“These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb” (verse 1). Having largely repeated the commands which the people were to observe, and the promises and threatenings that God would make good on; Moses now summed it all up in this formal Covenant. This Covenant began with a recital of the great things that the Lord had done for His people. He had done so much for their well-being during the last forty years, and so it was only right that they were to be an obedient people. He had delivered them out of Egypt, and wonderfully preserved them through the wilderness – leading them and feeding them by miracles and mercies. They were also reminded of their recent victories over Sihon and Og, and of the good land which they had taken from them. When we are reminded of the great things that the Lord has done for us, we are bound – in gratitude and interest, as well as in duty and faithfulness – to keep the words of the His Covenant.
As Moses drew near to the close of his discourse (which has filled this entire Book of Deuteronomy), he was very desirous to impress what he said upon the minds of the unthinking Israelites. In order to bind them even closer to God and their duty, Moses very solemnly drew up a Covenant between them and God (verses 10-15). It was an everlasting Covenant. He did not require their stated consent; but rather, he laid the matter plainly before them, and then left it between God and their own consciences. And this Covenant extended to more than just those who were present at that time; it included the generations to come, that were not yet born! This national Covenant that the Lord made with Israel not only foreshadowed the Covenant of grace made with true believers, but it also represented the outward dealings of the Gospel. Those who have been enabled to consent to the Lord’s New Covenant of mercy and grace in Jesus Christ, and have given themselves up to be His people, should embrace every opportunity of renewing their open profession of relationship to Him, and their obligation to Him as the God of their salvation.
The great purpose of the renewing of the Covenant at this time was to fortify the Israelites against temptations to idolatry. The Lord gave them fair warning – it was at their own peril if they forsook Him to serve other gods. An evil heart of unbelief inclines people to depart from the living God to dead idols. Even now, we are still tempted to this sin when we are drawn aside by our own lusts. These are weeds which, if left alone, will overspread the whole field.
Although sinners hear the words of the Lord’s curse; yet even then, they think themselves safe from His wrath! But God promises to justly and severely punish them (verses 20-21), and there is hardly a threatening in all of the Book of God that is more dreadful than this one. O that presumptuous sinners would read it and tremble, for it is a real declaration of the wrath of God against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18). The Lord assured the Israelites that idolatry would not only be the downfall of individual persons among them, but it would also be the ruin of their entire nation (verses 22-28). It would begin with plagues and sicknesses; but it would end in a total overthrow, like that of Sodom. And the reason for this would be enquired into – both by the generations to come, and also by Israel’s heathen neighbors. They would be astonished at the change, but it is never without a good and just reason that God brings desolating judgments upon a people who profess to be near to Him. Therefore, it is wise for us to seek for the reason also, so that we may give glory to God and take warning to ourselves. The reason was because they forsook the covenant of the Lord (verse 25), and went and served other gods (verse 26). Because of this, God was angry with them (verse 27) and rooted them out of their land (verse 28). But while the law of Moses leaves sinners under the curse, and roots them out of the Lord’s land; the grace of Christ toward penitent, believing sinners plants them again in their land, and they shall no more be pulled up – for they are kept by the power of God!
After speaking of the Jews’ rejection because of their idolatry (verse 29), Moses finished his prophesy in the same way that Paul ended his discourse upon the same subject (Rom. 11:33). “Secret things belong to the Lord our God,” said Moses. “How unsearchable are God’s judgments, and his ways past finding out!” exclaimed Paul. We are forbidden to curiously inquire into the secret counsels of God, and to make determinations concerning them. But we are directed, and actually encouraged, to diligently seek into that which the Lord has made known to us in His Word; and we are also encouraged to acquaint our children with these things that He has revealed to us. God has kept much of His counsel secret, but He has revealed enough to satisfy and to save us. He has kept back nothing that is profitable for us. The purpose of all Divine revelation is not to provide curious subjects of speculation and discourse; but rather, the Lord has given it to us so that we may believe the good news of the Gospel, and be blessed by walking in His ways. The Bible plainly reveals these things, and we cannot profitably go any further. By this light, we may live and die comfortably, and find happiness forever!
Lord, help us to find blessedness in walking in Your ways. Endue our souls with strength so that we may never forsake Your Covenant and Your mercies. Amen.
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