The events of Chapter 19 are significant because they mark a monumental change in God’s dealings with the world. Here Israel accepts the unique position as God’s Covenant People and His Kingdom. Exodus 19:5-6—
Now if you obey me fully [my voice] and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
I want to focus our attention this morning on the phrases MY COVENANT, A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS and A HOLY NATION, which may be reduced to two concepts: COVENANT and KINGDOM.
Two themes that intertwine frame all Scripture: THE COVENANT OF GOD and THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Failure to grasp GOD’S COVENANT PROGRAM and HIS KINGDOM PROGRAM is a failure to understand God’s plan for the human race. Let us begin by defining these two terms:
A COVENANT is a formal binding agreement defining relationships and responsibilities between two or more parties. Biblical covenants define the relationship between God and His people, and give binding expression to statements of His plans and purposes.
A KINGDOM is a ruler’s sphere of authority. Theologically, the universe can be seen as God’s kingdom, under His sovereign authority. Yet, the Scriptures predict a future kingdom that God will set up on earth.
The intertwined themes of GOD’S COVENANT and KINGDOM can be found throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. These two themes unify all of Scripture. Through Covenant and Kingdom, God reveals His sovereign authority. And through them God demonstrates His right to rule through various forms of a kingdom He establishes here on earth, beginning with the First Adam in Genesis and consummating in the reign of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, in the Book of Revelation.
The First Covenant of the Bible is the ADAMIC COVENANT found in Genesis 1:26—
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So on the sixth day of creation, the Triune God established His kingdom program for the earth with what we call the Adamic Covenant. The concept of dominion is inherent in the image and likeness of God given to man. God is sovereign; and man is to exercise delegated authority and thus reflect the authority that belongs to the Creator. A kingdom on the earth is to be established, one in which the God of heaven rules and demonstrates His right to rule. This purpose for man is reaffirmed in passages like Psalm 8:58—
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
Under the Adamic Covenant, God’s kingdom was to be administered in a state of righteousness. But Adam and Eve sinned and their were eyes opened, knowing good and evil, that being the conscience. Thus, each individual was personally responsible for subjection to God through conscience. Mankind failed as ruler over the works of God’s hands because sin utterly corrupted man’s conscience according to Genesis 6:5-8—
The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
The elimination of the human race with the exception of the eight people, who were in the ark, might seem to suggest that God had altered His original purpose for man as revealed at creation. But God was careful to affirm to Noah that His purpose for man to have dominion on the earth was unchanged. The right to rule was given to Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:1-2—
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands.
Thus, God starts His kingdom all over with Noah and his family by granting them the earth and rule over it. The responsibilities are defined in the NOAHIC COVENANT, with the rainbow as the sign of God’s unconditional promise never to destroy all life on earth by flood. Besides multiplying and filling the earth, man’s responsibility in the Noahic Covenant would be to administer God’s kingdom on earth through HUMAN GOVERNMENT. Now it became the responsibility of human government to curb lawlessness by punishing the evildoers.
Again, the human race rebelled against God. Genesis 11:4 records that the nature of this rebellion was against God’s Kingdom Program for man to rule over the earth as revealed in the Covenants to Adam and Noah—
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
At this point, God narrows His Covenant and Kingdom Program for the earth to one man, Abram, later called Abraham.
Any promise God gives must be appropriated by faith. Thus, God tested Abraham’s faith and attached certain conditions to the reception of these blessings. First, Abraham would have to be separated from his country, from his kindred, and from his father’s house. The land in which Abraham was dwelling was the center of the kingdom of darkness. So in Genesis 12:1-3, God invites Abraham to follow Him into a new relational experience—
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
The promises made to Abraham can be classified as personal, national and universal.
THE PERSONAL PROMISES are “I will bless you” and “I will make your name great.” Certainly, God has fulfilled this promise. Abraham’s name is revered by Jews, Moslems, Christians, and even unbelievers. The men of Babel wanted to make a name for themselves and failed; but Abraham trusted God and God gave him a great name.
THE NATIONAL PROMISE made to this childless man is “I will make you into a great nation.” Exodus 19 marks the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise.
THE UNIVERSAL PROMISES are “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.” Galatians 3:8 explains—
The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”
The national and universal promises have been fulfilled partially and await complete fulfillment at the end of This Present Age in the Day of the LORD.
Once Abraham arrived in the Land of Canaan, God made an additional promise to Him in Genesis 12:7—
The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”
This promise revolves around two significant words: OFFSPRING and LAND. OFFSPRING/SEED is a singular Hebrew noun. Galatians 3:16 states the significance of this singular SEED—
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds”, meaning many people, but “and to your seed”, meaning one person, who is Christ.
When God made this promise to Abraham, it was a continuation of the SEED promise that He gave to Satan in Genesis 3:15—
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
A curtain on the future is drawn back and a glimpse of the future SEED of Abraham is briefly allowed in Genesis 49:10—
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
850 years after Jacob gave this blessing, Saul, the first King of Israel, died, the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. All history is moving towards the Millennial Kingdom when THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH—the Son of David—will sit on His throne and THE OBEDIENCE OF NATIONS IS HIS.
Four more covenants are given under the umbrella of THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT, in which God expands the promises of LAND, NATION, SEED and BLESSING.
THE MOSAIC COVENANT (Exodus 19) promises Israel that out of all nations they will be God’s treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, a holy NATION. The Law (Exodus 20-Numbers 10) is given to accomplish this purpose.
THE PALESTINIAN COVENANT (Deuteronomy 28-30) promises Israel blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience once they are in the LAND. The Palestinian Covenant has a threefold condition for Israel: (1) love the LORD your God; (2) listen to His voice; and (3) hold fast to Him.
Yet, this covenant is unconditional because it is an enlargement of the Abrahamic Covenant, which is unconditional. This covenant has God’s guarantee that He will bring about the conversion necessary for its fulfillment in the end times after a series of banishments from the Land for unfaithfulness. Deuteronomy 30:4-6—
Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
This was God’s continuing principle by which He would deal with His people, as seen in His word to Solomon at the time of the dedication of the Temple in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14—
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
THE DAVIDIC COVENANT was given to King David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16—
When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring/seed to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.'”
Here God continues His promise of THE ONE SEED who will crush the head of Satan and rule the nations from the Land of Israel. He will be David’s SEED—THE SON OF DAVID—and He will have a dynasty, kingdom, temple, throne, and everlasting rule. The fulfillment of this covenant awaits Israel repentance and acceptance of the Messiah as King in the day of the LORD.
The Jews of Jesus’ day understood the Davidic Covenant to mean that the Messiah foretold by the prophets would be the descendant of David. The genealogies of Jesus, found in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, are significant because they establish Christ’s descent from David. But, the Jews blinded by unbelief failed to recognize their King.
One man stands in contrast to the nation. Blind Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside at Jericho begging when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Psalm 132:10-14 forewarned Israel of the danger of rejecting the Messiah—the Anointed One—who is the LORD Himself—
For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one. The LORD swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne—if your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons shall sit on your throne for ever and ever.” For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
Pilate left no doubt that Israel rejected the King—
There was a written notice above [Jesus on the Cross], which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS (Luke 23:38).
At the heart of God’s Covenants is His kingdom on earth. He will rule it as the Anointed One from Jerusalem. Although rejected, the Messiah (out of the loins of Judah and David) will one day sit on David’s historic throne. And the crucified King of the Jews has proved His regal rights by raising from the dead, a fact to which Peter and the disciples stood ready to bear witness on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:32-36—
God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “`The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”‘ “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Christ does not fulfill the Davidic Covenant by His present session at the right of the Father in heaven. He will fulfill the promise of His return and righteous reign on the earth during the Millennium, His yet future thousand-year reign on David’s throne. His ascension to the heavenly throne, however, guarantees His earthly throne.
When Christ is referred to as Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14) or as King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16), He is seen as the One who comes triumphantly to fulfill nothing less than the Davidic Covenant. These are not arbitrary titles. In order to have any meaning at all, they must refer to the covenant God made with David.
The Crucifixion of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost begin the fulfillment of the final covenant God has made under the umbrella of the Abrahamic Covenant. It is called the New Covenant.
THE NEW COVENANT promises are given by the LORD through three OT Prophets. First in Isaiah 59:20-21; second in Jeremiah 31:31-34; and third in Ezekiel 36:24-27—
For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Here connection between Pentecost A.D. 33, when God’s Spirit was given, and Pentecost 1446 B.C., when the Law was given, is made. The Law can be lived from the cleansed heart when one is moved by the Spirit of God.
Beginning with Exodus 19 and continuing to the Cross of Christ, God’s people were under the Mosaic Covenant. This covenant is called THE LAW OF MOSES, THE LAW, and sometimes THE LAW OF GOD. THE LAW has three parts:
1. THE MORAL LAW, which is the Ten Commandments
2. THE CEREMONIAL LAW, which is the sacrificial system and sabbaths
3. THE CIVIL LAW, which is the everyday laws that governed Israel
For the nation of Israel, the MORAL, CEREMONIAL and CIVIL LAWS are interwoven as three strands to make one cord. The Bible says that God gave the Law to Israel for at lest ten reasons:
1. To reveal His glory and holiness
2. To reveal or expose man’s sinfulness
3. To mark Israel as His chosen people and to separate them from other nations
4. To give Israel a standard for godly living so that they might inherit the land, enjoy its blessings and fellowship with God
5. To make provision for a redeemed people to worship God
6. To prepare Israel for the coming of Christ
7. To illustrate in type and ceremony the Person and work of Christ
8. To lead us to Christ
9. To unify the people of Israel into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation
10. To provide a test as to whether one was in the kingdom over which God rules
Exodus 19:5 sets forth the conditions that are necessary for the establishing the Kingdom of God on earth: OBEY MY VOICE and KEEP MY COVENANT, which is THE MOSAIC LAW.
In Exodus 19:6, we have the first occurrence of the word KINGDOM in the Bible, where the idea is directly associated with the rule of God. This is to be no ordinary kingdom where men will rule upon earth in their own right, but rather a kingdom for Yahweh. The main characteristic of a kingdom of priests is best seen in the words of its King—
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
When Jesus of Nazareth came, He announced, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near/at hand.” This theme of the coming of the Kingdom of God was central in His mission. His teaching was designed to show men how they might enter the Kingdom of God. His mighty works were intended to prove that the Kingdom of God had come upon them. His parables illustrated to His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God.
And when Jesus taught His followers to pray, at the heart of their petition were the words, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” On the eve of His death, Christ assured His disciples He would yet share with them the joy and fellowship of the Kingdom. And He promised that He would appear again on earth in glory to bring the blessedness of the Kingdom to those for whom it was prepared.
The various aspects of GOD’S KINGDOM often appear bewildering and complex. Yet clearly, with Exodus 19:7-8, God’s Kingdom on earth becomes a present reality for the Israelites as by faith they enter into its possibilities—
So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
At the same time, the Kingdom is a future realm to be entered. THE NATIONAL KINGDOM OF GOD is near/at hand in Exodus 19. Yet, because they fail to trust God, it will take another 400 years until Saul is chosen as Israel’s first king and 40 more years until the Davidic dynasty begins.
Because of Israel’s rejection of Christ the King, the National Kingdom of God on earth has been set aside in favor of THE CHURCH, the present form of the Kingdom of God on earth. This kingdom is that inner rule of the Spirit of God over the hearts of men who yield themselves to His will. Romans 14:17 says—
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The Kingdom of God is a present reality, and yet future in its blessing. It is an inner spiritual redemptive blessing, which can be experienced only by the way of new birth, and yet it will have to do with the government of the world. The kingdom is a realm into which men now enter through faith in Christ; yet, in-separately it is a realm into which they will enter tomorrow.
Even the Millennial Kingdom will have a present reality and a future aspect. It prefigures THE ETERNAL KINGDOM, which will begin when the Son hands over the Millennial Kingdom to the Father at the time the new heavens and earth are created. So 1 Corinthians 15:24 predicts—
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
The kingdom established here on earth, after it has run its appointed course, will issue into the eternal kingdom over which Christ will be appointed as eternal King according to 1 Corinthians 15:27-28.
Thus, the turning point in history is Israel’s pledge in Exodus 19:8, which marks the very beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth that will issue into the eternal kingdom. Deuteronomy 5:28-29 records the LORD’S evaluation of Israel’s pledge and His lament—
The LORD heard you when you spoke to me and the LORD said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children for ever!
Israel was not so inclined; so God gave the New Covenant in the Blood of Christ and sent the Holy Spirit so the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant would remain unconditional and all the peoples of earth would be blessed through the SEED of Abraham, David and the woman.
Because Israel failed to hear the voice of the LORD and keep His Covenant, they rejected the King. THE CHURCH now replaces Israel as the kingdom of God during this present age. Therefore, we read in 1 Peter 2:9-10—
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
As God called Abraham out of the darkness and into the wonderful light of His covenant promises, so He has called you to share them through Abraham’s Seed—the KING of kings and LORD of Lord’s—Christ Jesus.
Since you have entered into the Kingdom of God, it will be a glad day when you see the King, who waits to place a Crown of Life on your head. We should commit ourselves to the last words of “IS IT THE CROWNING DAY?”—
Faithful I’ll be today,
Glad day! Glad Day!
And I will freely tell
Why I should love Him so well
For He is my all today.
Glad day! Glad Day!