Please read the lesson material below and answer the questions for the lesson. Don't forget to include your contact information so we can review your answers and respond to your comments or questions. If you make at least 60%, you should continue onto the next lesson. Otherwise, please review the material and try again. You need to average at least 70% to pass the course. We will contact you via email within a few days of receiving your answers.

Jump to questions

Jesus: Lord of Our Lives

Lesson 2

The SCHEME Of REDEMPTION (Part 2)

After mankind was banished from the Garden and his immortality was taken away from him, God did not leave mankind totally alone. The book of Genesis records God's dealings with various families including many of the great Patriarchs1 of the Old Testament. The story eventually comes to a man named Abraham who is said to be a very faithful follower of God. So impressed was God with Abraham that he made him some very important promises. Please turn to Genesis 12:1-3 and read about these promises. Three stand out in the text. One promise indicates that God will make Abraham famous, or, that God will make his name great among the nations. Another promise involved his future descendants. God promised to make them into a great nation. A third promise mentions something about all the families (nations) of the earth being benefited through Abraham. The third promise was fulfilled through one of Abraham’s special descendants - Christ - who would one day die on the cross for the sins of all mankind!

What Is A COVENANT?

However, many centuries after this incident, the Bible teaches that God kept the descendant promise he made to Abraham by making a COVENANT with the nation of Israel. This covenant provides the background for the rest of the Old Testament (from Exodus 19 through the last chapter of Malachi) and is still in existence when Jesus comes to the Earth as a man. In this and the next two lessons, we will take a closer look at the history of this covenant. Aside from being a very interesting topic, it will also help us better understand many things about God’s PLAN for saving man from sin that we will be studying about later from the New Testament.

We begin our search by asking a very simple question, “What is a COVENANT?” We do not hear this word very often, except in religious discussions. Sometimes instead of the word covenant, we hear people use the word “testament”2 and that can be even more confusing. Actually, we are very familiar with the idea represented by the words covenant and testament. The ways these words are used in the Bible represent what we commonly refer to as an agreement or a contract! We are very familiar with contracts and agreements because they are found today in all areas of our everyday life. From the simplest agreement, to meet somewhere for an outing, to a complex contract between companies to manufacture and market something on several continents, agreements are all around us every day.

Since understanding how agreements work is so important for our study, we will take a few minutes to mention the basic design of contracts so that we can establish a common understanding for our future explorations in the Bible regarding its covenants.

A covenant, agreement, or contract, is established when two (or more) parties AGREE to certain terms and conditions by which they will join together, usually in order to accomplish something. However, sometimes agreements are made to regulate the actions of people. Whatever their purpose might be, ALL agreements carry responsibilities for all parties to perform and operate on the basic “IF – THEN” principle. IF the first party accomplishes their portion of the agreement THEN the second party must fulfill their obligation. This “IF – THEN” principle is what is more commonly known as a CONDITION. Everything will go smoothly in the agreement as long as ALL parties involved in the agreement keep their part of the contract.

How Contracts Work

How do agreements and contracts work? Most agreements pass through FOUR basic phases or stages of activity. The first is what we might call the negotiation stage, where the parties discuss proposals to determine if there is enough interest to give reason for proceeding farther. If there is a mutual desire to continue then the parties proceed to the phase where the exact terms and conditions are decided. This means that a carefully detailed statement of the responsibilities of each of the parties involved in the agreement will be worded and written down. Once this phase is complete, next comes the acceptance and commencement—where the agreement is “officially” signed. It is here that the agreement actually begins. This leaves only the final phase of the agreement to follow—what we will call the TERMINATION phase. All agreements come to a completion in one way or another. They either successfully terminate (with all parties satisfied), or, the agreement terminates unsuccessfully due to some kind of violation. This is the basic process by which all agreements are made and managed.

AN ILLUSTRATION: BUILDING A HOUSE

To get a better idea of what we are saying let us set up an imaginary contract that we can use as a parallel illustration in our studies. Let us say that I want to build my family a house and that you are in the construction business and that you (along with 10 other construction companies in town) submit to me a bid (estimate) on the cost of the project. After examining all of the bids, I select the company that gives me the best deal and let us say that your company is the one I choose. We must then establish an agreement between us. This agreement is important because it contains all of the specific details of how you will build the house as well as the details of the money I will pay to your company. These details are based on the IF-THEN principle—IF you accomplish your part THEN I am obligated to accomplish my part. Once these details are completed, we both sign our names to it and the agreement becomes official on the date we sign it.

For the sake of our illustration, let us assume these specific details are found in the agreement. You must build me a two-storey house with five rooms upstairs, three rooms and a bathroom downstairs, and a covered garage attached to the house that is large enough for two cars. You must paint the outside of the house yellow and the roof green. If you will build it this way then I must pay your company $100,000.00 plus the cost of materials.

Before we go farther, let us consider some other thoughts about this contract.

If I choose to establish a contract with your company then what happens to all of the other companies who submitted bids for the building of my house? They are rejected and not included in our agreement. Their workers cannot come to the job site and work expecting me to pay them, right? No they cannot, and why not? It is because my contract is with you and your workers, and, since these workers do not work for you, then I do not have any obligation to pay them.

In addition to this, here is another point to consider. If we sign our contract today, then would it be fair for your workers to come to me demanding that I pay them wages for yesterday, or last week, or even last month? No, it would not be fair, because you and I had no contract yesterday, last week, or last month. Our contract started TODAY and it goes forward into the future, and I am only responsible for things that happen while we have a contract.

What happens if you do not build my house according to the terms of our agreement? Whether the mistake is small or great, intentional or “innocent”, I have the freedom to take action as I desire. On the one hand, I can forgive you and give you a chance to make things right. On the other hand, I can also fire you and get someone new to take your place. It is my decision alone and you have no voice in the matter because, in such case, you committed the violation against our agreement!

However, if you accomplish your part of the contract and I refuse to pay you then you can take me to court to get your money.

Let us assume that this agreement is acceptable to both of us and we sign with today’s date as the starting point.

Please keep this sample illustration in mind as you study through the material of this lesson because we will refer back to it from time to time as we proceed.

You might wonder what all of this detail about agreements and how they work has to do with the Scheme of Redemption and Abraham. Actually, this is very important to our research because there was a very special agreement in the Old Testament of our Bible. It was between God and the descendants of Abraham, and this agreement has a lot to do with Jesus dying on a cross for the sins of mankind!

God’s Special Agreement With Israel

We are first introduced to this agreement in Exodus 19:1-5. (Please stop and read this passage.)

It seems that three months after the people of Israel left Egypt, they came to Mount Sinai,3 where Moses, the leader of the Israelites, acted as a go-between4 in an agreement between God and the people of Israel. If you look carefully at the text you will notice that the Lord offered the agreement to Israel with the condition that IF they would obey him THEN they would become his “special people, chosen out from all of the people of the earth."

Timeline of the covenant

There are additional passages that speak of this agreement. Please read Deuteronomy 5:2-3. This passage shows us that the agreement began there at Mount Sinai and that it did not exist before that point in time. This means that this agreement did not exist during the time of Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, and even those Israelites who died as slaves in Egypt. None of these people had this agreement because it did not exist during their lifetime. Only those alive at Sinai and after could be part of this agreement. The diagram above is given to help better understand the situation. Mount Sinai is the key point of reference because it is where the agreement started. People who lived and died BEFORE Mount Sinai were NOT included in the agreement. The agreement started there and continued into the future! Therefore, Abraham the Patriarch was NOT included in this agreement, but King David was included.

The two passages we have seen so far have only mentioned the agreement in general terms. What were the specific details of the conditions of this agreement? In other words, what were the things that the people had to “obey” so that they could fulfill their portion of the agreement and continue to be God’s “special people, chosen from among all the nations of the earth”? Please read Deuteronomy 4:13. In this passage, we learn that the agreement included the list of commands more commonly known as “the 10 Commandments”.

Please read Exodus 34:27-28. This passage states the same thing, but considering the context of what is happening, we must expand our understanding a little. Although this passage specifically mentions “the 10 Commandments”, the context tells us that there were more details than just the 10 Commandments. Why can we say this? If we trace Moses’ activities, beginning in Exodus chapter 19, we will see that he had many conversations with God while the people of Israel were camped around that mountain. Some of them were in the presence of the people of Israel and some were private—on top of Mount Sinai. During these conversations with Moses, God gave him many different laws and ordinances for the people to follow and all of these were included in the agreement. In fact, someone once counted all of them and found that the actual number of individual commands included in the agreement is more than 600! It is very likely that there were many more than just 10 commands written on those two flat stones!

A THOUGHT QUESTION:

While we are on the subject of the 10 Commandments, we have a question for you to consider. “Is Mount Sinai the place where mankind first learned that it is wrong to murder someone?”

In the Bible we read that it was at Mount Sinai that God gave the commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” Does that mean there was no command against murder BEFORE the giving of the command at Mount Sinai? The answer to that question is, “No!”, because there is evidence in the Bible that mankind already knew that murder was wrong long before the people of Israel went to Mount Sinai. We can trace man’s knowledge of murder back to the time just after man left the Garden of Eden. Do you remember the story of Cain and Abel? (If not, then please read Genesis chapter 4.) The Bible says that Cain “murdered” his brother, and after he did it, the Bible shows that Cain knew that he had done something wrong! Consider his actions very carefully. What did he do after he killed Abel? The Bible records that he hid himself and then tried to cover up his crime when he was confronted by God. Why did he hide? Why try to cover up the fact that he killed his brother?

As you think about this, consider the following point very carefully.

Let us say that a two-year-old child goes into the kitchen and intentionally breaks a glass on the floor for the first time in his life. He laughs and perhaps even looks for another glass to break because 1) he likes the sound of the breaking glass and 2) because he does not know that breaking glasses on the floor is “wrong”. He does not even try to avoid stepping on the broken glass and cutting his feet, because he does this act in complete ignorance! If the parents come into the kitchen what do they do? Of course, they immediately rescue the child but then they also teach the child a lesson from the event so that the child will, from that time forward, know that breaking glasses is wrong! However, because the child is innocent and ignorant, the parents’ reaction toward the child’s behavior is not anger at disobedience.

However, let us consider a different situation. Suppose that a sixteen-year-old child walks into the kitchen, takes a glass off the shelf, and intentionally breaks it on the floor. What does he do? He immediately looks around to make sure that no one saw what happened and then quickly sweeps up the pieces and throws them in the trash, hoping that no one saw or heard what happened. He also prepares a “good story” to explain to his parents how that glass was broken just in case his action is discovered. When the parents discover what happened what will they do? Will they act the same as they did for the two-year-old? No, they will not. They will become very angry, disappointed, and filled with disbelief because the sixteen-year-old KNOWS that it is “wrong” to break glasses on the floor. He is definitely NOT ignorant! He knew it was wrong and he knew he would be in trouble if his crime was discovered.

If we return to the story of Cain and Abel, which of these two broken glass situations best matches what Cain did after he killed Abel, the two-year-old or the sixteen-year-old? Cain’s actions match the sixteen-year-old and show that he had a prior knowledge regarding the evils of murder. His actions show that he KNEW that what he had done was wrong! This means that, even though we do not have a record of it, there was already at that time a law from God prohibiting murder, and Cain KNEW this law!

If there was already a prohibition against murder at the time when Cain killed Abel, then what about the other “commandments” that were given at Mount Sinai? Is it possible that they also already existed BEFORE Mount Sinai? Other stories found in the book of Genesis show that many of the other commands were already known by the people. It seems likely that the only one of the 10 Commandments that was NEW information for the people at the time of Sinai was the one mentioning the keeping of the Sabbath. (To confirm that this statement is true please stop here and read Nehemiah 9:13-14 and notice that the text says that God “made known” to Israel the teaching about the Sabbath at Mount Sinai! That has to mean that they did not know about the Sabbath before Mount Sinai.)

Therefore, WHY did God give the Israelites the 10 Commandments if it was not to reveal NEW instructions to the people? The 10 Commandments were NOT given because they represented NEW instructions; rather, they were given because with these commands the God of heaven offered a special agreement to a single nation of people with the reward being the status of “special people chosen from among all nations of the earth”! This had not been done before Mount Sinai! (Remember Ex. 19:5. If the people of Israel would keep the agreement then they would be the special people of God.)

So what does this mean? Murder was wrong a long time before there were the “10 Commandments” and, also, that if there were suddenly no longer any “10 Commandments” then that would not mean that murder, adultery, and lying would suddenly become “legal”! Of course, they would not!

WHO Was Included In This Agreement?

Let us go on to other details in our research about this agreement. “Were any OTHER nations included in this agreement?” In searching for an answer, we will begin by reviewing the information learned from all the passages we have already read. Exodus 19:1-5 indicated that the agreement was for Israel only - "special people chosen from all nations of the world" Exodus 34:27-28 mentioned only Israel - "with you [Moses] and Israel”. Finally, in Deuteronomy 5:2-3 we saw that the agreement was only with the ones who were “alive” at Mount Horeb. Were there any other people present there at Mount Sinai other than the people of Israel? No, there were not.

The River of Sin

We will now look at some additional passages that speak of this matter and see what else we can find. Please read Deuteronomy 7:6. This is part of a speech made by Moses to the people of Israel. Notice that he once again indicates that the agreement was with Israel ONLY and that God chose the Israelite people "out of all the nations of the earth". If we search further into the Old Testament books, we find that the understanding on this matter does not change. Please read Psalms 147:19-20. This passage is very precise and states that God did not reveal his laws to any other nation. Even when we arrive at the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi, nothing has changed. Please read Malachi 4:4. Here we find a reminder for the people of Israel to remember the Law of Moses5 and mentions it as being, "for all ISRAEL", not for all the nations of the earth!

Whether we like it or not, God chose the nation of Israel to be the exclusive recipient of his special agreement! In much the same way, remember that I chose YOUR construction company to build my house and when I did that, I rejected the other companies. They were not invitedrejected to be included in our agreement. They were left out of any arrangements between us, even if they sincerely WANTED to be included. I CHOSE YOU! That was my right and in the same way, God CHOSE ISRAEL to be included in the Sinai agreement. He chose ONLY Israel! All other nations were rejected!

WHY Did God Choose Only Israel?

Since God rejected the other nations of that time, we need to go farther in our research and ask, “WHY DID GOD MAKE THE AGREEMENT ONLY WITH ISRAEL?” After all, we are told in other places in the Bible that God wants ALL people to be saved and that he does not show favoritism toward anyone. Why, then, would God make an agreement, which determined who would be accepted as his “special people” and then offer that agreement only to Israel? This action does not sound very fair to the other nations. Surely, there must be an explanation.

Do you remember back in Genesis 12:1-2, where God made some promises to Abraham? The answer to our question has something to do with those promises. Please read Deuteronomy 7:6-8. Here, Moses is making a speech to the people of Israel and as he speaks, he mentions two reasons why God chose Israel as his people. First, he points out that it is because God LOVES them, and, second, because God is keeping the promise made to Abraham (and passed to Isaac and Jacob). From this, we can conclude that one important reason why God did this for Israel was because of the promise to Abraham back in Genesis chapter 12.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is a comfort to know that God keeps his promises! However, it is still a little disturbing to think that God would discriminate against innocent nations in order to keep a promise. There MUST be more to learn about the situation!

We need to continue reading Moses’ speech. Please read Deuteronomy 7:9-11. Moses explains how God evaluates people. He said that God accepts people who love him and keep his commands, but punishes those who hate him and do not obey. Of course, this is not surprising because all the other prophets of God also state this same point as being one of the consistent characteristics of God throughout time! God is FAIR! This is an important point for our study because it indicates that IF God is going to reject someone then they must have done something to go against him.

With this in mind, please read Deuteronomy 9:4-5. Moses makes another speech to the people of Israel and speaks about this very point and how it relates to the “other nations” of that time. He tells the people of Israel that God did not choose them because they were “so good” but rather, because the other nations were “so bad”. This is the evidence we have been searching for! It seems that during this period of history, Israel might very well have been the only "nation" that believed in God. We know from the details revealed in the history books of the Old Testament that the other nations, which Israel would eventually destroy or kick out from their “promised Land”, were people who followed all kinds of different gods, but NOT ONE of them followed the one true God! Therefore, God was not showing favoritism when he chose Israel. He was simply offering the agreement to those who believed in him! That is fair!

We can easily confirm what Moses said about the way those other nations lived by reading passages like Deuteronomy 18:12 and Leviticus 18:24-25.

Summary:

God made a special agreement with the nation of Israel. It was for Israel ONLY and started at Mount Sinai. It was CONDITIONAL and contained more than 600 individual laws and regulations. It was given to Israel because of the promise God made to Abraham, and, because the other nations of that time did not believe in God.

We have several other questions that need to be answered, but we will stop for now. As we prepare for the next lesson, think about this question: “How long was the agreement supposed to last?”

A FINAL THOUGHT QUESTION FOR THIS LESSON:

“Are WE to keep the 10 Commandments TODAY?”

If we consider the common belief found in most “Christian” religious groups today, then this seems like the correct answer should be, “YES! Of course we are supposed to keep the 10 Commandments!” However, is “YES!” really the correct answer?

We have seen a lot of evidence in this lesson and, unless we find either, an amendment to the Sinai agreement from God, or, a different agreement from God, that says ALL NATIONS are to keep the 10 Commandments, then the answer to the question must be, “NO!”, because the evidence we found shows that the 10 Commandments were part of an agreement for Israel. NO OTHER NATIONS WERE INCLUDED!

A person today might come to believe that there is a God, have a desire to serve him, and, finding the 10 Commandments written in the Old Testament, decide to follow them because he reads, in Exodus 19:5, that if these are kept faithfully then the result will be the status of being one of God’s “chosen people”! A person cannot, however, simply invite themselves to join this agreement, keep the Commandments, and expect to be accepted by God any more than a construction worker who works for a different company can come to our construction site, desire to join because he needs the work, start working with our crew, and then expect me to have to pay him. Agreements do not work that way!

We must remember that the 10 Commandments were part of an agreement and that the agreement included not ONLY the 10 Commandments, but more than 600 laws and regulations! If you say that we must keep the 10, then we must ALSO keep the rest of the 600 because it was all given as one agreement.

Therefore, unless we find an explanation somewhere in the Bible that expands the recipients of the Sinai agreement beyond Israel, then the only nation that was EVER given the 10 Commandments was Israel. (PLEASE do not forget what we found written in Psalms 147!) Other nations cannot simply join the agreement without God inviting them. Contracts do not work that way!

Footnotes

1 The word “patriarch” means FATHER and it was used to refer to the head of a family, usually the oldest living male. During the earliest portion of the Old Testament, God would speak to the people of a certain family through these Patriarchs.

2 The word for “covenant” or “agreement” in the Greek language is DIATHEKE (pronounced dē-ă-thā΄-kā) and is the same word used to represent someone’s last will and testament. A WILL is a nothing more than a special kind of agreement.

3 Mount Sinai is also known in the Bible as Mount Horeb.

4 Most Bibles use the term “mediator”.

5 In later Old Testament times, and in the New Testament, the Sinai Agreement is often called “the Law of Moses” because Moses was the one who received it and gave it to the people of Israel. However, it was NOT a law Moses made up.