Covenant Life with God


The Old Testament features three major categories of God-breathed writings: (1) Law (torah), (2) Prophets (nevi’im), and (3) Psalms (ketuvim). Christ identified each of these when He declared that “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Lk 24:44). ‘Torah’ is often translated as ‘Law’ in English, but the original idea behind the word ‘Torah’ is much richer. It is derived from a Hebrew verbal root that means to throw or shoot (as an arrow).

The first five books of Scripture, referred to as the Pentateuch or Torah, prove to be foundational to the revelation of Yahweh—the Creator and Lord of the universe, and therefore foundational to all of Scripture, and therefore foundational to salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.  So rich is the theological content and historical background of mankind in these books, that every essential doctrine presented in Scripture finds its roots in the Pentateuch.

In the opening chapters of Genesis, the origin of man and all of creation is revealed.  The origin and consequence of sin is all too quickly observed by the third chapter.  After separation from God, by chapter six “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and … every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5).  God’s response to mankind is profound and reflective of His character, which is revealed more explicitly in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and especially Deuteronomy.  The remainder of Genesis contains the historical accounts of God’s dealings with man and in particular His election of Abraham and His covenant with him.  The Abrahamic covenant (Gen 15:18; 17:1-21) remains one of the most predominant themes throughout the rest of the Torah; even throughout the rest of the OT.  Genesis reveals God as the Almighty Creator, powerful, sovereign, and faithful to His word.

While Genesis reveals Yahweh not by name or overt description, but rather by His works, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and particularly Deuteronomy reveal Yahweh by name and explicit description in word.  The nature and character of Yahweh is revealed; He is revealed as is a holy God, who hates sin, whose wrath will kindle against all who rebel and despise His ways, which are righteous, just, and pure.  He is eternal, all-powerful, the one and only true God of heaven and earth, He is compassionate, gracious, and loving.  The depth and extent of the self-revelation of Yahweh, within the Torah, had perhaps one of the most profound impressions upon this reader.  It is made clear in Exodus that Yahweh chose written word as the means by which He would be revealed to future generations. (cf. Exodus 34:27).

Another significant impression that is unavoidable in this section of Scripture is God’s sovereign election of Israel as a priestly nation, through whom blessing was to come to all nations.  It is made abundantly clear, particularly from Exodus through Deuteronomy, that God set aside the nation of Israel to worship Him, and be a people of obedient faith, to walk in His ways and to serve Him, to trust and fear only Him, and to love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might. (Deut. 6:5).

Genesis provides the historical and theological background that culminates to the election and development of the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Exodus begins in the context of Israel in slavery and progresses toward the exile (Ex. 12), after which they migration to Sinai where the training and sanctification process begins, which is embodied within the remainder of Exodus.  Leviticus concentrates on the holiness of Yahweh as reflected in the many stipulations, regulations, and ordinances presented, all which take place at Sinai.  Numbers then begins with a census and departure from Sinai.  After murmuring and complaining and finally rebelling (cf. 14), Yahweh is provoked to anger and Israel is confined to wander in the wilderness for nearly 40 years.  Deuteronomy picks up right were Numbers left off, on the plains of Moab with the second generation since from the exile.  It is here that the most explicit and abundant revelation of Yahweh is recorded.  Through a series of exhortations by Moses, the call for Israel to fulfill their purpose is clear.  The impact of these exhortations are profound, and have made an impression upon this reader, the summary of which is captured in Deut. 10:12-13:  "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD's commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?”