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Abraham and Moses

So, had the Children of Israel's lack of faith in God, their deliverer from Egypt, nullified God's covenant with Abraham? Moses has more to say on this subject as we now find him, at Moab, near the end of his life, a tired old man of 120 years.

First, let us consider the situation. We look at the covenant that God made with Moses at Horeb (the Ten Commandments and all that) and ask ourselves, 'does this replace the one that God made with Abraham about 600 years earlier?' This is a key question because, if the answer is yes, as some people proclaim, then there are two major consequences:

1. God breaks promises. After telling Abraham that His promises to him are everlasting, despite anything Abraham or his descendants could do to provoke Him, He’s now adding conditions! Think about it. Christians are saved through the 'New Covenant' that basically sets out the rules and conditions by which we can attain salvation. What would happen if God just turned round and said, 'Hold on, it hasn't exactly gone according to plan; I'm changing my mind and adding one or two new conditions. Sorry.' We'd be very worried people, wouldn't we?

2. Which parts of God's covenant with Abraham now have conditions slapped on them? The promises of spiritual blessings? Becoming a great nation? Inheriting the land? It all gets very fuzzy.

If we look at Deuteronomy 29:1, we see what Moses has to say.

'These are the terms of the covenant the LORD commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb.' (highlights mine)

I hear the cry, 'oh no, not another covenant'! The answer is yes and no. I hear a new cry, "Oh no, not another ambiguous statement. What's all this yes and no business"?

It does say that, at Moab, God makes a new covenant in addition to the one He made a generation earlier to Moses at Horeb. So there is another covenant, called by some the Palestinian covenant (unfortunate name really), but is it a new covenant?

The full text is in Deuteronomy 29 and 30. What we see here is an explanation of how God can show both His faithfulness, by upholding His promises given to Abraham, and His righteousness, by rewarding or punishing His people according to their behaviour. Basically, the 'Palestinian covenant' allows the Abrahamic and the Mosaic (Moses) covenant to sit side by side, with no conflicts of interest.

What it first shows, in Deuteronomy 29:2-30:1, is the consequences of sin. This is the conditional bit, the stuff from the Mosaic covenant. This tells God's people that, despite all the good things God did for His people in the wilderness and in battle, the consequence of their worshipping the false gods of the Canaanites is going to be a curse on the land and exile from the land.

This is not the whole story because any exile from the land could never be permanent; the Abrahamic covenant saw to that. So we read, in Deuteronomy 30:2-10, that despite the exile from the land, a day will come when the Abrahamic covenant will kick in and the exiles will return to the land, 'even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back'. (verse 4).

What this 'new' covenant at Moab, this Palestinian covenant does, is to warn the Israelites that the punishment for unfaithfulness and disobedience will be exile from the 'Land of Milk and Honey', but the right to the land will never be taken from them and one day in the future it will be theirs again. Their lease will never be torn up, even if the landlord may kick them out temporarily for rule breaking!

There is further light shed on this in the New Testament, in Galatians 3:17, 'what I mean is this: the law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise'. This further emphasises the difference between the covenants made with Abraham and Moses.

Steve Maltz
August 2013

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation, available through the Premier shop.)

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