I. The testimony of the Old Testament witnesses to the exact same person and work as the New Testament witnesses to, and that is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The difference is that the Old Testament witnesses Him in type and shadow, whereas the New Testament witnesses Him in the flesh and blood first person testimonial of the apostles. This is why the apostle Paul, writing in Ephesians 2, said that we are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Not just the apostles. But the apostles and prophets. That is, apostles, New Testament, and prophets, Old Testament.
A. One way to look at this is to think of the Old Testament as the scaffolding. During the construction of a building, builders erect a series of stairways and boardwalks that wrap around a building while it is being built. These stairways and boardwalks, called scaffolding, enable the workers to scale the sides of the unfinished building in order to lay brick upon brick. The scaffolding is removed once the building is completed. The scaffolding tell us very little about the interior details of the building, but it does give us a good idea of the shape and size of the building. So it is with the Old Testament. The building in question, namely the bride of Christ, the Church, is invisible because it is a spiritual temple; therefore, it helps sometimes to study the scaffolding that once wrapped around it; i.e. the Old Testament.
II. The history of God’s revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament unfolds through covenants
A. Rather than consult dictionaries and lexicons, we will let the Bible itself define what a covenant is
III. Abramic Covenant – Genesis 15
– one of the first things we notice in this passage is that God didn’t ask Abram whether he wanted any of the things God promised him. That is, God didn’t cast around looking for someone of a certain character who He could make a promise to. Instead, He imposed His promise upon Abram. His promises were irresistible.
– second, notice how this covenant was made. Abram starts by dividing a sacrifice. He takes a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, and a ram three years old, and he cuts these three sacrifices in half and then lays each half on either side so that he can walk between the two halves.
But notice that he does not himself pass between the pieces. Now, normally, when two parties entered into a covenant, a representative from either party would pass together between the pieces, signifying that both parties were now as one. This didn’t happen here though. Instead, while Abram is off in the corner somewhere snoozing, God Himself does all the passing in between the pieces. And notice, He fills in as representative, both for Himself as well as Abram. A fire pot and a flaming torch.
IV. Mosaic (Sinaitic) Covenant – Genesis 24
– Notice in this covenant we have elements similar to the ones we saw in the Abramic Covenant. That is, we have the shedding of blood in sacrifice. We also have representatives, but rather than a firepot and a smoking torch we instead have an altar and twelve pillars. God did not do any of the representing here. Moses did it all. And since a pillar and an altar cannot move, and because it would take forever to march each man and woman in Israel through the two halves of a sacrifice, Moses instead sprinkles the blood of the sacrifice upon the altar and upon the people signifying that both parties have passed between the pieces.
– Notice we also have promises. However, unlike the promises God made to Abram, which were all conditioned exclusively upon God’s own faithfulness to keep the promises, these promises are instead contingent upon the faithfulness of the people to obey the commandments. In the Abramic Covenant we saw God promising to do something for Abram, but in this covenant we see the people promising to do something for God. In both cases however, it is still God who imposed the covenant. That is, He didn’t ask Israel if they thought it was a good idea for them to promise to obey.
– Lastly, notice the final part. Seventy of the elders go up the mount to have a meal in God’s presence. They sit at His feet and they share food and drink.
V. Noahic Covenant – Genesis 8:20-9:17
– Notice in this covenant that we again see a sacrifice. It seems to be the motif of every covenant we have looked at so far; each begins with a sacrifice. Notice also though that these sacrifices are also offerings to God.
– There are a number of things we could talk about concerning the promises God made with Noah, but the main thing I want you to notice about this covenant is that it comes with a sign. That is, God gives a sign to man for man’s benefit. The text tells us that when God sees the sign, then He will remember His covenant. That doesn’t mean He had forgotten His covenant, but then suddenly remembers it when He spots His bow in the sky. Instead, it means that He will choose not to treat man the same way He did before the flood. Instead He will remain faithful to His promise to Noah and man can know this by simply turning his eyes up to the sky to see God’s bow.
VI. David’s covenant with Jonathan
1 Samuel 18
As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.
– Notice no blood sacrifice is presented here. Why? First, because it is not a covenant made with God. It is instead a covenant made between friends. Rather than a blood sacrifice, Jonathan instead presents David with a gift sacrifice of his princely attire. The promise is unspoken. It is a promise of loyalty. The crown prince of Israel had befriended a poor shepherd boy, thereby elevating the societal position of the shepherd boy
1 Samuel 20:12-17
And Jonathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But should it please my father to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the Lord, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord take vengeance on David’s enemies.” And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul.
– Notice that the covenant has become more formal. It no longer just simply conveys an elevation of societal position. Now it includes the promise to treat the friend’s as if they were the friend himself.
1 Samuel 23:15-18
David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.
– Notice that the societal positions have now changed. The prince relinquishes his rightful position as prince because this is God’s will. Jonathan submits to the Lord’s will and informs David that David shall be king over Israel. The promise to treat Jonathan’s children as if they were Jonathan himself continues.
2 Samuel 4:4
Jonathan, the son of Saul, had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.
2 Samuel 9
And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.”4 The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”
– Notice that the fulfillment of David’s promise to Jonathan results in the riches of undeserved kindness shown to Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth had done nothing to earn or deserve David’s kindness. In fact, as grandson of King Saul, he was an enemy of the kingdom. But because of the promise David made to Jonathan, Mephibosheth’s father, and because of David’s own covenant faithfulness, Mephibosheth reaped the reward of his father’s faithfulness to God.
VII. Davidic Covenant – 1 Chronicles 17
– Notice that like the covenant with Abram and with Noah, the fulfillment of this covenant’s promises are contingent upon God’s faithfulness. That is, there is nothing in the covenant for David to do. Rather, the promises are all things which God said He would do.
– Also notice that like the covenant between David and Jonathan, there is no bloodshed of a sacrifice here. The reason for this, as we will discover in a moment, is that the sacrifice is going to come later in time. This covenant is one of only two covenants that God makes which are out of sequence. That is, the promises are made long before the sacrifice is made and the blood shed.
– In the meantime though, notice what the promises are –
a. The promised offspring will be a descendant of David according to the flesh
b. This offspring will build a house for God that will never come to an end
c. And lastly, the kingdom of this promised offspring shall be established by God forever
VIII. Putting it all together – what is a covenant?
A. a covenant is something somewhat like a contract, but different
– a contract is a promise or promises made two or more parties that is enforceable by the ruling of a court of law
– a contract is merely a promise and nothing more
– a covenant, however, is a bond formed between two or more parties that involves the carrying out of a promise or a number of promises. The bond that a covenant forms can be indefinite, or it can be for a definite period of time. This bond is also tighter than the bond formed by family, because the bond formed by covenant is a bond that unites two or more parties by life or death. That is, if I break the covenant, then I shall die. This covenant union is why we find God often referring to Himself in the Old Testament as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is, He is the God who has bound Himself by covenant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ALL CREATION COULD SAY HE IS MY CREATOR, BUT ONLY ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB COULD SAY HE HAS UNITED HIMSELF IN COVENANT WITH ME. This bond is closer than family.
Proverbs 18:24 says there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
That friend is a covenant friend.
– marriage is a type of covenant (husband and wife become one flesh) (we find both parties leaving family to form a covenant bond)
– in many Middle Eastern and some African countries, eating with someone either signifies a covenant or shows that a covenant has been made. This was true for a long time even here in the US. When someone new moved onto the street, the neighbors would take a pie or a cake over to welcome the new family. The family would in turn have the neighbors over for lunch or dinner. This is also why the Pharisees were so upset to find Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors. He was befriending them and showing them that He intended them no harm!
– a covenant can be mutual (as in the covenant between David and Jonathan) or it can be imposed (covenant between God and Israel)
– a formal covenant usually involves the shedding of blood in a sacrifice and the sharing of a meal, or at the very least the gifting of certain items
– a covenant also involves at least two representatives. A representative is someone who stands in the place of either himself or other people. Recall the 12 pillars Moses built, each representing a particular tribe of Israel, as well as the altar which represented God. Recall the fire pot and the burning torch, or even Jonathan and how he stood in place of his son, Mephibosheth.
The basic idea behind covenant representation is universally known. For example, though nobody in this room has ever stepped foot on the moon, we can all rightfully say by virtue of the fact we are American citizens that we have been to the moon. We went “in” Neil Armstrong. Because Armstrong was an American, when he stepped on the moon every American also stepped on the moon. He was representing us.
How does all this foreshadow Christ?
IX. New Covenant – Jeremiah 31:31-34
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
A. I will skip ahead today because it would take too long to explain to say that the house of Israel and the house of Jacob refers to the spiritual descendants of Isaac rather than the physical ones.
God made a covenant with the spiritual descendents of Jacob. That is, He made a covenant with all His elect. As in the case with the Davidic covenant, we discover the announcement of the promises before we discover anything else. The sacrifice is going to come at a later date.
B. Notice what the covenant promises say.
– This is not going to be like the covenant I made with Moses. The covenant made with Moses was a covenant whose promises were contingent upon the people’s obedience. Well, this covenant isn’t going to be like that.
– In this covenant, the fulfillment of all the promises are contingent upon God instead. He is the only one with any promises to keep!
– I will write My law on their hearts
– I will be their God
– They shall be My people
– They will all know Me from the least to the greatest
– For I will forgive their sins and remember their iniquities no more
Where is what I must do? It’s not there. I have nothing to do. It’s all what God will do.
C. If God is to make this covenant, then He must find a representative; someone to represent Him and someone to represent His people.
– Ah, but there’s a problem. None of us can do this, because we are all guilty of unrighteousness. The entirety of the promises are contingent upon God remembering not our sins and iniquities. Remember what we said about God remembering. It doesn’t mean God forgets that we sinned. It means instead that He will not act towards us the same way He did before He fulfilled His promise. But He cannot fulfill His promise while we yet remain guilty, because He cannot ignore the fact that we are unrighteous. He cannot sweep sin under the rug. We need a representative, but none of us are worthy to stand in as one.
– We see this problem portrayed in Revelation 5, where we find John weeping loudly, because no one in heaven or on earth, or under the earth was found worthy to open the scroll. The elect cannot open that scroll, because they are guilty of unrighteousness. God cannot simply open the scroll either, because He is just and therefore cannot sweep our sin under the rug. What is to be done then? Is there anyone to be found worthy?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Weep no more, John. Behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that He can open the scroll.
Yahweh-Jireh. God has provided. He has provided Himself with a representative. A human being, flesh of our flesh, bone of our bones, and yet this one is without sin.
– But this one is not only fully a man, but He is also fully God. God, the Son of God, taking upon Himself our human flesh and becoming fully a man without ceasing to be fully God. And because He is a man and because He is also God, He can stand on behalf of God, He can also stand on behalf of all those whom He has chosen for salvation. In one man, we have a representative who can stand in for both God and His elect.
– Recall how Abram slept in the corner while God did all the representing of both Abram and Himself. Well, we see now how this speaks of Jesus. Before any of us were even born, God provided us with a representative who stood in our place and entered into covenant with God.
– However, we still have the problem of our sin to contend with. Even though God has provided His people with a representative, He still cannot sweep their sin under the rug.
Hebrews 10:10 tells us that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all
– we discover then that God not only provided us with a representative, someone who could stand on behalf of both God and His elect, but IN THE VERY SAME PERSON, He also provided us with a sacrifice that would once and for all time forever atone for our sins. God can justly and righteously now remember our sins no more.
– We discover then that in one person, the Lord Christ Jesus, God provided His people with a covenant representative as well as a sacrifice to atone for their sins. He did this all while we sat in a corner, dozing peacefully. It was all His handiwork; purposed for the expression and worship of His glory alone.
D. This covenant is accompanied with signs
– Jonathan gifted David with the clothes of a prince, thereby elevating David to a new societal position. So God clothes us with Christ’s righteousness, thereby elevating us to the status of citizens in the kingdom of God. We have a whole new set of spiritual armor.
– Seventy elders sat in the presence of God’s feet and shared a covenant meal. Said Christ, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” When we take of the bread and drink of the wine, we are sharing in a covenant meal. We are celebrating the fact that the Lord Jesus, our representative, has brought us into covenant with God by the shedding of His blood. We can now sit in God’s presence, eating and drinking without fear of condemnation and death, because our Lord Jesus has fully propitiated God’s wrath on our behalf.
Now, Rome argues that the wine and bread become the body and blood of Christ, but this completely misses the point. It is a covenant meal we are sharing, not a magical transmission. All we are doing is recognizing the fact that it is by the sacrifice of His body and His blood that we can now approach the throne of God with confidence, because He has redeemed us with the sacrifice of His body and His blood. This is all the covenant meal is designed to do. There is no transmission of anything. It’s just a covenant meal.
– And finally, the covenant is stamped with a sign, the seal of the Holy Spirit. He is like the bow in the sky, forever pointing us to the faithfulness of God shown in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
X. Before we stop, if I could, I would like to dig just a little deeper into Christ’s work as covenant representative to show us something remarkable, because I think it’s important. Hollywood is getting ready to release a new sincere work of blasphemy, this time about Jesus as a child growing up.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
If Jesus was to be made our representative, then He had to be made like us. What I mean is that He had to endure the same suffering we endure, suffering which comes as a consequence of our sin.
– Why did Jesus have to suffer? If He was the lamb of God, and He is, why didn’t He just die humanely like all the lambs in the Old Testament did? Why instead did He have to suffer?
He had to suffer because He had to be made like us. He had to endure the suffering His people endure because of their sins and also because of the sins of others inflicted against them.
This means He had to be physically beaten, He had to be betrayed, He had to be stripped naked and then hung upon a cross for filthy minded Roman soldiers to gawk and leer at. He had to suffer the false accusations and unjust hatred of false religious and political leaders. He even also had to suffer the agonizing daily grind of a monotonous life. Have you ever thought about that?
Why isn’t there anything written about Jesus from the time He was 12 to about that time just before He started His public ministry? The reason why there is nothing written is because there was nothing to write. He got up this morning, ate a bowel of cereal, got dressed, then went to work. After He got to work, He finished the last details on the door for Mrs. Goldman, then He asked dad if he wanted Him to deliver the door to Mrs. Johnson. Joseph said yes, but be sure to stop by Mr. Epstein after to see if he had this week’s payment for the porch we built for him.
There is nothing written precisely because there was nothing to write about. He lived a mundane, 9 to 5 (6 to 6) everyday, normal life. And believe me, as I’m sure most of you know, there is a kind of grief and a sorrow in that.
Before the fall, Adam’s work had meaning and purpose. He was to tend the garden and to subdue the earth. He never broke a sweat doing it either. After the fall though, thorns and thistles the ground will produce for you, by the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread. Everything became a meaningless, purposeless grind, and there is a kind of suffering in this that Jesus had to endure in order to be made like one of us.
He was laid in a manger. Oh, so sweet. Little baby Jesus in a manger. Hey folks, people back then didn’t drive cars and trucks. They drove camels and donkeys. Where do you think the inn’s guests kept their camels and donkeys while they were staying at the inn? They kept them in the parking lot. Jesus Christ was born in the parking lot of a cheap motel. He laid His wee little head down in a feeding trough used to feed loud and smelly donkeys and camels.
His parents never understood Him. Even after being visited by an angel and being told that He will save His people from their sins, they didn’t understand Him. After they lost Him during the feast of Passover, and then afterward spent three days looking for Him only to then find Him in the temple questioning the priests and teachers of the law, do you remember what the Scriptures say what they thought? “Do you not know I must be in My Father’s house?” Verse 50 “And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them.”
Even after He began His public ministry His mother and His brothers and sisters tried to retrieve Him. Every time He opened His mouth, it was one misunderstanding after another. The disciples didn’t understand Him. Even after He told them plainly that He must die, here’s Peter, certainly not, not You, You won’t die.
Jesus endured everything that His people have had to endure, and maybe even are still enduring, and He did it all without complaint. He remained faithful throughout.
Now, Hollywood is going to say that all sorts of things happened. He shot lasers out of His eyes at fifteen, He stopped a train at twenty, He flew higher than a kite at twenty-five whatever, it’s all nonsense. Every bit of it garbage. There is nothing written about Jesus between the ages of 12 and 30, because there was nothing to write about. As His people’s covenant representative, He was enduring the normal, everyday grind of a young man working under the apprenticeship of His father, a carpenter.