By WILLIAM D. BARRICK, Th.D.
(Read Part 2)
The Lord God not only announced His covenants on behalf of His servants, He proclaimed them at times of crisis or change for His people. These were times when God’s people needed Him. Therefore, He instructed them to focus on Him rather than upon their circumstances. Let us look at each of the Israelite covenants from this perspective of crisis and change.
- Abrahamic Covenant
Crisis: God commanded Abraham to leave his family and his homeland (Gen. 12:1-3) in order to migrate to Canaan. Obedience meant leaving Ur and all of its idolatry to serve the living God in a new land. By God’s design Abraham’s descendants would become a blessing to all the world. When God inaugurated His covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:1-21), He appointed the Hebrews as His possession and His representatives on Earth.
Change: This involved separation from idolatry and separation from Mesopotamia. Abraham’s migration marked off a specific people for Yahweh in a location of His choosing. The near fulfillment involved the Hebrew people. The far fulfillment comes about through a continual narrowing of the covenant people—only the descendants of Jacob. Eventually the focus narrows to Judah among the tribes descended from Jacob and to the descendants David. The Messiah, the greater son of David and “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5), brings the ultimate blessing upon the world and will finally establish the Davidic throne over the future millennial kingdom.
- Mosaic Covenant
Crisis: In order to establish this covenant God separated Israel from Egypt, removing the nation from slavery and leading them into a great wilderness where they had to depend upon Him for their survival (Ex. 12:1–19:6).
Change: God narrowed His people to the Israelites out of all of Abraham’s descendants. God demanded His people’s obedience to His law (Torah), which contained the covenant’s stipulations/obligations. The near fulfillment applies to the nation of Israel and to its individual citizens. Its distant fulfillment, however, comes about in the future Messianic kingdom during which God repeats His former instructions to Israel, so that they might finally learn the significance of the sacrificial system which He had commanded them to observe (cf. Ezek. 40–48).
- Priestly Covenant
Crisis: At a time when the covenant people and their priests violated their covenant obligations through immoral living, Phinehas proved zealous for God’s holiness (Num. 25:10-13), so God rewarded him by appointing his descendants to serve alongside the future Messiah in His kingdom (Jer. 33:17-18).
Change: This covenant identifies a specific line from among the Levites—the Zadokites (Ezek. 40:46; 48:11; Zech. 6:13). The appointment of the Zadokites heralded the discontinuation of the high priesthood at some point in the future. Indeed, that occurred when Jesus became High Priest (Heb. 5:4-10). An inherent relationship exists between the Mosaic and the Priestly covenants, since the obedience required of the priests relates to the law of Moses.
- Deuteronomic Covenant
Crisis: The miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Josh. 5) separated Israel from the wilderness just as the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Ex. 14–15) had separated Israel from Egypt. God proclaimed the Mosaic Covenant at Mount Sinai and 38 years later Moses announced the Deuteronomic Covenant on the plains of Moab.
Change: Deuteronomy 29:1-9 reveals that this covenant is distinct from the one proclaimed at Mount Sinai. Therefore it was more than just a renewal of the older covenant. Continuity remains, however, since both covenants require obedience to the law and Israel is God’s people. This covenant focuses specifically upon a new era, a new beginning, within the land of promise itself—Canaan.
- Davidic Covenant
Crisis: Israel reached another juncture in history when they rejected God as their only King and requested the coronation of one of their own as their national leader (1 Sam. 8). Their first king (Saul) failed to live up to their high expectations and failed to live a life of godly submission to the nation’s true King, Yahweh (1 Sam. 15).
Change: Therefore, the time had come to remind God’s people of His prophetic announcement concerning a descendant of Judah in Genesis 49:10, as well as to reveal the linear descent of King Messiah through one family in the tribe of Judah. God rejects Saul and instructs Samuel to anoint David as king (1 Sam. 16). Obedience to the Torah continued as the standard of conduct. The Davidic Messiah must be obedient—He must fulfill the law.
- New Covenant
Crisis: The last of the six Israelite covenants revealed the ultimate blessing—a spiritual blessing: forgiveness of sins. The crisis consists of the necessity of separating from sin (Jer. 31:27-40).
Change: God had already provided a preview of the New Covenant at the time He revealed to Moses that there must be a covenant that differs from the Mosaic Covenant. Yahweh told Moses that the circumcision of the heart supersedes the circumcision of the flesh (Deut. 30). The latter (physical circumcision) served as the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, but the first (spiritual circumcision) stood as the sign of the New Covenant. God’s people are still Israel—He established the New Covenant with them. In no way does this indicate that the church does not later become a participant in the benefits of the New Covenant. Hebrews 8:6–10:39 speaks of Christ’s high priestly ministry and sacrifice and the salvation of New Testament believers in Jeremiah 31’s terms (cf. Luke 22:20). All New Covenant blessings that the church experiences are routed through Israel via the Messiah. With regard to Israel, covenant obedience relates to the Mosaic Law, but their obedience will issue from a new heart that recognizes the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law (cf. Rom. 2:25-29; 7:6; 2 Cor. 3:6).
Therefore, the six Israelite covenants follow the progress of Divine revelation for God’s people in sequential periods of time. Each covenant adds more revelation to the previous to expand its purview. However, no covenant supersedes or nullifies any previous covenant. The covenants never accomplish salvation from sin—God’s people enter into the blessings of the covenants after their salvation. In addition to the crisis points historically, which become the times of covenant revelation, the proclamations of each covenant entail subsequent events of significance:
- Following the Abrahamic Covenant, Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, the house of slavery.
- Following the Mosaic Covenant, Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for violating the First Commandment even as God was giving it to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
- Following the Priestly Covenant, the corruption of the Levitical priesthood.
- Following the Deuteronomic Covenant, Israel’s failure to completely conquer and inherit the land of Canaan.
- Following the Davidic Covenant, the Davidic dynasty’s disobedience to the law of God and their apostasy, leading to exile in Babylon.
- Following the church’s participation in the New Covenant, the great tribulation or “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (cf. Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Rev 7:14) that will occur before Israel finally turns to God in true faith.
(To be continued)
Dr. William D. Barrick served as professor of Old Testament and director of Th.D. studies at The Master’s Seminary from 1997 to 2015. He remains active in ministry as a theologian and a linguistics expert whose service, writings and translations have spanned numerous nations and languages. He is also the Old Testament editor of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary from Logos Bible Software. We are most grateful to include him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.
Copyright © 2016 by Dr. William D. Barrick. Used by permission of the author.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 See, among others, Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference! (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1990), pp. 77–83.
This was a nice read. I’ve always known what Jesus meant in his response to the gentile woman in Matt 15, but I could never explain it correctly to my son. What you said in the “change” part of #6 explains it perfectly…the new covenant was for Israel, but the church was able to benefit from it, because God promised salvation to the world (gentiles) but only through Abraham (the Jews).
From Dr. Barrick: “I assume what is not stated–that the individual wants to know if her current understanding of the Gentile woman’s request and Jesus’ response fit my explanation of the relationship of the church to the New Covenant. I would say ‘Yes.’ In addition, I would point out that it is also a fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant that promises blessing to all the families of the earth through the descendants of Abraham.”
Really liked your chart. RRS
Thanks so much! Our graphic artist, Leonardo Costa, does a great job!
I believe there is no distinction between the “letter of the Law” and the “Spirit of the Law’ in the enactment of the New Covenant. The nation Israel will have God’s Law written on their hearts and will thus be able to obey them, which they could not do under the Old Covenant. They will be enabled as well as instructed by the Spirit to do this. This future keeping of the Law by Israel fulfills Christ’s sometimes (to Christians) puzzling words about the Law never passing away until all is fulfilled.
The Spirit of God wrote the Law and He will write it again ( effectually this time) on the believing Jewish heart.
The distinction Paul makes in 2 Corinthians 3 is between the letters written in stone (the unkeepable Law by men of flesh) and the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. which now inhabits the church. Some have mistakenly taken his scriptural distinction and misused it to mean the scripture cannot be understood as read but must always be seen as carrying a hidden meaning only known to the enlightened. Enlightened apart from the scripture itself, that is, and thus leading to all kinds of strange interpretations.
There is a critical shortage of inrimfatove articles like this.
Oh finally I can tell a writer how to write a review for a restaurant.LOLMake it fun and emphasize the food as well as the service. the food can be great, but if the service is bad it can ruin the whole experience. Make it descriptive, ambiance, service, food, time in between courses, and most of all what were the people around you doing, having fun, quite, loud, music playing. Put Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca in mind, if it fits. Or something like it. Let go and make it entertaining, but not long.
For heating, they had a little squirrel in a sort of revolving cage which pushed any spare hot air that came off the engine block. And you had to double de-clutch coming down the box. It was my first sports car; I got it in 1962 and I loved it. Freda was pregnant with our first and I had to take the top down so she could get in standing up and then sit down.I feel sorry for Mitt; maybe I should go on Facebook and say I want to be his friend. Maybe he’ll send me some of his money.