Gleanings In Exodus
by A. W. Pink
69. The Sinaiatic Covenant
The key verse to the whole of Exodus 34 is the 27th: "And the Lord said unto Moses. Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel." Hence the title to our present article. In the verse following the one just quoted, we read, "And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments." Thus, the Sinaiatic covenant was a legal one, but as vv. 6, 7 have shown us, it was Law administered in mercy and patience, as well as righteousness and holiness.
We have already considered the Law as expressing God’s government over His redeemed people; let us now look at it in its dispensational bearings. In Romans 5:20 we read, "the law entered, that the offense might abound:" that is, that sin might appear "exceeding sinful" (Rom. 7:13): that the wickedness of the human heart might be manifested: that it should be the more fully demonstrated that men are sinners: and this in order that, "Every mouth might be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom. 3:19).
In the light of what has just been before us, we should carefully bear in mind that God gave the Law to Moses twice: Exodus 31:18: 34:1. 28. The first giving of the Law demonstrated that man is ungodly. As we have seen, before the Law was written upon tables of stone, it was first given to Moses orally (Ex. 20), and Moses then repeated it to Israel (24:3), and they affirmed, "all the words which the Lord hath said will we do." The first word He had said was. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." But at the very time He was engraving those words on the stones, Israel was saying to Aaron. "Up make us gods which shall go before us" (132:1). And the next thing was that the golden calf was made and worshipped. The immediate sequel was the visitation of God’s anger upon them (32:27, 28). Thus, the first trial of man—not of Israel only, for "As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man" (Prov. 27:19)—ended in judgment.
As the first giving of the Law demonstrated that man was "ungodly." so the second giving of it was to be followed by a manifestation that he is "without strength" to keep it. These are the two things which characterize fallen man (Rom. 5:6), and these were what the double giving of the law was designed to show. The first was demonstrated speedily: the second was made evident more slowly, yet none the less surely. God gave man fair and full opportunity to show whether he had power to keep the law. In the nation of Israel he was represented and tested under the most favorable circumstances. Israel was separated from the heathen: Jehovah Himself dwelt in their midst. They were given a land flowing with milk and honey; and, as the apostle says, unto them pertained "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises" (Rom. 9:4). Well might Jehovah say to them at a later date. "What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" (Isa. 5:4).
Yes, the vineyard of the Lord’s planting brought forth only "wild grapes." Graciously and longsufferingly did He bear with them, sending one prophet after another to exhort, admonish, rebuke, and warn. But all to no purpose (see Mark 12:1-5). One generation after another was tested, but always with the same result, in that the Law was "weak through the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). Man had no ability to meet the righteous requirements of God. He was "without strength." Therefore, as was inevitable, this second testing of man under the Law also ended with Divine judgment. And most impressive was the longsuffering mercy of God seen in that too. The full and final stroke of His wrath did not fall upon guilty Israel all at once, but was meted out slowly and in stages.
First, God delivered up His people into the hands of the Chaldeans. As He said through Isaiah, "O Assyrian, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff in their hand is Mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to treat them down like the mire of the streets" (10:5, 6). Israel’s second testing under the Law had come to an end. The "glory of the Lord" (the Shekinah) had departed from the holy city (Ezek. 11:23, 24), and Israel’s sons were carried down captive into Babylon: and through the prophet Hosea the Nation was disowned of God: "Then said God. Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not My people" (1:9).
Later, a remnant was permitted to leave Babylon and return to the land of their fathers, unto the city which had been ruined through their folly and rebellion, to raise it up again and to build the temple. But they came back not as God’s people. but as "Lo-ammi." And though a temple was erected, yet no Shekinah glory abode in it. It was empty! God no longer dwelt in their midst. The prophets which He sent unto them at that period emphasized the ruin which had come in, and pointed forward to the advent of the Savior. The great test then was no longer obedience to the Law (though that was not repealed), but an humble acceptance of the Divine judgment which was upon them, and a waiting in contrition of spirit for the Deliverer. But instead of humbling themselves before God, instead of repenting for their sins, instead of owning that they were "without strength," they were more self-righteous than ever. Ably has this been set forth by another:
"But now, alas! you find again what the power of Satan is, and how subtly he can blind, through man’s folly, the heart of man. It is very striking, and people generally notice it as favorable to Israel, that after their return, they were no more idolators. It had been their special sin. The prophet asks. you remember, ‘Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.’ Even from the wilderness they had. There was first the golden calf, and all through the wilderness they had taken up ‘the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of their god Remphan, figures which they made to worship them.’ God had declared that he was the one God, but they were idolators to the core of the heart.
"But as soon as there was no god in their midst—as soon as the temple was empty and the glory had departed—as soon as they were in the ruin which their sin had brought about, then immediately Satan came forward, not in the garb of idolatry any more, but now to resist the sentence which God had pronounced upon them—now to persuade them that after all they were not as Lo-ammi—that they were God’s people, and to say, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we.’ In fact, pharisaism was the growth of that period, and pharisaism was the self-righteousness which resisted God’s sentence upon them. pretending to have a righteousness when God had emphatically declared that man had none. So it was when that Deliverer prophesied of came. and when the glory, in a deeper and more wonderful way than ever was once more in their midst,—aye, the ‘glory of the only begotten Son, in the bosom of the Father’—the Antitype of the glory of that tabernacle of old,—when He who was to come did come, and was amongst them in love and grace, ready to meet them with all mercy and tenderness,—not coming to be ministered to, but to minister.—not requiring, but to give with both hands—to give without limit—to give as God,—alas! These Pharisees could turn comfortably to one another and say, ‘which of the Pharisees have believed on Him?’ Pharisees they were who slew the Lord of glory" (Mr. F. W. Grant).
Then it was, as a matter of course, that Judaism ended. The high priest’s rending of his garments (Matthew 26:65), though unknown to himself (cf. John 11:51), intimated that the priesthood had served its day. Man’s second trial under Law was over. Nothing now remained but judgment, yet even that lingered for a further forty years, till, in A.D. 70, Jerusalem was captured, the temple destroyed, and the Jews dispersed abroad. Even before that judgment fell, God’s call to His own people was. "Save yourselves from this untoward generation’ (Acts 2:40). And again. "Let us go forth therefore unto Him, without the camp" (Heb. 13:13). But we must now retrace our steps, and return to the point from which we started. The central thing in Exodus 34 is the "covenant" which Jehovah made with Israel at Sinai.
As we pointed out in the opening paragraphs of our last article, that covenant was based upon the ten words engraved upon the tables of stone. It was a covenant of law, but law administered in mercy, grace, patience, as well as holiness and righteousness. In that covenant God pressed His claims upon man. First, He demanded absolute separation, unto Himself (v. 18). Second, entire consecration for Himself (vv. 19, 20). Third, complete submission to His appointed sabbath, no exception being permitted even in harvest-time (v. 21). Here follows our present passage.
"And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the first fruits of wheat harvest" (v. 22). The central thought in connection with each of Israel’s "feasts" was the gathering together of the people around Jehovah Himself, on the ground of redemption accomplished. Thus, it was corporate responsibility which is here in view, and, we may add, corporate privilege, for there is no greater privilege enjoyed on earth than for God’s saints to be gathered together, in festive assembly, around Himself.
The "feast of weeks." better known as "Pentecost." is described at greatest length in Leviticus 23:15-21. Here it is connected with "the first fruits of wheat harvest." This at once makes us think of James 1:18: "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures." Dispensationally, the feast received a partial fulfillment at the descent of the Spirit in Acts 2. We say "partial fulfillment," for Peter’s words in Acts 2:16, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." rather than "this is the fulfillment of that which was spoken by Joel," tell us that the complete realization is yet future: as indeed it is. The "two loaves" of Leviticus 23:17 pointed, first, to Jew and Gentile now gathered together and made fellow-members of the Body of Christ; but, ultimately they foreshadowed the re-uniting of the two houses of Israel (cf. Ezekiel 37:16) when, after this dispensation has run its course, the Jews will be restored once more to Divine favor.
"And the feast of ingathering at the year’s end" (v. 22). This is better known as "the feast of tabernacles." It was the final one on Israel’s religious calendar. Its dispensational fulfillment is therefore yet future. "The feast of tabernacles is the joy of the millennium, when Israel hath come out of the wilderness, where their sins have placed them: but to which will be added this first day (the "eighth day" of Leviticus 23:36" A. W. P.) of another week—the resurrection joy of those who are raised with the Lord Jesus, to which the presence of the Holy Spirit answers meanwhile. Consequently, we find that the feast of tabernacles took place after the increase of the earth had been gathered in, and, as we learn elsewhere, not only after the harvest, but after the vintage also; that is, after separation by judgment, and the final execution of judgment on the earth, when heavenly and earthly saints shall all be gathered in" (Mr. J. N. Darby).
"Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel" (v. 23). The particular occasions specified were, "in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles" (Deut. 16:16). Really, those feasts contemplated three distinct dispensations: the first, the O. T., when Israel was separated unto the Lord. The second, this present interval, when in addition to the "remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5) from the stock of Abraham, God is also visiting "the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name" (Acts 15:14). The third, to the millennium. when the Lord "will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and will build again the ruins thereof, and will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called" (Acts 15:16, 17). We may add that each of the three persons in the Godhead are, distinctively, contemplated in these feasts. The feast of unleavened bread, which is inseparably connected with the Passover, speaks to us of God the Son. The feast of weeks or Pentecost is marked by the descent of the Spirit (Acts 2:2: Joel 2:28). The feast of tabernacles will witness the answer to that oft-prayed petition, "Our Father which art in heaven . . . Thy kingdom come" (compare Matthew 13:43; 16:27). The order is the same as in the three-one parable of Luke 15: the work of the Shepherd, the work of the Spirit, bringing into the Father’s house. Thus it is experimentally.
As we have said, the "feasts" had to do with corporate responsibility, and corporate privilege too, for: "Behold. how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Ps. 133:1). But alas, history has repeated itself. At the beginning of Israel’s national history, they were a united "congregation." So it was at the beginning of this dispensation: "And all that believed were together" (Acts 2:44). For a time all went well; then failure and sin came, followed by Divine chastisement and judgment; true alike of Israel and Christendom. Ultimately Israel was carried captive into Babylon, so too, all through the ‘dark ages’ the "mystery Babylon" of Revelation 17 dominated Europe. A remnant of Israel returned from Babylon and the true worship of God was restored in Israel, though not after its primitive glory. So there was a Reformation, a remnant was delivered from the papacy, and God again was magnified, though the streams of truth was not as pure as it was at the beginning.
But at the end of the Old Testament period the corporate testimony of Israel was a complete wreck and ruin: the priesthood had "corrupted the covenant of Levi" (Mal. 2:7, 8); polluted bread was offered upon God’s altar (Mal. 1:7). Judah had "profaned the holiness of the Lord" (Mal. 2:11), and Jehovah had to say, "I have no pleasure in you... neither will I accept an offering at your hand" (Mal. 1:10). In like manner, the corporate testimony of Christendom has long since fallen into ruins. The last of the Epistles to the churches depicts Christ as being on the outside (Rev. 3:20), and His voice is addressed to the individual only, "If any man hear My voice."
"For I will cast out the nations before thee and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shall go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year" (v. 24). How remarkably does this verse illustrate Proverbs 16:7: "When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." God will not allow any man to be His debtor: He has promised, "Them that honor Me, I will honor" (1 Sam. 2:30). So it was here. These Israelites were going up to the temple to worship the Lord; in their absence He would guard their homes.
"Neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year." How strikingly does this demonstrate the absoluteness of God’s control of His creatures! And man, though fallen and rebellious, is no exception. As Daniel 4:35 tells us, "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand." So it was here. The male Hebrews were to leave their farms and go up to the temple in Jerusalem (Deut. 16:16)—for many of them, a long journey. They were surrounded by hostile heathen but so complete is God’s control of man, every man, that none shall be allowed to molest their families or flocks while they were away. Thus, we see that God not only restrains the activities of the wicked, but even regulates the desires of their evil hearts: "The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will" (Prov. 21:1).
"Thou shalt not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leaven" (v. 25), God was very jealous of the types. Why? Because they pointed forward to the person and work of Christ. Thus, His jealousy of the types was His guarding of the glory of His beloved Son. Therefore, inasmuch as the sacrifices pointed forward to the Lord Jesus, leaven (which is an emblem of evil) must be excluded, for He is "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26).
"Thou shalt not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leaven." Very wonderful and blessed is it to observe how the Lord here refers to the sacrifice: He does not say "the blood of thy sacrifice," but "My sacrifice." This is also the language of the antitype: The Sacrifice "offered once for all." was of God’s appointing, was of God’s providing, was for God’s satisfaction. Man had no part or lot in it whatsoever. "Salvation is of the Lord." Frequently is this same truth brought out in the types. In Genesis 22:8 we hear Abraham saying to his son’s query of "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?—God will provide Himself a lamb." In Exodus 12:27 we are told, "It is the Lord’s passover." In connection with the two goats on the day of atonement, lots were cast. "one lot for the Lord" (Lev. 16:8): and so on.
"Neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning" (v. 25). The paschal lamb was to be eaten on the same night it had been slain and roasted in fire. not left over to be partaken of on the morrow (see 12:10). The application of this detail of the type is very solemn and searching. To have eaten the lamb on the morrow, would have been to dissociate it from the import of its death. The eating of the lamb speaks to us of the believer (already sheltered by His blood) feeding on Christ: eating the lamb the same night it was killed, tells us that we are ever to feed upon Christ with a deep sense in our souls of what His death and bearing judgment for us ("roast with fire") really involved for Him. Note how Christ Himself emphasized this in John 6: first vv. 50, 51, then vv. 53-56!
"The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God" (v. 26). This Divine ordinance receives amplification in Deuteronomy 26:1-11. The interested reader would find it profitable to prayerfully study in detail the whole of that passage for himself: we can but summarize its teaching here. First, it had to do with Israel’s possession of their inheritance (v. 1). Second, this "first of the firstfruits of thy land" was the Divine pledge or earnest of the coming harvest (v. 2). Third, Israel acknowledged this by their presentation unto the priest (v. 3). Fourth, the Israelite was then required to look back and acknowledge his previous state of shame and bondage (v. 5-7). Fifth, he then owned the Lord’s goodness in deliverance (v. 8). Sixth, he expressed his gratitude for the goodly portion the Lord had given him (v. 9). Seventh, he presented the "first-fruits" in worship before Him (vv. 10, 11).
All of the above is rich in its typical teaching, much of which has already been before us in other connections. That which is here distinctive, is the contrast presented between what we find in Exodus 34:22 and here in 5:26. The "firstfruits of wheat harvest" refers to Christ (cf. John 12:24 with 1 Corinthians 15:23). But the "first of the fruits of thy land" or "inheritance" speaks, we believe, of the Holy Spirit, who is "the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph. 1:13, 14). Do we not get the antitype of Exodus 34:26 in Romans 8:22. "Ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit!" And in the light of Deuteronomy 26:10, 11 are we not taught that we should thank God as heartily for the gift of the Spirit as for the gift of His Son? Do we realize that we are as much indebted to, and therefore have as much cause of praise for, the work of the Spirit in us, as the work of Christ for us!
"Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk" (v. 26). Upon this we have nothing better to offer than the brief comment of Mr. Dennett: "This remarkable prohibition is found three times in the Scriptures (Ex. 23:19: 34:26: Deuteronomy 14:21). God will have His people tenderly careful, guarding them from the violation of any instinct of nature. The milk of the mother was the food. the sustenance of the kid, and hence this must not be used to seethe it as food for others."
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words have I made a covenant with thee and with Israel" (v. 27). This verse summarizes all that has been before us in the previous verses of the chapter. An imperishable record was to be made of all that Jehovah had said unto His servant. The words, "I have made a covenant with thee (the typical mediator) and with Israel," gives assurance that all will yet be made good through the person and millennial administration of Christ. Israel failed in the past, but there will be no failure with Him who shall yet effectuate God’s counsels and glorify Him in this very scene where His people have so grievously dishonored Him. May the Lord hasten that glad day.