Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Levitical Covenant


The Old Covenant, in distinction from the New Covenant, was centered on Israel as a specific nation-state composed of people in a specific ethnic group. Salvation in the Old Covenant era was primarily in/through national/ethnic Israel. Israel, as a distinct ethnicity and nation, had its roots in the Abrahamic Covenant, particularly as more specific land promises and the rite of circumcision were added to the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 17. As a nation, Israel was fully constituted in the Mosaic Covenant, wherein the Jewish people were hemmed in by moral, civil, and ceremonial laws.

In time, God's covenant dealings with Israel came to focus on Israel's kings, through the Davidic Covenant. In the Old Testament economy, this covenant was particularly (though not exclusively) associated with the civil law. The Davidic Covenant re-established the principle of federal headship, which was first seen in the Adamic Covenant.

As God gave the Mosaic Covenant, He focused the ceremonial law on the priesthood. The priesthood was defined in terms of the Levitical Covenant. The Levitical Covenant clarified and codified the principle of substitutionary atonement, which was first seen when God clothed Adam and Eve in animal skins following their fall into sin.

There was no covenant explicitly mentioned when Aaron and his sons were ordained as priests in Exodus 28-29. However, the Levitical covenant is explicitly mentioned in later texts: Jer 33:21-22; Neh 13:29; Mal 2:1-9. Moreover, even in the giving of the Law, the holy contributions to the LORD, which the Levitical priests enjoyed, were named as “a covenant of salt” (Num 18:19). Williamson notes:

In [Numbers] 25:10-13 Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson, is awarded a ‘covenant of peace’ for his loyalty to Yahweh. This is further defined as a ‘covenant of perpetual priesthood.’ It appears that the latter was a reaffirmation of the covenant initiated with Aaron, the ancestor of the Zadokite priesthood (1 Chr 6:3-15) and perhaps the Maccabean priesthood (1 Mac 2:54). [P.R. Williamson, “Covenant,” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 425.]

There were two main acts in which the Levitical priests were to be involved:

1. Mediating the knowledge of God in the written Word to the people (instruction);
2. mediating the forgiveness of God through the sacrificial system to the people.
[Mitch Chase, "The Curse Upon Your Blessings," Kosmosdale Baptist Church.]

There is a crucial difference between the Covenant of Works given to Adam and the re-published Covenant of Works given to Moses. The Adamic Covenant contained no provision for forgiveness. Eating the forbidden fruit earned death and curses. It is only through another covenant arrangement–the Covenant of Grace–that hope came into the fallen world.

In God’s covenant dealings with Abraham’s offspring, He graciously extended covenant promises to a fallen people. God knew that the people were sinners. This did not excuse their sin. Any sin by any individual earns that individual the wrath of a holy God. On the other hand, an individual sin by a citizen of Israel did not automatically forfeit the Old Covenant or trigger all covenant curses under that arrangement. It was only when the leadership–the kings and the priesthood–became corrupt that the people were sent into exile. When the people returned from exile, the ongoing corruption of the priests–those who were meant to be mediators–was a cause of prophetic warnings (Mal 2:1-9), keeping the nation from ever again attaining its full glory. This set the stage for the coming Messiah, who would establish a better priesthood.

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