As was stated, in treating this subject, I arranged my material under the following four points: The Covenant of Sinai: (1) Its Character; (2) Its Promises; (3) Its Members; (4) Its Waxing Old and Vanishing Away and the Reasons Thereof. 

As we saw, the covenant of Sinai was as to its character a covenant of grace. For it was confirmed in blood, Ex. 24:8Heb. 9:18-20. That the covenant of Sinai was a covenant of grace and not a covenant of works with conditional threats and promises is also clear from its promise, so I brought out. It was the very promise that the Lord had given to the fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Ex. 3:7, 8, 6:6-8, and to Christ, Gal. 3:16 to wit, in the final instance, the cancellation of all the sins of the elect by the death of Christ and life in glory on the new earth. And from this it follows, must follow, that the covenant of Sinai included, could include, only the Israel according to the election. Reprobated Israelites entered Canaan, to be sure. But it was shown that reprobated Israel had no right to Canaan and that the holy land was not meant for them. 

Here is where I broke off. What follows is the rest of my address in which I was occupied with the question: Why, if the covenant of Sinai was the covenant of grace, did and could God make it old and thereby cause it to vanish away. And this He did, according to the inspired writer of the Hebrews. At verse 10 of his epistle the statement occurs, “In that he saith, A new covenant, he had made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Mention is here made of two covenants, the “first” and the “new.” That in the discourse of the inspired writer the “first” covenant is the covenant of Sinai is plain from Heb. 8:7, “For if the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt: . . .” Here our writer quotes Jeremiah 31:21-34

There is next this question: Why did God make the first covenant, the covenant of Sinai, to vanish away that it might be superseded by what the inspired writer calls the “New Covenant”? Because, such is his answer, the first covenant was not without fault, Heb. 8:7, “For if the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second,” that is, for the “new covenant.” What according to our writer the fault of the first covenant was, is clear especially from the following statement from his pen: “in which (that is, in the first tabernacle) were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not, make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience” (Heb. 9:10a); and further, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Heb. 10:1-4). And finally this statement, “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh” (Heb. 9:13). 

So then, according to our writer, the fact of the matter is this: God found fault with the covenant of Sinai: for the things of this covenant, definitely the sacrifices by blood, were but figures, shadows of good things to come, prophetic types of the Heavenly, the heavenly Christ. His kingdom and its heavenly things. This being true, the blood of these sacrifices could only purify the flesh; it could not beget for the worshipper the subjective assurance of forgiveness of sins the reason being that it was impossible that this blood the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins, cover, blot out sins in the sight of God. This blood, the suffering and death of the animal sacrifices, was but shadow, as were all the things of the covenant of Sinai. This explains God’s saying by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah, “Behold, the days come. when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt: because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more,” Heb. 8:12

The passage sets forth the excellencies of the “new” covenant in contradistinction to the faults of the covenant of Sinai. It is a covenant with the law in the minds and hearts of its members as put there by God. It is a covenant in which He is a God to all its member? and in which they are to Him a people. It is a covenant all the members of which know God perfectly and experience His pardoning grace. Such is the “new” covenant and such are its excellencies. And such being its excellencies, its members must be limited to the house of Israel according to the election of grade. This covenant—God’s covenant of grace grace—did not include the Israel according to reprobation. 

Now with this same Israel—the Israel according to the election—God made the covenant of Sinai. As was shown, it no more included the reprobated than did the “new” covenant. But that the excellencies of the “new” covenant were not those of the covenant of Sinai follows from the fact that God made it old so that it vanished away. “In that he saith, A new covenant he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13). 

It was not a covenant with the law in the hearts of the house of Israel, that is, the Lord did indeed put His law in their mind and write it in their hearts, He was their God and they His people, and they all knew him, did the members of the covenant of Sinai, and all experienced his pardoning grace, but not because they were in this covenant (of Sinai). And the reason? The blood of this covenant could not take away sin. Its tabernacle was but a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience, Heb. 9:8, 9. All were but shadows of heavenly things—all, tabernacle, priests, and sacrifices, Heb. 8:5. And accordingly the content of the promise of this covenant was but shadow. For what this promise held forth was deliverance from earthy bondage, the rest of an earthy Canaan, and access to a worldly sanctuary. 

As to the new covenant, all its things were the very realities foreshadowed by the things of the covenant of Sinai. Here the priest is Christ “being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us . . . And for this cause he is the mediator of the new covenant, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:11, 12, 14). 

The text here makes mention of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, the covenant of Sinai. The reference is to the transgressions not of the reprobated but of the true Israel. They did not abide in this covenant, but transgressed, the reason being that the blood of this covenant could not take away sin and that therefore the Lord could not put His law in their mind because of His having made with them this covenant. They did keep the first covenant in principle, which is equivalent to saying that, as was said, God did put His law in their mind but only because the new covenant and its promise pertained to them, thus only because the Christ of the new covenant to whom they belonged redeemed them from all their transgressions under the first covenant. 

So then, the first covenant, the covenant of Sinai, was but a shadow. It is correct to say that this covenant was but shadow, seeing that all the things that belonged to this covenant were but shadow and seeing that this covenant cannot be separated from the things that belonged to it but must be identified with these things. The covenant of Sinai and its things was a shadow of the covenant of grace and its realities. If so, the covenant of Sinai was itself a covenant of grace but as shadow. And therefore it could not possibly have been a covenant of works with conditional threats and promises. How could it have been a covenant of works, if it was a shadow of the true covenant of grace? Can a covenant of works be a shadow of a covenant of grace? How could the covenant of Sinai be a covenant of works, if it was a covenant of blood—the blood of a symbolic-typical vicarious atonement? 

As has already been said, in promising His people deliverance from the bondage of Egypt and the rest of an earthly Canaan the Lord was at once promising His people a heavenly salvation. This is so, as was pointed out, because these earthly things were prophetic types of the heavenly. Viewed from this angle, it is doubtless correct to say that the covenant of Sinai was the covenant of grace in symbolic, typical dress. It was the symbolic-typical dispensation of the covenant of grace. And, therefore it may be said that what the inspired writer of the Hebrews calls the “first” and the “new” covenant are one covenant essentially, so that what finally vanished away with the coming of Christ is not the covenant of Sinai but only its typical dress. 

That the saints of the old dispensation realized full well that their sacrifices by blood were but shadows is plain from David’s remarkable statement in Ps. 40 and quoted by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, “Sacrifice and offerings thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offerings and sin offerings hast thou not required. Then I said, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me . . .” 

But there enters in here still, another consideration. The discrepancy between the animal sacrifice and the offender whose sins it expiated, symbolically, was great. The animal is a non-moral and irrational creature whose suffering and dying could not possibly serve as a payment for sin. Expiation of sin required a being rational and moral, a being with awareness of God and with a moral sense, in other words, a being created in God’s image. It required moreover a sinless being, capable of pouring out his soul in death as activated by a pure love. Certainly, the Old Testament saints must have had understanding of this. They must have perceived, as enlightened by the Spirit of Christ, that their animal sacrifices could not and did not take away sin. 

But this raises a question. If they did have understanding of this, was then to their minds their sin to remain unatoned though forgiven them of God? This, to be sure, could not have been their imagining. Had God forgiven them and saved them with such a notion in their souls, He would have been denying Himself before their consciousness; He would have so been disgracing himself in their sight as to make it impossible for them to revere and love Him as God, righteous and holy, and thus He would have been defeating His very purpose in forgiving and saving them from His wrath—the purpose of revealing to His people in the face of Christ, the total of His virtues, in order that His people might glorify Him forever as the God of their salvation. And so their conviction was, must have been that their sins would surely and truly be atoned. But by whom?

The question is, pertinent, seeing that the Old Testament saints were well aware for reasons just stand that their sins were not being atoned by their animal sacrifices. But if not by their animal sacrifices, then by whom? They must have perceived, as instructed by Christ’s Spirit, that God in His own good time would provide them with a sacrificial victim like unto themselves in all things sin excepted. It means that their animal sacrifice stood out in their minds for what it was—a prophetic type of Christ. By the promise of Christ the believers lived, and as living by this promise they were saved. How it was laid upon the heart of Eve, the mother of all the (spiritually) living, what comfort she derived from it? is evident from her jubilant cry in the moment of the birth of Cain, her firstborn son. Said she, “I have received a man with Jehovah.” And of Abraham it is stated that he saw the day of Christ and rejoiced. The protevangel set Him forth as the “seed” that shall crush the’ head of the serpent. In the communications of God to Abraham He appears as the “seed” in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. In the Messianic psalms bf David His sufferings are described. It was of Christ that God was speaking, when He said to David, “And when thy days be fulfilled and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels? and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever . . .” In the prophetic discourse of Isaiah He stands before us as the servant of Jehovah whom God will wound for our transgressions, Isa. 53:5. According to this same prophet, He is the “child born unto us and the Son given us upon whose shoulders the government shall be, and whose name shall be called wonderful, counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the prince of peace” (Isa. 9:6). The Old Testament Scriptures throughout are interspersed with remarkably clear promises of the Christ. It cannot well be that a people—definitely the saints of the Old Dispensation—prepared by the Lord to receive and to hold such promises and to live by them, were grounding their salvation on the suffering and dying of an animal as failing to realize that what they took to be reality was but a shadow. 

Essentially the promise of Christ and of the salvation that God prepared for His people through Him belonged also to the covenant of Sinai. Essentially and in the final analysis it was upon this promise that also the covenant of Sinai was established. I sayessentially. For let us consider once more that in saying to His people, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” and by implication, “I will enter with thee into my rest, the rest of the earthy Canaan,” the Lord was at once promising His people a heavenly salvation. True, the law entered in, but it did not disannul the covenant that it should make the promise of non-effect (Gal. 3:17). As was said, this is so, because the earthy here is prophetic type of the heavenly. Rightly considered, the law formed no part of the covenant of Sinai, but it was added to it and imposed upon it and its promises. And “law” I now take in the sense in which Paul takes “law,” namely in the sense of a master vested with the right to say to man, “Ye shall keep my statutes and my judgments: which, if a man do, he shall live by them” (Lev. 17:5). And “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Deut. 27:26) This is what the apostle understands by law. Let us quote him. “And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live by them” (Gal. 3:12). This speech was not directed to the people of Israel at Sinai until after the Lord had clones making His covenant with them and not until after this covenant had been confirmed by the blood of the animal sacrifice. It was through His directing to His people this speech that the Lord brought in the law. This speech was not directed to Abraham. Nowhere in the New Testament Scriptures is this speech directed to the New Testament church. And with reason. By fulfilling all its requirements, Christ has delivered His people from the law, so that it cannot talk to them in this way anymore. But the believers do still have to do with the law as the commandments of Christ written by him in their hearts. Thus with the law as a rule of faith and as an instrument by which God brings His people under conviction of sin. And that too, was the purpose of the entering in of the law at Sinai; its purpose was to drive by its curses God’s people into the arms of Christ, foreshadowed by the symbolical-typical things of the covenant of Sinai.