Today we begin our examination of the Mosaic covenant, which is one of the most complex covenants found in Scripture. On account of this complexity, it will be helpful for us to keep in mind several things before we look at the details of the covenant that Moses mediated. First, the Mosaic covenant is part of the broader covenant of grace. It may include provisions that remind God’s people of the covenant of works, but we must not think that the Israelites who lived under the Mosaic covenant owed their salvation to works and not to grace. Secondly, we must also remember that the Lord’s revelation of redemption is progressively unfurled. Later covenants do not supersede previous revelation; rather, they help to reveal and expand the earlier covenants more fully. The Mosaic covenant further unfolds the Abrahamic covenant, both of these are unfolded by the Davidic covenant, and the new covenant displays the intent and purpose of these pacts most clearly of all.
Under the Mosaic covenant, God makes huge strides toward realizing the promises He made to Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3). A large number of families are constituted as a nation during the exodus from Egypt and brought to Canaan, which begins the first major fulfillment of God’s promise to the patriarch. The Lord is present among Israel in the tabernacle as He keeps His word to bless Israel. All the nations of the earth begin to find blessing as the Law is written and later proclaimed to the nations (Jonah 3).
There are four main elements of the Mosaic covenant: the exodus, the sealing of the old covenant, the giving of the Law, and the old covenant rituals. In particular, the exodus proves that the Mosaic covenant is rooted in the covenant of grace. For as we see in today’s passage, God is clear that nothing in the Israelites themselves moved Him to choose the nation and deliver it from Egypt. Instead, the Lord chose Israel simply out of His good pleasure and love, the same pleasure and love by which He swore oaths to the patriarchs (Deut. 7:6–8). Such is God’s electing grace at work.
Also, the Israelites were not required to obey the Law in order for the Lord to save them. As the story goes, God rescued His people from slavery before revealing the Law (Ex. 20:1–17). Even under the old covenant, salvation was wholly of the Lord long before any good works could be present.
The old covenant law testified to the perfect holiness God demands, and it also trained Israel to look for a Savior. It was not through keeping the Law that the ancient Israelites were commanded to seek salvation. As with us, their doing of good works as outlined in Scripture was to be the way in which they thanked God for saving them. We are to do good works, and the old covenant law can guide us in the kinds of works that please our Lord.