Have you ever heard the saying “Jesus is in the Old Testament concealed, and the New Testament revealed”? It’s a saying often heard in Christian communities and theology groups and various other Bible studies. Although, I don’t agree with the saying at all. I would say that Jesus isn’t concealed in the Old Testament at all! In fact, he’s very much present and the imagery is so blindingly “Jesus” that it amazes me every time I find a gem in the OT which speaks of the promise of God to redeem the world through his servant. I’ve talked about how Christians need the Old Testament before, and in it I included a list of prophecies about Christ. Today, for a short while, I want to look at covenental promises in the OT which symbolise Jesus as the ultimate covenant promise.
What inspired me to write this blog post is that I had a Church Staff Meeting today, which we call ‘Musketeers’. On the 15th September, we’re starting a 12 week Bible study course with the aim of getting our church deeper into the Bible and to explore the story of the Bible as a whole (The picture for this post is the flyer and my Bible!). As the staff of the church, some of us will be doing some of the sessions. I’m doing two; Stories of the Old Testament and the Stories that Jesus told – both are very exciting topics and I’m glad that they have been given to me!
So, onto the Old Testament Covenants that speak of Christ. I must be brief as I don’t want to bore you, so here goes…
*I’ve had some help from other websites with the Bible verses, as it would have taken ages to find all the references!
The Covenant with Adam
The first covenant that God made with man was with Adam in the garden of Eden: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die (Gen 2:17).” Adam’s sin broke the covenant (Gen 3:6-7), then the Scripture describes the death Adam suffered. The New Testament mentions that all who sin share Adam’s fate (Rom 5:12-14, see Isa 24:5). Thus, the covenant of Adam is true for all men today. All men who sin, whether or not they disobey a command like Adam did, are under the same death he suffered. This death can only be overcome by a new birth in Christ (Rom 6:3-4). However, the promise of a messiah who will be the second Adam is also featured in the story of the Fall of Man.
The Covenant with Noah
The second covenant given in Scripture is the one made to Noah. In a time of great wickedness on the earth, Noah “was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time,” and he found favour with God (Gen 6:5-12) (Please note that Noah wasn’t a perfect man. By finding favour, it means that Noah found grace with God . God destroyed the wicked of the earth by a flood (Gen 6:17), which served as testimony to the eternal destruction of the wicked (2 Pt 2:5, 2:9-10). At the same time, he saved Noah, which is an image to Christian conversion (1 Pt 3:20-21). God then established his covenant with Noah. This covenant also shows the future promise of a New Creation, and that the second destruction of the world will come by fire and not water.
The Covenant with Abraham
The next covenant covered in Scripture is the covenant with Abraham. Abraham had shown faithfulness in obeying God’s commands (Gen 12:4, 7). The promises of the covenant were given before God actually made the covenant with him (Gen 12:2-3, 12:7, 13:15-17). God formally made this covenant with Abraham in Gen 14:20. By this covenant, Abraham knew that he himself would not see the physical blessings of the covenant, but that his descendants would (Gen 15:13-16). This covenant was handed down to Isaac (Gen 17:19-21) and Jacob (Gen 28:13-15), and remembered by God while Israel was in Egypt (Ex 2:24, 6:2-5, Dt 7:9-13, 2Ki 13:23, 1Ch 6:15-18, Ps 74:20, 105:8-11, 111:5-9). It was designed to be an everlasting covenant (Gen 17:7-8, Dt 29:13, Eze 16:8). It could be (and was) broken by idolatry (Gen 17:7-8, Jos 23:16, Jd 2:19-20, 1Ki 11:10-11, Ps 78:32-37, Jer 11:10, 22:9, Eze 16:59-62, 30:5, Hos 6:4-7), but it could be renewed by a plan given to Moses (Dt 4:29-31, Le 26:40-41, Jer 14:20). The inheritance of the land of Canaan was a testimony to the eternal reward God said he would give to Abraham (He 11:11-16). Likewise, the circumcision in the flesh was accompanied by a “circumcision of the heart” (Dt 10:16): “Walk before me and be blameless (Gen 17:2).” Perhaps the most important aspect of the covenant of Abraham was that those who obeyed it would be shown a new covenant (Isa 56:4-6). Likewise, the destruction of Israel was a direct result of disobedience to the terms of the covenant (Jud 2:19-20, 1 Ki 11:10-11, Jos 23:16, Jer 11:10-17, 22:8-9, Eze 30:5). These points are later addressed by Jesus (Jn 8:37-41, 8:56, Lk 19:41-44). The fact that God made his covenant with Abraham by grace through faith is a major topic in the New Testament (Rom 4:1-18, Gal 3:6-18). This is done as a testimony to the new covenant of Jesus (Eph 2:8-9).
The Covenants through Moses
There are four covenants given through Moses. The first one is the covenant of the Ten Commandments, which you all know. The next covenant is the covenant of the Sabbath. They could be obeyed even when Israel went into exile, when some Jews relocated to other places or even after the destruction of Jerusalem. However, there was no provision for renewal if these covenants were to be broken. The penalty of death for violating these covenants (Num 15:30-31) shows this, and indicates that all deserve to die for as a consequence of sin. The substitutionary death of Jesus comes into view at this point. The third covenant made through Moses is the Law. The Law contained civic, dietary, health and ceremonial requirements. It was designed to help Israel live in the land given to them (Dt 4:1) that had been promised to Abraham (Dt 29:13). God knew that Israel would break this covenant (Dt 31:16), and this seems to demonstrate that man cannot maintain performance-based favour from God even once he is given it (Rom 11:32). This shows the need for grace not just initially but continually (Eph 2:8, 1Co 15:10, Rom 12:3-8, Ep 3:2-5, 1Pt 4:10, Jn 3:21, Is 26:12). The fact that Israel would later break the covenant of the Law suggests that a physical nation could not inherit a physical reward by merit, and pointed to a spiritual nation receiving a spiritual reward by grace. I hope this explains a lot of the misunderstandings about the OT ‘weird’ laws that people talk about on here. The fourth and final covenant given through Moses is the covenant of the Levitical priesthood. God had already said that all the Israelites were priests (Ex 19:5) but a special Aaronic priesthood was also included as part of the Law. This priesthood handled all of the official duties having to do with the sacrifices at the Temple. This serves as a testimony that while all Christians are priests (1Pt 2:9), a special mediator is required to do what the ordinary Christian cannot do. This is Jesus (1Ti 2:5, Ro 8:34, He 8:1-6, Jer 30:21-22).
The Covenant to David
The last covenant made in the Old Testament age was made to David. The obedience of the sons of David (the kings of Judah) was a key to the physical nation of Israel continuing (Ps 89:30-32, 1Ki 8:23, 2Ch 6:14, Ps 132:11-12). However, a spiritual kingdom of David (Hos 3:5) would later come with the Messiah in the role of King (Ps 132:11, 89:35-36, Jer 33:25-26).
So, as you can see, the study of the OT will be amazingly exciting! Really looking forward to it, and unpacking all that the Old Testament has to offer in showing us Jesus. Would love to know your opinions and views on OT in relation to Christ. I realise I may not have covered everything here, and that there are millions of other things to add, but I think that this is a start!
Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre.
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