The Scriptorium

God's Covenant

There is only one covenant - God's Deuteronomy 29.1

The Covenant Renewed: Deuteronomy 29 (1)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 78.1-4
Give ear, O my people, to my law;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.

Psalm 78.1-4

(Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Give ear, O my people, attend to my word,
dark sayings and parables sent from the Lord,
things we have before by our fathers been told,
which we would not dare from our children withhold.

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 29.1

Preparation
1. What was Moses preparing to make with the people of Israel?

2. What’s the difference between “besides” and “instead of”?

Meditation
Today’s verse is, in the Hebrew Bible, verse 69 of the preceding chapter. I think that’s a better way of considering this verse, because it returns the chapter to a positive note, rather than leave the terrible sounds of curse and separation as the last word. “These are the words” refers to everything Moses has taught thus far about God, His people, and His Law.

That is to say, about God’s covenant with His people.

The Hebrew says that Moses was to “cut” (לִכְרֹ֛ת l’karot – NKJV, “make”) the covenant with Israel. As we recall from Genesis 15, Abram entered the covenant with God through a path created by sacrificed animals. Only the symbols of God passed through that path. Thus God declared that all the responsibility for fulfilling the great and precious promises of His covenant (Gen. 12.1-3; 2 Pet. 1.4) was on Him alone. Similarly, all the punishment that would fall on whichever of the parties would violate that covenant was on God as well, since Abram did not pass down the path with God, as such covenants typically required. Jesus would satisfy both of these demands and bring us into the new covenant by the sacrifice of Himself.

Note well that this covenant, which Moses is bringing the people into on the plains of Moab, is made besides and not instead of any previous covenants. This covenant did not nullify the covenant made on Mt. Sinai, nor the one made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. v. 13). This was a development of God’s existing covenant, which began with Adam and Eve. Here it was being adjusted according to the needs of His people at this time. This covenant was all of grace, since all its promises and stipulations come from God alone. It was designed to set Israel apart as a holy people unto the Lord, that they might glorify Him and be a witness to all the nations, preparing them for the blessings of God’s covenant when it is fulfilled in Jesus.

Yet, as we shall see, the prospects for Israel carrying out the stipulations of this covenant were bleak. A new covenant is coming, and it will require some adjustments in certain ways from the covenant we read about here. But the new covenant will be a covenant besides this one, not instead of it, since the covenant of God is an eternal covenant, subject to development, but not termination (Ps. 105.8-11).

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Lest we should wonder about God making another covenant “besides” the ones already made, or think that God has changed His mind, or that He is fickle in His dealings with humankind, we should STOP, and instead be overwhelmed by His eternal grace toward us. Let’s see: “The LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84.11). “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1.17). “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4.7). “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (Eph. 6.24). As we rejoice in the grace God has toward us by adding new covenants, and giving us multiple opportunities to succeed, let’s also note this: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2.1-3). And “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead…through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will…” (Heb. 13.20, 21). Praise God for His additional covenant “besides” the one that meant certain death for us!

Reflection

1. The story of Scripture unfolds according to one covenant, given in various stages. Explain.

2. What is our responsibility as beneficiaries in God’s covenant?

3. How did God “cut” His new covenant with us through Jesus Christ?

We are bound, in gratitude and interest, as well as in duty and faithfulness, to keep the words of the covenant.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Deuteronomy 29.1-9

Thank You, Lord, for bringing me into Your covenant; help me to live that covenant faithfully today as I…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 78.5-7
Review the Ten Commandments in prayer. Ask the Lord to show you specific ways you can carry out each of these today.

Psalm 78.5-7
(Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
The glorious deeds of our God in His might,
and all of the works He has done in our sight,
together with all of the words of His Law,
would we on ourselves and our children bestow.

Lord, let all our children arise and declare
the truth of the Lord every day, everywhere,
and set all their hopes in God’s wonderful Word,
and never forget all the works of the Lord.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore