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The New Covenant at Sinai

New Covenant at Sinai

Further thoughts on Parashat Yitro

by John J. Parsons

In our Torah portion this week (Yitro), God revealed the Ten Commandments to the Israelites at Sinai, a dramatic event that some say represented the giving of the law, or the "Old Covenant," to Israel. Now while a case can surely be made that the revelation at Sinai represented an "older covenant" (see 2 Cor. 3:14; Heb. 7:18, 8:6,13, and here), when looked at from another perspective, Sinai actually represented a sort of new covenant, since it was given later and served as a proviso to the covenant given earlier to Abraham (Gal. 3:18). The culmination of the covenant at Sinai was the revelation of the altar (i.e., the Tabernacle), which pictured the sacrificial blood "covering" the tablets of God's judgment. This, in turn, recalled Abraham's great sacrifice of his son Isaac (the Akedah), which further recalled the very first sacrifice of the Bible, namely the lamb slain in the orchard of Eden to cover the shame of Adam and Eve's sin (Gen. 3:21; Rev. 13:8). Therefore it was the promise God made to Eve regarding the "Seed to Come" that is the original covenant (Gen. 3:15), and it was this covenant that was later fulfilled by Yeshua, the "Serpent Slayer" of God (Num. 21:9; John 3:14). This is the "Gospel in the Garden" message, the original promise of the lamb of God that was slain from the foundation of the world... In other words, the "new covenant" (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה) may better be understood as the fulfillment of the original covenant, the promise to redeem all of humanity from the curse of sin and death. The redemptive plan of God therefore moves in an ascending circle. The "Tree of Life" reaches back to the orchard of Eden and extends into the World to Come...

Because there is so much confusion regarding the topic of the role of the law, particularly among "Messianic believers," I would like to reiterate a few things mentioned elsewhere on this site. Let me first remind you that the legal aspect of the "Torah" refers to the subset of the written Torah called Sefer Ha-Brit (סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית), a portion that defined various ethical, social, and ritual obligations given at Sinai (Exod. 24:7-8). It is a "category mistake" to simply regard the first five books of the "Torah" as the "law," since the law was given later in sacred history, after the Exodus. Moreover, the Book of Genesis reveals that the very first "priest" (i.e., kohen: כּהֵן) was neither a Jew nor a Levite nor a descendant of Aaron, but rather Someone who is said to have "neither beginning of days nor end of life" but is made like (ἀφωμοιωμένος) the Son of God, a priest continually (Heb. 7:3). This priest, of course, was Malki-Tzedek (מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק), the King of Salem (מֶלֶךְ שָׁלֵם) to whom Abraham offered tithes after his victory over the kings (Gen. 14:18). The author of the Book of Hebrews makes the point that the priesthood of Malki-Tzedek is greater than the Levitical priesthood and is therefore superior to the rites and services of the Tabernacle (Heb. 7:9-11). It was to Malki-Tzedek that Abram (and by extension, the Levitical system instituted by his descendant Moses) gave tithes and homage -- and rightly so, since Yeshua is the great High Priest of the better covenant based on better promises (Heb. 8:6). As the Scriptures teach, in everything Messiah has preeminence (John 5:39; Luke 24:27; Col. 1:18).

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