16 Ratified, Broken, and Renewed
by Hubert F. Sturge, www.everlastingcovenant.com , December 2013
And the Lord said unto Moses,
Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land
of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. Exodus 32:7
The promises of
the people, without the response of faith, made up the historical old
covenant. Forty-six days after ratification, the people took part in a
rebellious, heathen festival at the base of Sinai. They broke the law of
God and the covenant they had just ratified. A large part of the people
took part in this festival, though most repented in shame when Moses
came down from the mount. Moses called the tribe of Levi,
who did not
take part in the festival, to execute judgment on those who persisted in
rebellion. Three thousand fell that day. The next day a plague broke out
among the people.
Without the favor of God or an effective
covenant, the whole enterprise of going to the Promised Land was in
doubt.What God Intended
The everlasting covenant, is a
term used for the covenant of redemption, a covenant of what God would
do to restore humans to His image. It is renamed the new covenant in
Jeremiah because Israel failed to understand it when it was given to
them at Sinai. It is in this sense that God gave the new covenant to
Adam and Eve and to Abraham. In each case, it was received by faith. The
covenant given to Adam and Eve was for the whole human race. The
covenant with Abraham was to go to his seed after him. This included
Isaac and Jacob. It also included Moses at the burning bush, the elders
of Israel when Moses and Aaron returned to Egypt, and Israel at Sinai.
The covenant given by God at Sinai was the Abrahamic covenant, with
promises that were to extend throughout Jewish, and later, church
The Abrahamic covenant, the foundation of the new
covenant, was ratified or confirmed by the sacrifice of Jesus on the
cross. Then Jesus became the mediator of the new covenant, which He
continued for the Christian church. On Mount Sinai, God demonstrated His
majesty, holiness, power, and grace by which He fulfills the promises
At Sinai the people needed to fall on their faces
and believe that God would do what He said. Instead, they repeated their
human promises. The covenant of human promises was “another covenant”
ratified by the blood of animals.1Ratified and Then Broken
After the ratification ceremony, God called Moses and Joshua to meet
with Him in the mountain. While waiting on the Lord for six days, they
had time to confess all sin in their lives. On the seventh day, God
called Moses into the cloud. There he stayed for forty days, during
which time he neither ate nor drank. God gave Moses the ten-commandment
law, which God wrote on stone with His own finger. He also gave Moses
instructions for the priesthood and for building the sanctuary (Exod.
24:12-31:18). Abruptly, God announced that the people had corrupted
After forty-six days, the people in the camp imagined
that something had happened to Moses. They approached Aaron and insisted
that he make them a golden calf to represent the only god they knew
Before long, there was a rebellious heathen festival at
the base of the mountain. Thinking they would be returning to Egypt, the
people chose the security of slavery over the freedom and hope of going
to the Promised Land (Exod. 14:11, 12; 17:3; 32:23; Num. 14:4). It
seemed the easy way. They forgot all that God had done for them.
As Moses and Joshua came near the camp, they realized what was going on.
In anger, Moses threw the tables of stone onto the rocks and broke them
to pieces, just as the people had broken their covenant of human
promises. The covenant the people ratified lasted just forty-six days.
It was faulty only because the people failed to accept God’s gift of
grace by faith.
Ever since the sacrifice of Cain, human beings
have tried to earn their salvation (Gen. 4:3, 5). Animal sacrifices and
ceremonies in themselves could not forgive sin. Only in looking forward
to Jesus’ true sacrifice on the cross were animal sacrifices effectual
Some people now, as well as in the days of Jesus,
believe the ceremonial law was a part of the old covenant. However, in
the old covenant, the people promised obedience but did not ask for
God’s grace (Exod. 16:6; 19:8; 24:3, 7; Deut. 5:27). The ceremonial law
illustrated grace and provided pardon through animal sacrifices,
pointed forward to the promised Redeemer. It was an illustration of the
Abrahamic or new covenant. From beginning to end, the ceremonial law was
an instrument of grace! The provisions of the new covenant continue
today through the priesthood of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary.
Intercession by Moses
The heathen festival at Sinai was a
calamity. Because of the people’s rebellion, Moses melted down the
golden calf and caused the people to drink it. The Levites slew 3,000
rebellious Israelites, including all the ringleaders of the rebellion.
God plagued the people. He would have abandoned the whole enterprise
except for the intercession of Moses.
Moses, with desperate
faith, interceded with God for another forty-six days to restore the
covenant. Initially, God offered to destroy Israel and make of Moses a
powerful nation. Though accepting his role as a messenger of God to the
people (Exod. 32:10-14), Moses realized that he could be nothing more.
God then directed that an angel go with them to the Promised Land. Moses
insisted that God personally go with them on their journey and lead
them. He talked with God “face to face” but did not see His person. As
he got to know God better, he finally asked, “I beseech thee, show me
thy glory” (Exod. 33:18).
God granted his request. He put Moses
in a cleft in the rock, covered him with His hand, and passed by,
allowing Moses to see His back as He moved into the distance (Exod.
33:22, 23). As He passed, He proclaimed His name and His attributes:
And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The
Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness
and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and
transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty;
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the
children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. (Exod.
Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you.
Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation
in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the
work that I, the Lord, will do for you.’” (Exod. 34:10, NIV)
heard Moses’ intercessions and promised
His presence as Israel journeyed
to the Promised Land (Exod. 33:14). The reason God answered Moses’
prayer is useful to us in our prayers. “The Lord said unto Moses, I will
do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in
my sight, and I know thee by name” (Exod. 33:17).The Covenant
More than anything else, Moses desired the presence of
God as the people traveled to the Promised Land. As God passed by, Moses
saw that the glory of God is neither His power, His majesty, nor His
consuming fire. His glory is in His character, and this He proclaimed as
He passed by Moses. His character includes “keeping mercy for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exod. 34:7). Moses took
this blessing from God as a reason to ask one more thing-the thing he
desired most for the children of Israel.
And he said, If now I
have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go
among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and
our sin, and take us for thine inheritance. And he said, Behold, I make
a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not
been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among
which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible
thing that I will do with thee. Observe thou that which I command thee
this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the
Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the
Jebusite. (Exod. 34:9-11)
Moses was permitted to enter the very
presence of God (Exod. 33:21-23). It was an experience the people had
refused on Mount Sinai. God did not renew the “old” covenant of human
promises. He did much better; He brought the people back into the
Abrahamic covenant. He would go with them and give them the Promised
Land. He would do “marvels” among His people, taking them as His
“peculiar treasure” and making them into a “kingdom of priests and an
holy nation,” which would be an example to the heathen nations around
them. He pardoned sins through the blood of the sacrificial lamb. The
Messiah would come through the seed of Abraham. Jesus Christ confirmed
this covenant at Calvary.
The people joyfully responded with
sacrifices. They brought so much gold and other valuable materials to
build the sanctuary that they had to be stopped. If people today would
respond in a similar fashion, just think what the churches could do in
They then built the sanctuary, following
detailed instructions from God. The ceremonial law was to become their
pattern for worship and an illustration of the covenant. The sacrifices
pointed forward to the Messiah who would pardon sin through His death on
“Another compact-called in
Scripture the “˜old’ covenant-was formed between God and Israel at
Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice.”|” (Ellen G.
White, Patriarchs and Prophets [Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing
Association, 2005], p. 371). Why was another covenant formed at Sinai
(Exod. 24:3-8) if the “everlasting covenant”-God’s “My Covenant” (Gen.
17:7, 9, 10, 13, 19, 21)-was already in effect? “In their bondage the
people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the
principles of the Abrahamic covenant. In delivering them from Egypt, God
sought to reveal to them His power and His mercy, that they might be led
to love and trust Him.”|” (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets
[Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2005], p. 371).
It is possible that the golden calf was an image of the goddess
Hathor, “Hathor is an ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the
principles of love, beauty, music, dance, motherhood and joy.”|” Hathor
was “worshipped in Canaan in the eleventh century BC, which at that time
was ruled by Egypt.”| The Sinai Tablets show that the Hebrew workers in
the mines of Sinai about 1500 BC worshipped Hathor, whom they identified
with the goddess Astarte” (“Hathor,” article at
http://www.crystalinks.com/hathor.html, accessed 3/23/13).