Key Elements of the Sinai Covenant
The Sinai Covenant's total package of law, the entire five books written by Moses, was designed to cover in principle every major aspect of national life in ancient Israel.
It dealt with penalties for criminal acts, how judges should decide criminal cases, safeguards against poverty, conduct of the priesthood, the design and physical trappings of the tabernacle, ceremonial cleanliness, animal control, instruction on morality, tithing, sacred festivals, agriculture, health principles and many other aspects of life.
The breadth and exhaustive detail of its requirements reflected its orientation. It defined a system of governance for a nation whose citizens, except for a few selected leaders, did not have God's Spirit.
It was created for people whose hearts were spiritually hardened, whose minds did not perceive the full spiritual intent of God's teachings (Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:27; quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10). Though it instructed the people to draw near to God and serve Him faithfully, it held national and local leaders responsible for their obedience. For the good of all, it also prescribed specific punishments for those who refused to be obedient.
Israel's tabernacle-later its temple-was the center of its national worship of God. Exodus 25 to 31 describes in great detail how the tabernacle was designed and consecrated. The same care is given to describing the vestments and responsibilities of Aaron and other priests. Detailed instructions relating to the tabernacle's craftsmen, sacred articles and offerings are included (Exodus 35:4-36:1). How the tabernacle was to be constructed is carefully explained (Exodus 36:2-40:38).
The book of Leviticus highlights a variety of other ceremonial aspects of the Sinai Covenant. Especially detailed are the instructions concerning duties of the priesthood, daily animal sacrifices and more sacrifices on weekly Sabbaths and annual festivals. This covenant was rich in ceremonies and rituals that were characteristic of the temporary and mostly physically oriented relationship between ancient Israel and God (see Hebrews 8:1-5).
Yet its rituals also symbolized the greatly improved spiritual relationship the Messiah was to establish with all Israelites in the future. Included in that better relationship will be not only the Jews but also the restored descendants of the other tribes of Israel who-in the future-are prophesied to return to their homeland ( Jeremiah 23:5-8), as well as all other nations and all who are willing to submit to God and learn of His ways (Micah 4:1-4).
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