1. A MONUMENTAL COVENANT
a. When and where was the old covenant established? Exodus 19:1, 2.
“Soon after the encampment at Sinai, Moses was called up into the mountain to meet with God. Alone he climbed the steep and rugged path, and drew near to the cloud that marked the place of Jehovah’s presence. Israel was now to be taken into a close and peculiar relation to the Most High—to be incorporated as a church and a nation under the government of God.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 303.
b. What was the condition of the covenant at Sinai, and why is this principle important? Exodus 19:3–6. How did the people respond? Exodus 19:8.
“Obedience was the only condition upon which ancient Israel was to receive the fulfillment of the promises which made them the highly favored people of God; and obedience to that law will bring as great blessings to individuals and nations now as it would have brought to the Hebrews.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 218.
“Moses returned to the camp, and having summoned the elders of Israel, he repeated to them the divine message. Their answer was, ‘All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.’ Thus they entered into a solemn covenant with God, pledging themselves to accept Him as their ruler, by which they became, in a special sense, the subjects of His authority.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 303.
2. ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE
a. In what did the Israelites put their confidence when making their promise to obey God’s law? Romans 10:1–3.
“The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, ‘All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.’ Exodus 24:7.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 371, 372.
b. When was the same mistake made by the Jewish people in the time of Christ? Matthew 5:20; Romans 9:31, 32.
“While the law is holy, the Jews could not attain righteousness by their own efforts to keep the law. The disciples of Christ must obtain righteousness of a different character from that of the Pharisees, if they would enter the kingdom of heaven. God offered them, in His Son, the perfect righteousness of the law. If they would open their hearts fully to receive Christ, then the very life of God, His love, would dwell in them, transforming them into His own likeness; and thus through God’s free gift they would possess the righteousness which the law requires. But the Pharisees rejected Christ; ‘being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness’ (Romans 10:3), they would not submit themselves unto the righteousness of God.”—Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 54, 55.
c. What is written about our own righteousness? Isaiah 64:6.
“[Isaiah 64:6 quoted.] Everything that we of ourselves can do is defiled by sin. But the Son of God ‘was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin.’ ”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 311.
“Unless the Holy Spirit works upon the human heart, at every step we shall stumble and fall. Man’s efforts alone are nothing but worthlessness; but cooperation with Christ means a victory.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 381.
“When the light from Christ shines into our souls, we shall see how impure we are; we shall discern the selfishness of motive, the enmity against God, that has defiled every act of life. Then we shall know that our own righteousness is indeed as filthy rags, and that the blood of Christ alone can cleanse us from the defilement of sin, and renew our hearts in His own likeness.”—Steps to Christ, pp. 28, 29.
3. THE PURPOSE OF THE OLD COVENANT
a. Since the covenant of grace was sufficient for salvation, why was another covenant formed at Sinai? Galatians 3:19; Psalm 119:18; Revelation 3:17, 18.
“If the Abrahamic covenant contained the promise of redemption, why was another covenant formed at Sinai? In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant. In delivering them from Egypt, God sought to reveal to them His power and His mercy, that they might be led to love and trust Him. He brought them down to the Red Sea—where, pursued by the Egyptians, escape seemed impossible—that they might realize their utter helplessness, their need of divine aid; and then He wrought deliverance for them. Thus they were filled with love and gratitude to God and with confidence in His power to help them. He had bound them to Himself as their deliverer from temporal bondage.
“But there was a still greater truth to be impressed upon their minds. Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God’s law, and their need of a Saviour. All this they must be taught.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 371.
b. What happened only a few weeks after the Israelites promised to keep God’s law? Exodus 32:1–6. In whom was the fault found under the covenant made at Sinai? Hebrews 8:8.
“In utter discouragement and wrath because of their great sin, he [Moses] threw down the tables of stone by divine direction purposely to break them in the sight of the people, and thus signify that they had broken the covenant so recently made with God.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 1, p. 1109.
“[The Israelites] had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 372.
4. PETER’S “old covenant” EXPERIENCE
a. Before going to Gethsemane, what did Peter promise to Jesus? Luke 22:33.
b. What was the answer of Christ to Peter? Luke 22:34.
“In his early discipleship Peter thought himself strong. Like the Pharisee, in his own estimation he was ‘not as other men are.’ When Christ on the eve of His betrayal forewarned His disciples, ‘All ye shall be offended because of Me this night,’ Peter confidently declared, ‘Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.’ Mark 14:27, 29. Peter did not know his own danger. Self-confidence misled him. He thought himself able to withstand temptation.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 152.
c. Soon afterwards, how did Peter behave when asked about his relationship to Jesus? Matthew 26:69–74.
d. How did Jesus respond when Peter denied Him? Luke 22:61, 62.
“When the crowing of the cock reminded him of the words of Christ, surprised and shocked at what he had just done he turned and looked at his Master. At that moment Christ looked at Peter, and beneath that grieved look, in which compassion and love for him were blended, Peter understood himself. He went out and wept bitterly. That look of Christ’s broke his heart. Peter had come to the turning point, and bitterly did he repent his sin. He was like the publican in his contrition and repentance, and like the publican he found mercy. The look of Christ assured him of pardon.”—Ibid., pp. 152–154.
“It was in sleeping when Jesus bade him watch and pray that Peter had prepared the way for his great sin. All the disciples, by sleeping in that critical hour, sustained a great loss. Christ knew the fiery ordeal through which they were to pass. He knew how Satan would work to paralyze their senses that they might be unready for the trial. Therefore it was that He gave them warning. Had those hours in the garden been spent in watching and prayer, Peter would not have been left to depend upon his own feeble strength. He would not have denied his Lord. Had the disciples watched with Christ in His agony, they would have been prepared to behold His suffering upon the cross. They would have understood in some degree the nature of His overpowering anguish. They would have been able to recall His words that foretold His sufferings, His death, and His resurrection.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 713.
5. WITHOUT CHRIST, NOTHING CAN BE DONE
a. How useless is our battle against sin by ourselves? Romans 7:14, 15, 18–25; Hebrews 8:7.
“The spirit of bondage is engendered by seeking to live in accordance with legal religion, through striving to fulfill the claims of the law in our own strength. There is hope for us only as we come under the Abrahamic covenant, which is the covenant of grace by faith in Christ Jesus. The gospel preached to Abraham, through which he had hope, was the same gospel that is preached to us today, through which we have hope. Abraham looked unto Jesus, who is also the Author and the Finisher of our faith.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1077.
b. What did Christ say about our efforts without Him? John 15:5.
“The life of the vine becomes the life of the branch. So the soul dead in trespasses and sins receives life through connection with Christ. By faith in Him as a personal Saviour the union is formed. The sinner unites his weakness to Christ’s strength, his emptiness to Christ’s fullness, his frailty to Christ’s enduring might. Then he has the mind of Christ. The humanity of Christ has touched our humanity, and our humanity has touched divinity. Thus through the agency of the Holy Spirit man becomes a partaker of the divine nature. He is accepted in the Beloved.
“This union with Christ, once formed, must be maintained. [John 15:5 quoted.] This is no casual touch, no off-and-on connection. The branch becomes a part of the living vine. The communication of life, strength, and fruitfulness from the root to the branches is unobstructed and constant. Separated from the vine, the branch cannot live. No more, said Jesus, can you live apart from Me. The life you have received from Me can be preserved only by continual communion. Without Me you cannot overcome one sin, or resist one temptation.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 676.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Consider the positive and negative aspects of Israel’s pledge at Sinai.
2. What warnings should we take from the frailty of Israel?
3. How can God make the best of our own mistakes and failures?
4. What should we always remember about Christ’s attitude when Peter fell?
5. Why does Jesus compare Himself to a vine?