THE FIRST AGREEMENT WITH NATIONAL ISRAEL

After  God  delivered the Israelites from  the  slavery  and bondage  of  Egypt, he offered them an agreement.  Although  this agreement  superseded prior agreements made with the Patriarchs, it contained  many of the terms, conditions,  and  promises  from these agreements.

Terms and Conditions of the First Agreement

Any  agreement or  contract between two or more parties has terms  and conditions for the performance of  the agreement.  The terms and conditions of the agreement  between God and the nation of Israel were very specific:

The First Condition

"Now  therefore,  if you will obey my voice indeed, and  keep  my covenant,  then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above  all people:  for  all the earth is mine: And you  shall be  to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation . . ." (Ex.19:5-6 KJV).

Notice   that God did not place any limitations on what he  might ask the Israelites to do in the future. He asked them to agree to an  open-ended contract that could be  amended  in the  future. Moreover, God says that if they would obey him, he would  do certain things for their benefit.

"And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded  him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people to the Lord" (Ex.19:7-8 KJV).

After hearing that the people had agreed to honor the basic terms and conditions of this proposed agreement  (Ex.19:4-8), God  gave the  Ten  Commandments  and other laws  to  the  Israelites. See Ex.20:1-17; 24:1-15.

BENEFITS

In any agreement or contract there must be benefits for each party  of the agreement or contract (i.e., each party  must  receive something in return for their effort to fulfill their part of the agreement).

Israel's Benefits

Under  this  agreement the Israelites  would  receive  tremendous physical and spiritual blessings. God promised health, happiness, wealth,   physical protection, and many other fantastic  physical benefits to the Israelites for their obedience.

Deuteronomy 28:1-13 Paraphrased

"And it shall come to pass, if you shall adhere diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe and do all of my  commandments  which I command you this day, that the Lord your God will set you on high above all the nations of the earth" (v1).  

"And you shall be blessed in the city  and in the field. And  you shall be blessed with children, with produce from the earth, with offspring of cattle, with increase of cattle and flocks of sheep. And blessed with your basket and store. And blessed when you come in and go out" (vs.2-6).

"The  Lord will cause you to conquer your enemies in battle.  You will be blessed in storehouses and in all that you do in the land the  Lord gives you. You will be holy to the Lord and the  people of earth shall fear you because you are called the people of God. The  Lord will give you rain in season, you shall lend  to  other nations and not have to borrow. You shall be the head and not the tail, you shall be above all others, if you adhere to my commandments" (vs.7-13).

"You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy  nation" (Ex.19:6 Para.).  

Eternal and Immortal Life

Eternal  and  immortal life was also offered to those  who  lived under  the  first  agreement with national Israel.  Jesus  is  an example  of one who secured eternal and immortal life under  this agreement.   How  did  he secure salvation?  There  is  a  simple answer.  He deserved eternal life because he had faith that, if he fulfilled his part of the agreement, the Father would fulfill his part. Jesus fulfilled his part by not violating any of the physical  or spiritual laws of the agreement between God and  national Israel:

"You shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a  man do, he shall live in [by] them: I am the  Lord"  (Lev.18:5 KJV).  

"All  who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it  is written:  "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do  everything  written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live  by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The  man who does these things will live by them" (Gal.3:10-12 NIV).

Under this agreement, if a person kept every point of the law, he could  secure  eternal  and immortal life. To  practice  the  law perfectly  was extremely difficult, but it was  possible  because Jesus Christ lived a perfect and sinless life by faith. By  meeting  all  the righteous demands of the law, Christ secured eternal and immortal life.

"Moses  describes  in this way the righteousness that is  by  the law: "The man who does these things [the commandments,  statutes, and laws] will live by them" (Rom.10:5 NIV).

SALVATION THROUGH THE LAW AND SACRIFICE

As  with  the agreement that God made with  the  Patriarchs,  the first  agreement with national Israel also included animal sacrifice as the method  by which God's people could maintain a harmonious relationship  with him. Furthermore, some of these sacrifices also  pictured the ultimate sacrifice of the Messiah, as did the agreement with the Patriarchs. Additionally, as in the agreement with the Patriarchs, none of these  animal sacrifices  could  totally remove or forgive sin. For  those  who lived before the advent of the Messiah, there  was  no  total removal  or forgiveness of sins; such forgiveness could only be given after the perfect sacrifice of the Messiah. See our study papers about the Day of Atonement.

Hebrews 11:1-40 shows us that many who lived before and many who lived during the first agreement with national Israel will  participate in  the  first resurrection and be granted eternal  and immortal life. Hebrews  11 says that Abel, Enoch, Noah,  Abraham,  Sarah, Isaac,  Jacob, King David and others will be in the Kingdom. But, how did all of these people who lived under these two different agreements  with God qualify to  enter the Kingdom of God and have eternal and immortal life?  The answer is that all of these people kept the laws of God and they practiced the  sacrificial system, and for this reason, the  sacrifice  of Jesus Christ is retroactively applied to them:

"These people were  all  commended for their faith, yet  none  of  them received  what  had been promised:  God  had  provided  something better  for  us so that with us they should also be made perfect" (Heb.11:39-40 Para.).

The people mentioned in Hebrews 11 who lived before the  first  agreement with national Israel and those  who  lived under the first agreement all followed the instructions of  the specific  agreement that  God had made with them. Therefore, they were able to  maintain a good relationship with him. These individuals had faith in what God had revealed to them about his plan for their salvation; they knew that someday the Messiah would come and offer  himself as a perfect sacrifice to remove and forgive their sins and  give them  eternal life.  This is the  reason that these  individuals will be in the first resurrection.

"What  then?   The people of Israel did not find what  they  were looking  for.   It was only the small group that  God  chose  who found it: the rest grew deaf to God's call" (Rom.11:7 GNB).

God offered salvation to the people of  ancient Israel; however,  few responded to this call, and very few seized the awesome  opportunity  to gain eternal and immortal  life  in  the Family and Kingdom of God.  Those who are called to  salvation during  the gospel age also have the opportunity to  reign in the Kingdom of God as  kings  and  priests along with  those who answered God's call under previous agreements.  See Rev.5:9-10; 20:4-6.

Although  the promises of eternal life and immortality were  given before and during the first agreement with Israel, it was  very difficult to obtain under the  terms and conditions of those agreements.  This is why a second agreement with Israel was  necessary and why those called to salvation after the advent of Christ and before  his second coming have a different  agreement. Those called  to salvation under the terms and conditions of these  new agreements can more easily obtain the  goal of salvation.

The  difficulty of gaining eternal life before and during  the first agreement with national Israel may also be the reason  that many  of those who did qualify will hold very high  positions  of authority in the Kingdom of God.  For example, King  David  will reign as king over all of Israel after the return of Christ.

God's Benefits

It  is very easy for us to see the benefits that  the  Israelites would  gain from the first agreement. But, what possible   benefit could  the  Creator  God and his Father gain  from  giving  these blessings? One of the benefits that they receive is the great pleasure from giving:

"Jesus said, Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure [delight] to give you the kingdom" (Lk.12:32 KJV).

God  the Father and Jesus Christ are loving and giving beings  who  gain pleasure from sharing what they have with  others. This is  by  no means  the only benefit they  will get from this  agreement.  The Father's  primary reason for having humanity created was  to  increase his spiritual family. He is doing this through the process of  converting the hearts and minds of physical people so that they will want to  live according to his laws and way of life. And eventually, he will transform  them into his eternal spirit sons.

CONTRACT REVIEW

The  first  condition  that God insisted on before  revealing anything  further  about the agreement that he  would  make  with Israel was an unconditional surrender to his will by the  Israelites. "If you will obey my voice and keep my  agreement,  then you  shall  be  a special treasure to  me  above all  people" (Ex.19:5).  This  is also the first condition  of  any  agreement that God has made with any people, in any age,  concerning the  granting of salvation.

Moses Speaks For God

Upon hearing the voice of God from Mount Sinai, the people became so frightened that they  asked Moses to speak to God and tell them  what  he  said.  From that time on, God revealed to Moses everything that would be in the  agreement with Israel.

Remember the only reason God spoke through Moses was that the people  were afraid  to listen to him directly  (Ex.20:19).  Also remember that God had already given the people the Ten Commandments  before he began to speak through Moses.  Therefore, the Ten Commandments are definitely a part of the agreement.

In  Exodus  chapters 20 and 21, Moses was on Mount  Sinai  with God;  then, in chapter 24 verse 3, Moses came down from  the  mountain. This is important to note,  because after Moses came down,  he  told the Israelites everything that God had  told  him (See Ex.chp.20-24:3); this included instructions to build an altar and to offer sacrifices. In chapters 21, 22, and 23,  God  gave the  civil laws (judgments) to Israel, which  included  the laws  pertaining  to servants, manslaughter, murder, kidnapping, theft,  property damage, witchcraft, slander, and land rest.   In chapter 25, God told Israel how they were to worship him.

"And  Moses came and told the people all the words of  the  Lord, and  all  the  judgments: and all the people  answered  with  one voice,  and said,  All the words which the Lord has said will  we do" (Ex.24:3 Para.).

The fact that Moses relayed God's  commandments,  statutes,  and judgments to the Israelites (Ex.chps.20-24) is also shown in the Book of  Hebrews:

"For  when Moses had spoken every precept to all the  people  according  to  the law, he took the blood of calves and  of  goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both  the book, and all the people" (Heb.9:19 KJV).

FORMAL RATIFICATION OF THE AGREEMENT

If a contract is important, it is normally written or recorded on something permanent so that there will be no question as to  what was agreed upon. Moses told  the  people everything that God had said to him; then, he wrote these things in a book:  

"And  Moses came and told the people all the words of  the  Lord, and  all  the  judgments: and all the people  answered  with  one voice,  and said, All the words which the Lord has said will  we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in  the morning, and built  an altar under the hill, and  twelve pillars,  according  to the twelve tribes of  Israel" (Ex.24:3-4 KJV).

After  recording the terms and conditions in a book,  Moses  prepared  an  altar as God had instructed (Ex.20:24-26;  24:4); then, he read the agreement to the people and the nation of Israel formally agreed to do every thing that God asked of  them:  

"All  that the Lord has spoken we will do. And Moses  returned the words of the people to the Lord" (Ex.19:8 KJV).

"And  Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the  people,  and said,  Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has  made with you concerning all these words" (Ex.24:8 Para.).

"When  Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law  to  all the  people,  he took the blood of calves, together  with  water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all  the  people. He said, 'This is the blood  of  the  covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.' In the same way, he  sprinkled  with the blood both the tabernacle and everything  used  in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly  everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood  there is no forgiveness" (Heb.9:19-22 NIV).

The formal ratification of the first  agreement between God and the nation of Israel was sealed with the blood  of an  animal. This ratification and sealing of the  agreement  with blood  is important to note because the second agreement was  also ratified and sealed with blood—the blood of the Creator God in human form. See Matt.26:26-28; 1.Cor.11:25; Heb.13:20.

It  is important to remember that the  benefits  of the  agreements and promises between God and the Patriarchs  are still in force. Even though a new agreement was made with national  Israel concerning their relationship and responsibilities  to God, the unconditional agreements and promises that God made  to the Patriarchs will still be honored by him.

Back Up The Mountain

"And the Lord said to Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there:  and I will give you tables of stone, and a law, and  commandments  which  I  have  written;  that  you  may teach  them" (Ex.24:12 Para.).

The  next few chapters of Exodus contain the instructions  that  Moses received in his first forty days on Mount Sinai. Exodus  chapters 25 through 27 give the instructions on how to build the tabernacle and  how to pay for it. Exodus chapters 28 and 29  have  the instructions  on  how  to sanctify Aaron and his  sons  for  the priesthood.

In  Exodus 32:15-30, Moses came down from the  mountain  carrying the  tables of stone that were written on by the very hand of God, and  to his  utter  dismay, he found the people worshiping  a golden  calf. Overcome  with anger, Moses broke the tables containing  the  Ten Commandments, and after strongly reprimanding the people,  Moses went  to God  to make an atonement for the people and to ask  him to have mercy upon them.

THE CREATOR KEEPS HIS WORD

God does not forget or break his word. While instructing Moses in the  law, God reminded Moses of the promises that he had made  to the Patriarchs:  

"And the Lord said to Moses, Depart, and go up hence, you and the people which you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land  which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob,  saying, To your seed will I give it" (Ex.33:1 KJV).

Exodus chapter 34 shows that  Moses went back up to Mount Sinai, and  God wrote the laws on tables of stone again:

"And the Lord said to Moses, Cut you two tables of stone like  to the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which you broke" (Ex.34:1 KJV).  

After  coming down from the mountain, Moses gathered  Israel  together and said, "These  are the words which the Lord has commanded,  that  you should do them" (Ex.35:1 KJV).

WAS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE FIRST AGREEMENT WITH ISRAEL?

Israel  had  agreed  to the Ten   Commandments  (Ex.chp.20),  the judgments  (Ex.chps.21-23), and the  statutes   (Ex.chp.23). Moreover, there  is no doubt what the agreement was and what was expected of  both parties. The Israelites were to obey  the  commandments, statutes,  and judgments, and God  would make  them  a  kingdom  of priests and be their benefactor and protector.

Many believe or have been taught that there was  something  wrong  with the first agreement that God made with national Israel.  But was  it a bad agreement? Was it poorly written and administered? Were the terms and conditions of the agreement impossible to fulfill?

A  major error being taught today is that before Jesus  Christ and the giving of the holy spirit, man could not obey the laws of God; however, this is not true.

Abel,  Enoch,  Noah, Abraham, Lot, King David,  and  many  others spoken  of in the scriptures were considered righteous  individuals, because they obeyed God and kept  his  commandments, statutes, judgments, and sacrificial laws.  The scriptures clearly show that, before the giving of the holy  spirit on  the  Feast of Pentecost, many were able to obey God. Notice what is said about two of these individuals:  

"There  was  in the days of Herod, the king of Judea,  a  certain priest  named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife  was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And  they were  both righteous before God, walking in all the  commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Lk.1:5-6 KJV).  

POINT OF LAW

An  important  point of law to understand  is that an  agreement is invalid if it is impossible  for either party to perform  the things agreed to. Would God make a contract that  he could  not  fulfill? Would he have made a  contract  with  Israel knowing  that   they  could not  fulfill  their  commitment?  The answer to these questions is no. God made  the  contract  with  Israel because he knew it was possible for  them  to fulfill their part.

The  agreements with both the Patriarchs and national Israel  were written  so  that both could become  and  remain  righteous before God and maintain a harmonious relationship with him.

Maintaining  a condition of righteousness before God would be  an impossibility without the sacrificial system, because without the sacrifices there would be no way to put human beings back in right-standing with God.  However,  if a person repented of sin and offered  the proper sacrifice prescribed under the law, a person would be  put back  in  right-standing with God. This is  another reason that   Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and  many others will participate in the first resurrection.

BREAKING THE AGREEMENT

We know from history that the nation of Israel as a whole  failed to keep their part of the agreement, so God canceled it:

"For  if  that first agreement had been   faultless,  then  there would have been no need to make a second one.  For finding  fault with  them  [i.e., the people], he said, Behold, the  days come, said the Lord, when I will make a new agreement with the house of Israel  and with the house of Judah: Not according to  the  first agreement   that I made with their ancestors in the day   when  I led them by the hand  out of Egypt; because they did not continue in  my agreement,  and I did not regard them,  said  the  Lord"  (Heb.8:7-9).

As a nation, Israel went through periods of obedience and disobedience.   God was extremely merciful to his chosen  people; he  blessed them for their obedience  and forgave them for  their disobedience. The problem was that Israel's periods of  disobedience far outweighed their periods of obedience. By  the time the prophet Jeremiah came to warn them, the  Israelites  had totally disregarded  the intent of the agreement they  had  with God and they had failed to fulfill their national commitment:  

"And  I saw, when for all the causes whereby  backsliding  Israel committed adultery I had put her away,  and given her  a bill  of divorce;  yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but  went and played  the harlot also.  And it came to  pass  through  the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks" (Jer.3:8-9 KJV).

Notice  that  God divorced the nation of  Israel  for  committing spiritual  adultery.  In Jeremiah chapter 5, the same  accusation is  leveled at the nation of Judah because of their  failure  to perform their part of the agreement; therefore, the first  agreement with national Israel was no longer workable.

Jeremiah 11:1-10 KJV

"The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Hear   you the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; And say to them, This says the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeys not the words of this covenant, Which I  commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them from out of the land of  Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice,  and  do them,  according to  all which I command you: so shall you be  my people, and I will be your God:  

"That  I may perform the oath which I have sworn to  your   fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey . . .. Hear you the words of this covenant, and do them. . ..Yet they obeyed  not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in  the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all  the words of this covenant,  which I commanded them  to  do; but they did them not.  

"And the Lord said to me, A conspiracy is found among the men  of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  They are   turned back  to  the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused  to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them:  the house  of Israel and the house of Judah have broken  my  covenant which I made with their fathers."

It is important to understand here that Israel not only broke the commandments  of God but also they refused to obey  the  sacrificial laws.   Therefore,  it is evident they disobeyed  the  whole law—the commandments,  statutes, judgments, and  the  sacrificial system.

A CURSE

"But  it shall come to pass, if you will not pay attention to   the voice of the Lord your God, to do all his commandments and  his statutes that I command you  this day; that  all  these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you" (Deut.28:15 Para.).

If national Israel refused to keep their agreement with God, they  would  not only miss out on these wonderful blessings  but also receive terrible curses instead. In Deuteronomy 30:15-19, the Creator sums up the choices he had given them:

"See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil;  In that I command you this day to love the Lord your  God,  to  walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes  and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and  the Lord your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it.  

"But  if  your heart turn away, so that you will  not  hear,  but shall  be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve  them;  I denounce  to you  this day, that you shall surely perish,  and that you  shall not prolong your days upon the land,  where  you pass over Jordan to go to possess it.  

"I  call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that  I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing:  therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live" (KJV).

It  was God's earnest desire that his chosen people would  choose life over death. But, history shows that this did not happen; therefore,  a unified nation of Israel under the care and  protection of God no longer exists.

By V. O. Jones and B.L. Cocherell, file b4w14