By Tim Mize
In his cross Christ “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). It is good for us to consider how this death was our offering for sin. The cross, however, is to us even more than a sin offering. We see in it too the sacrifice of our covenant with God.
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” he said (1 Cor. 11:25 ASV). This connection of blood and covenant brings to mind the old sin offerings, but most of all it recalls the offerings made but once at the mountain, the blood that ratified the covenant (Exod. 24:4-8; Heb. 9:18-21).When God created the nation of Israel, he carried them out of slavery “on eagles’ wings,” brought them to Mt. Sinai, and there made a covenant with them (Exod. 19:4-6). Israel became God’s special possession in the earth. Their entering the covenant involved three steps (see Exod. 24:4-8). First, they heard the terms of the covenant. The Lord spoke to them his commandments, and Moses wrote them down in a book (Exod. 24:4). Next, they agreed as one that “all that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exod. 19:8; 24:3,7). Finally, they participated in a ratification ceremony. Sacrifices were offered and the book was read. Moses took some of the blood of these offerings, sprinkled it on the people and said, “Behold, the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you.” The leaders of the people then ascended the mountain, and sitting down in the presence of God ate a meal (Exod. 24:9-11). Through these ceremonies Israel was purified and the covenant was ratified, and they formally entered their covenant with God.
As the years went by, new generations arose in Israel. It was necessary for them too to do as did their ancestors, to learn of this covenant and agree to keep it. Several scriptures tell how the covenant was renewed for the new generations (Deut. 5:1 ff; 27:1-26; 31:9-13; Josh. 8:30-35; 24:1-28; Neh. 8:1-18).
But the rise of new generations offered not the only cause for renewal. There was also the danger of their forgetting the covenant, even after knowing it and agreeing to it. Every so often, therefore, Israel would gather and have it read to them again (Deut. 31:9-13).
If it happened that they forgot the covenant and broke it, God would renew it then as well. The story of the golden calf, when Israel broke God’s covenant the very first time, offers a good example. After Moses interceded on their behalf, God forgave the people and entered afresh his covenant with them, even giving them his law anew (Exod. 32-34).
The sad story of the Old Testament, however, is that of a people who continued to break the covenant of the Lord. The prophets, full of hope, anticipated a new day when God’s people would be known not by their breaking of his covenant, but their keeping it. God was going to start all over with his people. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah . . .” (Jer. 31:31-34).
When Jesus spoke of “my blood of the new covenant,” he proclaimed the fulfillment of these things. The new covenant has come. Its terms have been proclaimed not by Moses but by Christ, and its blood of ratification is that of Jesus Christ himself.
We who are gathered around this table have entered that very covenant with God. In our eating, in fact, we acknowledge this covenant as our own. We declare that we have gladly agreed to its terms. Just as Israel looked back to the mountain, so we look back to the cross, and remember that there a covenant was ratified with blood.
Furthermore, just as Israel found need to renew their covenant, so do we. This supper is our time to remember and renew our covenant with God. We remember the blood that brought us into it. We remember the commitments that we made in our entering. We seek God’s forgiveness for how we have broken it, knowing that Christ intercedes for us. In short, we renew the covenant, and refresh our dedication to him. Let us each, then, examine ourselves, and so let us eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Cor. 11:28).
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 20, p. 11
October 20, 1994