Friday, April 30, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 7

Abrahamic Covenant

God’s covenant with Abraham (no longer Abram) in Genesis 17, a realization of an expectation grounded in Genesis 12:1-7, announced that Abraham would be the father of many nations who God would, like Abraham, bless by an extension of land and fruitfulness in posterity to all ends of the earth (Genesis 18:18, cf. Galatians 3:8). This covenant exemplifies a continually progressive revelation of a covenant of grace, for God no longer merely commanded man to follow the dominion mandate; now, God has declared that He will see to it that man achieves the goal.

In fact, in Genesis 12:7, Abram reacted to the first patriarchal theophany by erecting an altar – a place of meeting with God (e.g. Exodus 20:24) and priestly sacrifice (Noah, Cain, and Abel, Noah; cf. Genesis 8:20, Hebrews 11:4) – testifying to the hope of a return to Edenic intimacy between God and man as well as the importance of spreading God’s presence, the goal of the dominion mandate, post-Fall. That Abraham (e.g. Genesis 12:8) and his descendants (Isaac, Jacob, etc.) continued to build altars and that they did so in the midst of trees (e.g. 12:6, 13:18) on eastern mountaintops (e.g. 12:8, 22:9-14) plainly strengthens the protological ties. Coinciding with this Edenic recollection, Geerhardus Vos similarly noticed that Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, “…was afterwards the scene of the highest permanent theophany of the Old Testament (i.e. the temple) and therefore typical of the final consummate state of the theocracy” (Eschatology of the Old Testament).

Abraham’s actions remind one that while God’s promise to Abraham wasn’t obligated, He did expect that Abraham would respond to it by obeying His precepts (17:2), including the application of the covenant sign, circumcision, to himself and his offspring (17:9-14). Circumcision, like all covenant signs, signified divine activity and grace to which recipients were called to respond in faith, here on pain of excommunication. There is a sense in which the Abrahamic covenant was bilateral, then, but that God stated as matter of fact that Abraham would inherit the aforementioned promises is an indication of the efficacy of God’s grace upon man’s will (Genesis 15:18, cf. Hebrews 6:13-19).

There are further statements in made in the context of the Abrahamic covenant which are definitely connected with Genesis 1-2 and the new covenant. Abraham was essentially treated as a king (17:6), the role of Adam (intended) and Christ (realized) over creation as covenant heads. Next, in Genesis 12:3, God tells Abram that men will be blessed or cursed depending upon whether or not they bless or curse him, as is the case with Jesus (John 3:18). Yet another correspondence is the bloodiness of circumcision typified in Christ’s coming sacrificial death which, since He is now risen and reigns, was teleologically fulfilled and thusly replaced by baptism, an analogous sign in the covenant of grace (Colossians 2:11-15); also, the significancy of both of these signs is the regenerative work of the Spirit in which the elect individual is made a new creature in the image of Christ. This presages Christ work in fulfilling the dominion mandate, which Fesko addresses in his next chapter, but it also bespeaks of a link Paul makes between protology, eschatology, and God as omnipotent Creator: the God who is able to create ex nihilo by fiat is able to similarly create a father of many nations (Romans 4:17) and create new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26-27) in His people to effect the fulfillment the dominion mandate.

Mosaic Covenant

Briefly reviewing what elements of the Mosaic covenant have already been anticipated: the construction of the cosmic tabernacle in Genesis 1-2 parallels the construction of the tabernacle, temple decor and priestly functions parallel Adam’s intended work within Eden, and the structures of the Adamic and Mosaic covenants are analogous. Also, the Mosaic covenant is rooted in the Abrahamic (Exodus 2:24, 3:6, cf. Genesis 15:13-14), and that the context of this groundwork also mention that God appeared to Abraham and his posterity as well as Moses (Gen 17:1, 26:2, 35:9, cf. Exodus 3:2, 16) shows the special nature of theophanies to patriarchs.

The Mosaic covenant itself is fairly straight-forward. It was bilateral except insofar as God determined the terms (Exodus 19:5). It was given to Moses and Israel soon after their deliverance from Egypt (19:1), and detailed explanation of its stipulations, blessings, curses, &c. can be found in chapters 19-31. More important for the purposes of Fesko’s book is to note that content of the covenant as well as its structure and bilaterality is similar to the covenant of works: “you shall not [eat/murder, steal, &c.]” (Genesis 2:17, Exodus 20:13-17); Leviticus 26:6-12 is a lengthened echo of the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28; the blessings and curses of each covenant are also analogous (Genesis 1:28, 2:15-17, Deuteronomy 7:12-13, 8:19).

Further protological types are apparent when one considers the nature of Israel and its promised land (Isaiah 2:2-5). Israel, like Adam, is called God’s son (Exodus 4:22, Luke 3:38). It was a priestly kingdom (Exodus 19:6), an apt description of Adam’s domain and that of believers in Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Canaan itself recalls one to Edenic luxury; it was a land of milk and honey (Exodus 33:1-3, Numbers 13:27, e.g. Ezekiel 47:12). Given the nature of these patterns, it is not surprising to find that the goals of the Mosaic covenant are similar to those of the Adamic covenant: each purports to extend God’s presence to all the ends of the earth (Genesis 1:28, Isaiah 49:6).

The context of the covenant also marks its ties to Genesis 1-3. The [re]creation of Israel out of the Egyptian slavery is, like the Noahic deluge, a type of new creation which finds its antitype in the regeneration of the elect, discussed next chapter. The avian imagery (Exodus 13:21-22, 40:34-38, Deuteronomy 32:10-11, Haggai 2:5), the Holy Spirit’s witness to the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 31:3) in conjunction that the Hebraic phrase for “spirit of God” is always used in the context of tabernacle construction – unless Genesis 1:2 be the exception, which rather strengthens the typological reference to creation as a cosmological tabernacle in which Eden was the holy of holies – the baptism of Israel (1 Corinthians 10:2), that deliverance typifies God establishing His creation and defeating chaos (Isaiah 51:9, Psalm 89:10), the introduction of Yahweh as Elohim who brings light from darkness (e.g. Exodus 13:21), divides the waters (e.g. 14:21), draws up dry land (e.g. 14:29), and commands observance of the Sabbath (Heb 4:3-10)... if we add to these protologically relevant observations that Israel is said to be the son of God and that goal of God’s covenant with them is, in essentials, the same, the Mosaic covenant coheres remarkably coheres with the Adamic.

All elements were in place, then, for a repetition of the commands of the Adamic covenant, even though it was not a live possibility that Israel could fulfill it. Like the command to Noah in Genesis 9:1-7, Israel disobeyed and were, like Adam, ejected from their respective paradise. Hence, one should rather view the Mosaic covenant as a republication of the covenant of works insofar as God’s law – “…summarily comprehended in the 10 Commandments” (WCF Shorter Catechism) – is still the set standard which all men must meet in order to be righteous. This standard in the covenant of grace is never changed; the means by which one attains it, however, is, and so in another sense entirely the Mosaic covenant can be said to be an administration of this covenant of grace, especially since the sign of the covenant was the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13).

The Sabbath, the eschatological sign of the covenant (Exodus 31:13), is obviously significant; moreover, since we’ve seen that the Mosaic and Adamic covenants are so similar, it does validate the earlier argument that upon Adam’s completion of his probation, he would have rested from his analogous-creation-extension work as did the archetypal Creator, God. Exodus 31:13 furthermore indicates that the post-Fall Sabbath takes on a soteric function it couldn’t have in the covenant of works: i.e. typifying the completion of salvation by grace alone. As soon as God accomplishes the goal of conforming His elect to His own image (remember that Christology defines anthropology) and thus, in effect, completing the new creation, He and they will rest (Exodus 31:17); the sign of the covenant will pass into reality. The purpose of the Sabbath, then, was to invoke the believer’s reflection on the purposes of God’s work for them and the over-arching goals He had for them. It’s also worth noting that the reproduction of the Sabbatical command at the end of the completion of tabernacles (Exodus 31:12, 35:1-2) as well as at Sinai (20:8-11) indicates a recurring theme between creation, temple construction, and rest. Almost unbelievably, Fesko enters into even more specifics with regard to the Sabbath in last chapter of his book, in which he shows how it functions as the bridge between protology and eschatology.

Davidic Covenant

God’s covenant with David, found in 2 Samuel 7:8-17 (cf. 2 Chronicles 13:5), is both unilateral and signified by salt, which is a feature associated with perpetuity (e.g. Numbers 18:19) and designed to emphasize the irrevocability of God’s oath. As God tells Nathan, His promises – which here consist of rest for His people evermore from all enemies, the establishment of an eternal kingdom, and the blessing of David’s seed who was to build that kingdom – stem from the sovereignty of Him who was able to make David, a shepherd, to be the king of His people; the parallel to Christ as Shepherd and King hardly needs further explanation, but analyzing how these promises relate to protology and eschatology should summarize the high points of Old Testament Christological precursors so that Christ’s work itself can in turn be examined.

The seed motif found in the protoevangelium and Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are all promises by God borne out in the immediate offspring of each parents’ child as typification of the true fulfillment by God’s own Son, Jesus, in whom all may find eternal rest (John 5:24). Quick examples: Abel’s obedience prompted Cain, his brother, to murder him, just as the innocent Christ’s blood-brethren would murder Him (Genesis 3:15, 4:1-8, Acts 2:22-23, cf. Hebrews 12:24). Isaac, the son of promise, was nearly sacrificed by his father just as Christ was by the Father (Genesis 22, Romans 8:32, cf. Galatians 3:16).

Solomon’s work too is closely tied to Christ’s work: Solomon was to build the house of the Lord – God’s place of dwelling in Israel’s future temple – which would bring glory to God. This temple, which David began to construct, was built on Mount Moriah, where David had experienced a theophany (2 Chronicles 3:1) at which he built an altar (1 Chronicles 21:26). The protological pertinence of mountain, theophany, and altar imagery has already been covered thoroughly. The specifications of the temple are found in 2 Chronicles 3-5 and include the precious metals, cherubim, and other Edenic allusions. Christ has also built His Father’s house by securing the salvation of believers (Hebrews 3:1-6; cf. Hebrews 8-10) – who are themselves temples (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) – and, as importantly, He has brought maximum glory to God (Romans 9, Ephesians 1, 3). Further ecclesiological and eschatological illustrations will be noted in Fesko’s next chapter. Here, it suffices to understand that the Davidic covenant obviously has more protological roots in addition to the covenant of works.

The temple-extension has also been shown to be one aspect of fulfilling the dominion mandate. While this is addressed in the Davidic covenant, man’s duty to subdue the earth as God’s vicegerent receives greater emphasis here than in earlier covenants. David recognizes, however, that God’s “dominion” and “rule” extends over all things, including the covenant heads who He has ordained to bless by grace alone (1 Chronicles 29:11-12, cf. Genesis 1:28). With the covenant of grace comes the increasing revelation that God alone can enable man to make headway in that which he is obligated to do.

In Psalm 110, for instance, David, who was king and priest, acts as prophet when he foretells of Christ’s subjugation of all things to Himself (compare Solomon’s interaction with King Huram and the Queen of Sheba). Christ’s global authority is equally important for Him to fulfill of the covenant of works for us, and he briefly mentions this passage to confute the religious authorities when He asks how David can be referring to Solomon, his son, as his own Lord. While sonship is necessary for messiahship, it is necessary for the son referenced in the Davidic (Abrahamic, &c.) covenant(s) to be perfect, which Solomon (Isaac, &c.) could not have been. This simply exhibits a New Testament use of the Old to establish that Christ is the prime antitype of all Old Testament covenants and shadows. He is King of all creation, yet He is also, unlike all other Adamic figures, an obedient vicegerent who actually can and does bring to fruition the will of His Father.

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