God made a covenant with the nation of Israel, the lineage of Abraham, and the chosen ethnic group in with which he desired that all the world would know who He was. He also saw that the nation of Israel was a small splinter from the larger monolith of mankind. And He knew that both the Israelites, and the world at large for that matter, would not be able to look past their sins to worship God for who He is. Mankind sought after the gifts of God, the blessing of God, the providence of God but not after God himself. In other words, man looked to perform rituals, sacrifices, liturgy and tradition to somehow woo God’s good side while at the same time trying to avoid as much sin, or at least getting caught in sin, in an attempt to avoid God’s bad side. The covenant of God with Israel may at first glance look like a works based contract. But it isn’t. What God is seeking is for the essential prophecy of the coming Messiah to be carried forward into a dark world as a torch leading a procession. And as God aligns the political, geographical, religious, linguistical and economical landscape, we see Him setting the stage for the arrival of the foretold Messiah as outlined in Genesis 3:15.
Now, as we looked at the introduction of the covenant between God and the Israelites, God will use this as a template for the arrival of the covenant between Himself via His son Jesus and all mankind. Let’s check it out.
The burden of sin is often times referred to as enslavement to sin. And because we don’t culturally have a public slavery mindset, we often times don’t immediately connect with this metaphor. But realize that habitual sin is a binding presence on the sinner’s heart and mind, if not also his/her body. It is very difficult to shake off, and often unless an intervention offered by loved ones or an outside person offers assistance to help free someone from their habitual sin. So, taking this into account, Jesus comes to help end and bind up the influence of sin on mankind. By being born of Mary, He was fully man. By being conceived of the Holy Spirit, He is fully God. And by living life as a full on man, and being tempted but never sinning, He defeated the influence of sin over humanity. So, as we see Jesus arrive on the scene and work towards His ultimate goal of the cross and resurrection, we see Him aligning with the defeat of the enslavement of sin, which aligns with the defeat of the enslavement of Israel in Egypt.
Then we see that Jesus was arrested for claiming to be the Son of God, the foretold Messiah. This means He had not sinned and been arrested, but because they rejected His divinity He was arrested. This aligns with the plagues. What I mean by that is that the Jews were taken from a successful foreign presence in the land of Egypt helping both the Egyptian economy and their own success, to being looked on as a burdensome and potentially usurping alien people group. They were being maligned for no real reason, except for being who they are. So just as Jesus was taken and beaten for being who He was, the Messiah, so also the Hebrews went from successful to slaves.
There is another lamb or goat mentioned in the Bible as well. This is the scapegoat which was a symbol of God removing from His and the Israelite’s presence the sins of the people. Read more about the scapegoat here.
The next parallel in God’s narrative of the new covenant is in the resurrection of Jesus. You see, as the nation of Israel approached the Red Sea, they were effectively trapped and were faced with certain death. Then God brought them through to the other side, and in so, the Hebrews emerged as a saved people. Jesus died on the cross. And then he was buried, its obvious that death has certainly come upon Him. Yet after 3 days, Jesus rises up from the dead and is saved from the physical death that his flesh would normally be subject to.
There is another example of the parallel as well in Jesus’s resurrection. There is a feast in Judaism called the Feast of First Fruits. Basically, in the spring, before harvest was ready for reaping later in the summer, the Jews were to take their first fruits, their first crops and bring them to the temple. This means that if its a bad year, this may be their only harvest. If its a good year, they would have much to harvest. But they would not know. And what they were saying by doing this is that we trust you God, and we believe that you are in control. And we seek for you to accept the first fruits of our harvest and bless us so we may have a bounty to reap at the right time. So, fast forward to Jesus’s resurrection. As we see in Matthew 27:50-53 reads:
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[e] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
What just happened? The mention of dead people coming out of their tombs?! And then Matthew just moves on to the preparation and burial of Jesus’s body. What?! Here is what I see, and many other scholars as well. The Feast of First Fruits was celebrated on the Sunday after Passover. We know Jesus was crucified on the Passover. He rose from the grave on the Feast of First Fruits. And what did Jesus’s resurrection bring? Life to the dead. Both physical and spiritual. And so the first fruits of His resurrection were these people mentioned in Matthew 27:52! Wow!
If this were not enough, there is also a tradition in Judaism where the people commemorate the arrival of the Hebrews at Mt. Sinai for the arrival of the covenant between God and Israel at 50 days after Passover. The Greek word for 50 days after Passover became the word Pentecost. Yep, you read that right. The arrival of the covenant with God, as discussed in the previous post, was ushered in through God’s presence in the fire and smoke up on Mt. Sinai. And we see that at Pentecost, God’s final piece of His new covenant with mankind, and restoration of the personal connection between God and man, was re-established with the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The account in Acts 2 describes the Holy Spirit coming down on them like tongues of fire…in the same manner and on the same basic timeline as the original covenant between God and Israel.