God did make a covenant with Abraham: A covenant of faith which was in turn believed and accepted by his son Isaac, and Israel after him.
We read in Exodus 3 that the basis of God delivering the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage was His relationship with Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. Further in Exodus 6 we read:
Exodus 6:2-8, “2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord:
3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them.
4 And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.
5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant.
6 Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:
7 And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
8 And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord.”
It is therefore evident that when God came to redeem the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage, He intended to relate with them on the basis of the Abrahamic covenant. His plain words were that ‘I have remembered my covenant’. No new covenant was being introduced here. The one made with Abraham was being referred to.
‘Wherefore’, said God to the Israelites in Exodus 6, ‘6 … I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:
7 And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God:’
This being the case, why did God bring the Mosaic covenant to the children of Israel?
As we will see a little later, the Mosaic covenant was broken within a very short time. Did the all-knowing God not know that this covenant would be broken by the children of Israel?
It was altogether because of the unbelief of the children of Israel. The below verses will suffice to illustrate this:
Exodus 16:3, “3 And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Exodus 17:3,4, “3 And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?
4 And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.”
In Exodus 3:8,17 & 13:5, God had plainly promised that He had “come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey;”
And this unbelief was not only manifested here. After wards, Moses by God’s commandment sent the 12 men had been sent to spy out the Promised Land.
Numbers 13:23-28, “23 And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
24 The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.
25 And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.
26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.
27 And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.
28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.”
But even after seeing what they saw, and presenting the evidences of God’s wonderful promise to the Israelites, the decided unbelief of the Israelites could scarcely be stayed, Joshua and Caleb excepted.
And so, the 10 spies, convinced in their hearts that they could not overcome the giants of Canaan and enter into God’s heritage, went ahead and gave an evil report of the heritage of which they themselves had earlier acknowledged that ‘surely it floweth with milk and honey’.
Numbers 13:30-33, “30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”
Their confirmed unbelief is evidenced by their plain contradiction within the same breath of speech: saying that the land, ‘is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof’ but contradiction of all contradictions, ‘all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature’!
The land ‘eateth up the inhabitants thereof’ but ‘all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature’?
All these evidence their decided unbelief of God. And if they could not trust God for an inheritance of land, how much more could they trust Him for an inheritance of righteousness? Their unbelief can finally be confirmed by their eagerness to appoint a captain over them to return them to Egypt.
Numbers 14:4, “And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.”
Just where Abraham failed, by falling from faith and introducing the scheme of Hagar, is where the Israelites failed. Abraham distrusted God’s promise that he would receive a son through Sarah, and brought in Hagar. Similarly, the Israelites distrusted God’s promise that He would bring them to the Promised Land.
And so, the Israelites being confident that they could by themselves work out their own righteousness, made God to make the covenant at Sinai. God knew they could not obey God and fulfil the righteousness contained in and required by the law. However, to show them their utter inability to work out their own righteousness, God made with them the covenant at Mount Sinai.
We read from Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 7:22, 23, “22 For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices:
23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.”
Jeremiah 11:1-5, “1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying,
2 Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
3 And say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant,
4 Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God:
5 That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then answered I, and said, So be it, O Lord.”
We know that it wasn’t long afterwards that the Israelites broke the covenant by participating in the idolatrous worship of the golden calf, contrary to the explicit prohibition of the second commandment.
They now could not approach God on the basis of a broken covenant. What was left for them now was the Abrahamic covenant.