|18th April, 1999|
News has been released of an important archaeological find in Nablus, central Israel. Nablus is the old city of Sychar where Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Excavating a 3000-year-old Jewish altar, believed built by Joshua soon after the Hebrews captured the land of Canaan, archaeologists found a 3000 year old scarab at the base of the altar.
A scarab is an ornament shaped like an Egyptian beetle. The beetle scarab was worn around the neck like a good luck charm and was a symbol of new life. It could have been part of the jewellry Moses told the people to collect before they left Egypt for trading as they travelled through the wilderness. Someone coming to the altar signaled their new commitment to God by taking the good luck charm and placing it between the stones of the altar. This altar is built as Moses had ordered when the Hebrews came to Sinai.
What made this find important, was the scarab was made in a mould, and another scarab, made in the same mould has been found in an Egyptian tomb south of Cairo in Egypt! The scarab was made between 1425 BC and 1200 BC.. This was the time of Rameses 11, the Pharaoh at the time Moses led the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery on a 40 year journey that would land them in Canaan. Moses led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt in about 1420 BC, after a battle of words and threats between him and the Pharaoh. During the Hyksos dynasty, large public buildings were completed in the coastal cities of Memphis, Pithom and Rameses.
The Hebrews, who had originally come to Egypt at Joseph's request 350 years earlier to escape famine in Canaan, settled in the northern delta area of the Nile. After leading the slaves out of captivity, Moses led the huge nomadic tribe of over 100,000 people plus animals through the Reed Sea and the desert. He had spent 40 years there as a nomad with his own family and the Midianites. They then reached the southern point of the Sinai peninsular. The monastery of St Catherine marks the place where the people heard God.
Moses had spoken with God on Mt Sinai. God had given Moses the ingredients that became the Jewish Law. These Ten Commandments summarized the responsibilities the Hebrews had towards God and each other, if they were to claim the protection of the Lord. The time then came for the agreement between the people and God, the agreement that sealed their responsibilities towards God and His protection and favour over them. That agreement was called The Covenant. Earlier Covenants were made with Noah and Abraham. This Covenant gave the Hebrew tribes an identity that has stayed with them to this day. It has held them as a people during conquest and dispersion, genocide and holocaust. Moses bound these tribes into a nation of one law, one culture and one God. Their relationship with God was recorded in a book. They were right with Him and that was recorded in His book, and He was right with them and that was recorded in their book. Nothing is more important than we be right in God's book, which records the right relationship between God and His people.
1. A COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND THE HEBREWS.
Exodus 24:1-11 records the progressive steps.
1. The Lord calls the people to Himself. v1-2 Moses and Aaron, his two sons, and seventy tribal leaders, pledge themselves to be a responsible people agreeing to the Covenant between God and the Hebrews. The people remain at the foot of Mt Sinai. The leaders stop halfway up and Moses alone ascends to the top. This is the high point in the Old Testament as Moses, Aaron and 72 other leaders come into the presence of God, worship Him and receive the Law.
2. The People agree to obey the commandments. v3-4 Everything agreed is written as a legal transaction. The Hebrews were to learn the agreement by heart. Orthodox Jews still learn it by heart to this day. Twelve stones, symbolizing the twelve tribes now a nation under one agreement are set in a square, something like the circle of stones at Stonehenge in England.
3. The Agreement is ratified with a sacrifice. V5-6 An altar is built like the one in Nablus the archaeologists have been excavating. Some cattle are sacrificed as a symbol of the Covenant. The shedding of blood to seal a sacred and binding agreement is used by almost every culture in the world. Mankind understands that the secret of life is in the blood, and in sharing blood we become blood brothers. The blood is thrown upon the altar and later also upon the people. The shedding of the blood is the necessary seal on the deal. The blood sacrifice was central to the completion of the act of being made right with God. Blood cleansed the sin.
4. The Covenant is written, read and sealed. v7-8. Note the progression: the Law is written in a book, "then he took the book of the Covenant, in which the Lord's Commands were written, and read it aloud to the people, and the people said: "We will obey the Lord and do everything that He has commanded."" When we read the Word of God, the reader says: "This is the Word of the Lord" and everyone replies: "Thanks be to God". This is implying: "We have heard your words and we will obey them." Nothing is more important than that we be right in God's book.
5. A new relationship now exists between them.. v9-11. The people see the God of Israel, not looking Him in the face, but gazing at His feet in humility. Not even Moses sees the face of God, for they bow in awe. God sits, no longer amid the clouds and thunder, but in the azure blue of a perfect sky. They eat and drink in a new fellowship and relationship with God.
That was how the events occurred which became the basis of the Old Covenant. The record of all of this is in your Bible in the section called the Old Testament (the Latin name for a Covenant). Obedience to the Old Testament laws and instructions will make you a Jew. It is the basis of Jewish race, religion and culture. The rest of the Old Testament tells how God had to keep recalling the Hebrew people back to keeping their part of the Covenant. Out of that Old Covenant established by a great leader, grew a New Covenant. It was established 1400 years later by a leader even greater than Moses. This would be the New Covenant.
2. A COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND BELIEVERS.
Nothing is more important than being right in God's book. This is also true for non-Jews. The Old Testament allows Jews obeying the Ten Commandments to be right with God. But God loves all peoples of the world. He cares for all His creatures. His prophets called the Jews to be a light to the Gentiles. But they were disobedient, disregarding non-Jews. So God sent His own Son to make a New Covenant with them out of the Old. Note how the same points apply:
1. The Lord calls the people to Himself. Matt 26:28 John 3:16 Jesus came to give us a New Covenant. It is a new Agreement established by Him on another Mountain, Mount Calvary. This is the high point of the New Testament . Jesus is before God as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind. On the night before He died, Jesus took the Cup of wine from the Passover meal and said: "This Cup is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." The disciples then knew: "for God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." The Lord God was calling all the people to Himself.
2. The People agree to obey the commandments. John 15:12. Matt 22:37 It was to be between God and the people of any race, dependant not on us obeying the Ten Commandments but upon us having the faith in Christ Jesus that leads us to keeping His new commandment. Jesus said: "A new Commandment I give unto you, that you love one another".
Not regulations to obey, but relationships to keep. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and your neighbour as yourself." We obey His command to love one another.
3. The Agreement is ratified with a sacrifice. Heb 9:14-15 Like the covenant on Mt Sinai, this new Covenant on Mt Calvary needs to be sealed in blood. The sacrificial blood is the blood of the Lamb of God. The New Covenant is written also in a book to be read and followed. His blood shed for us, makes us blood brothers with Him and therefore children of a common Father. God made us as creatures, but Christ makes us God's children. The Bible declares "sins are only forgiven as blood is poured out. How much more is accomplished by the blood of Christ! Through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to God. His blood will purify our consciences from useless rituals, so that we may serve the living God. For this reason Christ is the one who arranges a New Covenant, so that those who have been called by God may receive the eternal blessings that God has promised. This can be done because there has been a death which sets people free from the wrongs they did while the first Covenant was in force." Hebrews 9:14-15.
4. The Covenant is written, read and sealed. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 The book recording this is "The New Covenant", or New Testament. We too must read of Jesus freeing us from our sins. Paul told young Timothy, and to those of us who read his letter: "You have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ."
5. A new relationship now exists between us. When the Old Covenant was established the people "saw God and then ate and drank together." So Christians know God as our loving Father. Every time we meet at the communion table, we eat and drink with Him. Every time we partake of any meal, when we ask a blessing saying Grace, we share with Him. Faith in Christ and in His bringing us into a new relationship with God as revealed in that book makes us the New Israel, the new people of God, and of having our sins forgiven, enabling us to share in eternal life.
Faith and following the New Testament teaching makes you a Christian. It is the basis of Christian race, religion and culture. You can become a Jew if you follow the precepts of the Old Testament. In the same way, you become a Christian by following the precepts of the New Testament. The Old Testament is for the BC person; the New Testament is for the AD person - the one who lives in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Nothing is more important than we be right in God's book. "Then he took the book of the Covenant, in which the Lord's Commands were written, and read it aloud to the people, and the people said: "We will obey the Lord and do everything that He has commanded"". V7
You are not conceived a Christian. You become a Christian. You are not born a Christian. You are reborn a Christian. Will you respond to the invitation of Jesus to become one of His followers, one of the new family of God? Nothing is more important than you be right in God's book. Accept Jesus as your sacrifice for sin.
Rev Dr Gordon Moyes
Send this article to a friend!