the nation victorious and prosperous, and to perpetuate His oracles and ordinances among them; so long as they did not, as a people, reject His authority, apostatize to idolatry, and tolerate open wickedness. These things constitute a forfeiture of the covenant; as their national rejection of Christ did afterwards. True believers among them were personally dealt with according to the Covenant of Grace, even as true Christians now are; and unbelievers were under the Covenant of Works, and liable to condemnation by it, as at present: yet, the national covenant was not strictly either the one or the other, but had something in it of the nature of each.
“The national covenant did not refer to the final salvation of individuals: nor was it broken by the disobedience, or even idolatry, of any number of them, provided this was not sanctioned or tolerated by public authority. It was indeed a type of the covenant made with true believers in Christ Jesus, as were all the transactions with Israel; but, like other types, it ‘had not the very image,’ but only ‘a shadow of good things to come.’ When, therefore, as a nation, they had broken this covenant, the Lord declared that He would make ‘a new covenant with Israel, putting His law,’ not only in their hands, but ‘in their inward parts’; and ‘writing it,’ not upon tables of stone, ‘but in their hearts; forgiving their iniquity and remembering their sin no more’ (Jer. 31:32-34; Heb. 8:7-12; 10:16, 17). The Israelites were under a dispensation of mercy, and had outward privileges and great advantages in various ways for salvation: yet, like professing Christians, the most of them rested in these, and looked no further. The outward covenant was made with the Nation, entitling them to outward advantages, upon the condition of outward national obedience; and the covenant of Grace was ratified personally with true believers, and sealed and secured spiritual blessings to them, by producing a holy disposition of heart, and spiritual obedience to the Divine law. In case Israel kept the covenant, the Lord promised that they should be to Him ‘a peculiar treasure.’ ‘All the earth’ (Ex. 19:5) being the Lord’s, He might have chosen any other people instead of Israel: and this implied that, as His choice of them was gratuitous, so if they rejected His covenant, He would reject them, and communicate their privileges to others; as indeed He hath done, since the introduction of the Christian dispensation” (Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible with Explanatory Notes).

John Erskine is also helpful
It is now time to investigate the condition, the performance of which entitled to the blessings of the Sinai covenant. …in general, obedience to the letter of the law, even when it did not flow from a principle of faith and love. A temporal monarch claims from his subjects, only outward honour and obedience. God therefore, acting in the Sinai covenant, as King of the Jews, demanded from them no more. (37)...

He who yielded an external obedience to the law of Moses, was termed righteous, and had a claim in virtue of this his obedience to the land of Canaan, so that doing these things he lived by them (s). Hence, says Moses (t), “It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments,” i. e. it shall be the cause and matter of our justification, it shall found our title to covenant blessings. (44

(s) Lev. xviii. 5. Deut. v. 33. (t) Deut. vi.25…

Deut 26:12-15 – Would God have directed them, think you, to glory in their observance of that law, if, in fact, the sincerest among them had not observed it. Yet doubtless that was the case, if its demands were the same as those of the law of nature. But indeed, the things mentioned in that form of glorying were only external performances, and one may see, with half an eye, many might truly boast they had done them all, who were strangers not with-standing to charity, flowing from a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. Job, who probably represents the Jews after their return from the Babylonish captivity, was perfect and upright {v). Zacharias and Elizabeth were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless(w). The young man, who came to Jesus, enquiring what he should do to inherit eternal life, professed that he had kept the commandments from his youth up, and our Lord does not charge him with falsehood in that profession (x). Paul was touching the righteousness which was of the law, blameless (y). Yet Job curses the day in which he was born (z) Zacharias is guilty of unbelief {a) ; the young man, in the gospel loves this world better than Christ (b) ; and Paul himself groans to be delivered from a body of sin and death (c), These seeming contradictions will vanish, if we take notice, that all of these though chargeable with manifold breaches of the law of nature, had kept the letter of the Mosaic law, and thus were entitled to the earthly happiness promised to its observers.

(v) Job i. i» xix. 20. (a) Luke i. ao. vii. 24.
(w)
Luke i. 6. (x) Matth. (y) Phil. iii. 6. (z) Job iii. i, 3. (Jb) Mat. xix, 22, 23. (c) Rom.

Bishop Warburton has observed, Divine Legation vol. II. part I. p. 355,—360. that the title of Man after God’s own heart, was given to David, not on account of his private morals, but of a behavior so different from that of Saul, in steadily maintaining purity of worship. (47)
 

JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Sophomore
This is too long of a question to respond here, but if you're willing, go here and see The Covenant at Sinai Part 1 and Part 2: https://www.monergism.com/search?keywords=jay+todd&format=All

In short, God was requiring faith in Christ, just as all the other OT administrations of the Covenant of Grace. Part 1 (in the above link) shows/proves that God was requiring faith in Christ. Part 2 deals with the questions/objections to that view.

This is by far the majority view of the Puritans: Francis Roberts, John Ball, Anthony Burgess, Thomas Blake, William Bridge, William Strong, John Flavel and Francis Turretin being just a few examples (shown here: https://www.monergism.com/search?keywords=puritans+mosaic+covenant&format=All)
 
Last edited:

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
As others have said, God was looking for faith in Christ who was yet to come. True faith is always accompanied by true repentance, so you can add repentance to that statement if you want. The Law given at Sinai calls God's people to both faith and repentance: it points to Christ in numerous ways, and it reveals the moral will of God and thus gives direction to Christ-motivated repentance.

Faith and repentance are inward realities, and outward conformity is meaningless without them. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). The context of that verse is the God-pleasing lives of Old Testament believers.

For the people who received the Law at Sinai, the alternative to sin and idolatry was not outward obedience as much as it was faith in Christ: "They drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). Read the surrounding passage to see more fully how faith in Christ and disobedience are the two alternatives.

At the core, Moses was not a lawgiver. Rather, Moses was a prophet who wrote of Christ. The proper response to Moses was (and is) to believe in Christ. Jesus makes this clear in John 5:46-47. "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" It seems crazy that Jesus would accuse the leading Jews, obsessed as they were with outward obedience to the Law, of not believing Moses. But it was true. Anyone who read the Law but did not believe in Christ as a result was not really following the Law. The core of what God required in the Law was faith in Christ.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
If we see the law as a how to manual -- how to obey, how to worship, how to please God -- we will miss its intent to bring together a holy God and a fallen people. All the minutia of building the tabernacle was designed to create a meeting between God and man. All the sacrifices pointed to the perfect sacrifice to come in Jesus. The moral laws showed the very character of the God people approached. I realized you asked specifically about the Mosaic covenant, but I am agreeing with Michael Manuel's Who May Ascend to the Mountain of the Lord when he sees a chiastic structure for the Pentateuch. (I'm part way into the book and am delighted with it having been recommended elsewhere here on PB!)
 
Last edited:

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
1. Pure obedience? (Republication?)
2. An upright life, albeit one that presupposes sin because of the sacrificial system.

To restate the question, were all Israelites doomed to be Deut 28 covenant-breakers because of innate sin?
Or could Israel (or individual Israelites) avoided being covenant-breakers, if they had lived an upright Job-like life, one that looked forward to a Mediator and thus obeyed the sacrificial system (because though they were upright, they still sinned).

Witsius says, "We are not to think that God, by these words, required Israel to perform prefect obedience in all parts and degrees, as the condition of the covenant. For in that case the whole of this proposal would be nothing but an intimation of an inevitable curse; seeing it is absolutely impossible for sinful man to give such a perfect observance, even though he is regenerated and sanctified.
...
The man indeed is still bound to perfect holiness, so far that the least deviation is a sin: but yet supposing a covenant of grace, among the benefits of which is remission of sins, God stipulates with his people in this manner; if, with sincerity of heart, you keep my precepts, and recover from your falls by renewed repentance, I will upon that give you an evidence that I am your God. Here therefore he requires a sincere, though not, in every respect, a perfect observance of his commands."

I believe that the turning point for Israel that caused the covenantal curses to come is the desecration of the first commandment with the Baal worship and the desecration of the sacrificial system (Isa. 1). That along with the blindness to their sins.
Just because you are a professing Christian today, and so say publicly "I am one of Christ's people;" and have the blessedness of knowing (at least in the formal sense of understanding what is taught and not denying it) Christ was sacrificed for his people's sins--your obligation to an ideal moral life, the sort of righteousness Jesus plainly talks about in the Sermon on the Mount, does not cease. God does not lower his standard, once set forth to Israel in Ten Commandments, after Christ is anointed. The strictness is if possible made even more apparent than ever.

Israel of old was in a similar position. They had been saved (out of Egypt), and because they identified as Israelites and heirs of Abraham in that day they were brought out, they had an obligation to love and obey the duties God laid on them. God never said to them, "My standards of conduct are way up high, but it'll be OK if you don't measure up, because I give special breaks to the circumcised, or I keep my eye on the outward appearance rather than the heart, or everyone's effort moves the needle on my Judgment-o-meter and that needs to stay up around 80% or better, or else I get... restless. And you know what that means!"

No, the demand of God was pure and perfect obedience. The sacrificial system at the heart of the Law was present as proof of the complete inability of Israel to keep the high demands of the Law, but also as demonstrating God's gracious provision and his desire to maintain fellowship with them in spite of their sins.

The fact that today we too have a sacrifice doesn't mean we have less duty to universal moral requirements; if anything the nature of Christ's sacrifice means an even higher obligation to holiness and righteousness. We keep returning to it as that which continues to cover our sins, as Israel kept returning to its altar and the whole symbolic system that, in spite of its imperfections and inadequacies, sufficed to point ahead to one final and perfect sacrifice.

Israel was blessed by the sacrificial system, in that by use of it they would not be publicly regarded as covenant-breakers, even though they all were to one degree or another. They brought their sacrifices and annually renewed their covenant, symbolically starting again (and again...) with a clean slate. But the idea that God would not judge all of them according to their heart commitment is false. Punctilious public religious observance did not stave off the Captivity once the LORD had determined to bring it.

The occasional witness in Scripture to a person's righteous decorum refers to his comparative excellence. It is also a snapshot, or a study of someone that puts a seal of approval on that which falls under scrutiny--which is never all that could be because men do not have God's vision. Ps.143:2, "In Your sight no one living is righteous." Ezr.9:15, " O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this." Job.15:4, "What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous?" 2Chr.6:36, "When they sin against You--for there is no one who does not sin--and You become angry with them..."

That man should be regarded as righteous under the Law could only be said in a limited manner, as to how things appeared, on a given day or over a period of time, but only to other men. And, moreover, any legitimate self-regard as righteous must at the same time require that person to see himself as forgiven. It is incongruous for anyone born of natural generation to imagine he could be righteous yet need no repentance. The incongruity is not found in the proper contrast between "righteous" and "sinner," to the latter which belongs repentance. But is in the folly of an ordinary man thinking his righteousness is blameless.

In ancient Israel, even as it is today in the church: simul iustus et peccator, at the same time righteous and sinner.

Neither an ancient Israelite nor his whole nation was regarded by God as righteous on account of legal compliance. But because of the altar of Israel, they were holy. God did make comparisons of men, and invite admiration for such as he drew attention to on that account. Those statements have to be harmonized with the perfection of the standard and universal reality of sin. And the wrong way to do that is to suggest that God made allowances for sincerity of effort or external displays to make up for failures.

In hope-of-Christ, an Israelite was not a covenant breaker. On his own he was daily a covenant breaker; and no mere outward conformity of himself, his fathers, or his heirs could ever repair the corruption he wrought to the outward glory-fabric of the Mosaic covenant administration.
 

John Yap

Puritan Board Freshman
Great there is a consensus here!
Just realized Witsius was not the typical WCF norm regarding this. Turretin was more in line.

If we can move onto the temporal land promises / threat of exile -

That would hinge upon whether they were covenant breakers or not, this is clear from the Deut 27 28 language.

I view this cov-breaking not in an innate moral sense (for all men are these), but I still want to view Deut 27 28 as a national covenant where the performance is not pure perfect obedience, but a Job-like obedience that proceeds from faith. i.e God was not demanding pure perfect obedience to remain in the land, but was calling for faith and the obedience that proceeds from it.

I conclude the above, because the reasons for the exile was displayed corporately. Israel sinned grievously, oppressed people, a blatant disregard for the 1st commandment, offering sacrifices without faith.

Per Bruce, "Israel was blessed by the sacrificial system, in that by use of it they would not be publicly regarded as covenant-breakers, even though they all were to one degree or another. " The temporal land exile is dependent on this public obedience/disobedience?
 
Last edited:

John Yap

Puritan Board Freshman
I believe it was a post-fall covenant of works that required outward obedience to the letter of the law for temporal blessing in Canaan.

I have found A.W. Pink helpful. Note his response to Witsius:



John Erskine is also helpful
I would need to read Witsius again, I got the sense that he was saying imperfect obedience was to the end of the temporal blessings. I cannot find a statement which shows that imperfect obedience substituted perfect obedience soteriologically.

Anyone read Venema on this? It was a great read, how he debated against Estelle, Fesko etc on how they saw Calvin, Witsius, Turretin posit a CoW element in the Mosaic Covenant
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Per Bruce, "Israel was blessed by the sacrificial system, in that by use of it they would not be publicly regarded as covenant-breakers, even though they all were to one degree or another. " The temporal land residence is dependent on this public rule of covenant breakers?
With king Manasseh, the LORD announced his impending judgment, 2Ki.21:10ff, "because they have done evil in My sight, and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day," v15. Not even the relentless sacrifices of the altar served to avert the sentence, Jer.7:4, 8ff; cf. Is.1:11.

With Josiah's reformation, there was a brief stay of execution, 2Ki.22:20. It was given because the king's heart was tender, and he humbled himself before the LORD, v19. 2Ki.23:26, " Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him." 2Chr.36:14ff describe the end of the LORD's patience; finally "there was no remedy," v16.

I think the LORD chose eventually to disregard the false, publicly-formally correct but hypocritical covenant devotions, and exile the nation. Dwelling in the land was a matter of grace from the very first, from the people's entrance through the Jordan.
 

John Yap

Puritan Board Freshman
With king Manasseh, the LORD announced his impending judgment, 2Ki.21:10ff, "because they have done evil in My sight, and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day," v15. Not even the relentless sacrifices of the altar served to avert the sentence, Jer.7:4, 8ff; cf. Is.1:11.

With Josiah's reformation, there was a brief stay of execution, 2Ki.22:20. It was given because the king's heart was tender, and he humbled himself before the LORD, v19. 2Ki.23:26, " Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him." 2Chr.36:14ff describe the end of the LORD's patience; finally "there was no remedy," v16.

I think the LORD chose eventually to disregard the false, publicly-formally correct but hypocritical covenant devotions, and exile the nation. Dwelling in the land was a matter of grace from the very first, from the people's entrance through the Jordan.

I agree, this theme is clear in the Prophets
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top