A covenant is an agreement or contract. The word comes from the Hebrew verb “to bind,” or “to fetter.” It is used as a treaty or alliance (Gen. 14:13; Ex. 23:32), an agreement (2 Sam. 3:12, 13, 21; Jer. 34:8), and of the marriage vow (Mal. 2:14).
The covenant between God and His chosen people was a promise that His people would obey His commands and become His witnesses to the world. “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7)
And on His part, God promised to bless His people and be their God if they obey. “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine” (Exodus 19:5).
While the books of the Bible were written by prophets under the inspiration of God, the Ten Commandments covenant is the only document on earth that was written by God. “He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God. …Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets” (Exodus 31:18; 32:16).
The Ten Commandments were placed inside the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:16). The ark itself, containing the Ten Commandments, therefore, became known as the “ark of the covenant” (Num. 1:50). The Ark was the only piece of furniture in the Most Holy Place in the Sanctuary (Exodus 25:10–22). Placed on top the Ark was the mercy seat (Exodus 25:17–22), where the presence of God dwelt.
Why did God give His people the Ten Commandments? God’s law serves as a mirror (James 1:23–25) that points out sin as a mirror points out flaws. By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, thou shalt not covet” (Romans 7:7). Thus, the law leads people to God for cleansing. People don’t keep the commandments to be saved but because they are saved through God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8,9).
The Bible tells us that “Happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). For it protects people from falsehood, theft, murder, adultery, and other sins that destroy life and happiness. And the Lord promises, “Keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you” (Proverbs 3:1, 2).
In His service,
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