Ancient Promises

The covenant structure of redemption does not end in the fifth book of the Pentateuch. It continues throughout the Old Testament.

In our day the covenantal structure of redemption is often obscured. What should be plain by even a cursory reading of the Pentateuch is passed off into darkness and replaced by some other structure or framework invented by human speculation.

 

“The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” This famous statement by Saint Augustine expresses the remarkable way in which the two testaments of the Bible are so closely interrelated with each other. The key to understanding the New Testament in its fullest is to see in it the fulfillment of those things that were revealed in the background of the Old Testament. The Old Testament points forward in time, preparing God’s people for the work of Christ in the New Testament.

The history of redemption began with creation itself. The book of Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch, starts with the beginning, or the “genesis,” of the universe as expressed in the revelation of God’s mighty work of creation. The creation of the universe culminated in the narrative of the creation of humanity. This was followed very shortly by humanity’s cataclysmic plunge into ruin as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. From the third chapter of Genesis through the end of the Bible, the rest of the narrative history is the history of God’s work of redeeming a fallen humanity. Genesis shows that the same God who is the God of creation is also the God of our redemption.

The book of Genesis gives us an overview of the patriarchal period and the covenants that God made with them. They form the foundation for everything that follows in redemptive history. Beginning with Noah and moving toward Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, the story unfolds God’s consistent pattern of redemption, which looks ahead for centuries, as God’s people awaited the ultimate fulfillment of the patriarchal promises. These promises were fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus.

The book of Genesis ends with the children of Israel migrating into Egypt to be rescued by the intervention of Joseph, who ruled as the nation’s prime minister. Exodus opens with the scene having changed from one of benevolent circumstances under Joseph to one of dire circumstances, as the immigrant nation of Israel had been enslaved by Pharaoh. The stirring account in Exodus is the Old Testament, watershed work of divine redemption. It sets forth for us the narrative of the divine rescue of the slaves held captive in Egypt. The captives were redeemed by the triumph of God and His mercy over the strongest military force of this world embodied in Pharaoh and his army. It points forward to an even greater liberation by a greater Mediator from slavery to sin.

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