1 - 15 A New Covenant
1 These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb. 2 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; 3 the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders. 4 Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. 5 I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot. 6 You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, in order that you might know that I am the LORD your God. 7 When you reached this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan came out to meet us for battle, but we defeated them; 8 and we took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of the Manassites. 9 So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do. 10 “You stand today, all of you, before the LORD your God: your chiefs, your tribes, your elders and your officers, [even] all the men of Israel, 11 your little ones, your wives, and the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, 12 that you may enter into the covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath which the LORD your God is making with you today, 13 in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 14 “Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God and with those who are not with us here today
Here begins a new section in the book. It is about the big question of how the people can be put into the blessings of the land and how they can remain in possession of them. In Deuteronomy 28 God’s Spirit has shown them in warning how they will behave in the land and what the consequences will be. In Deuteronomy 29 He does this again, but now in connection with a new covenant. Here we hear about expelling from the land as a possibility, while very gradually it is being transferred to a security. It is no longer a probability, but a prophecy. Fortunately, there will also be a fixed prophecy of recovery in a later period.
For us it is about dwelling and staying in the heavenly places and in the place where the Lord makes His Name dwell. Here we can bring the blessing of the land, as shown in Deuteronomy 26.
There is a new covenant here, in addition to that of Horeb. It is not a renewal of an old covenant. It is an extra covenant, which does not destroy the covenant of Horeb. There is also the covenant with the fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (verse 13). The latter is an unconditional covenant. That covenant is made entirely by God alone. Man cannot set conditions to which God should submit Himself.
In every covenant the conditions are set by God, sometimes taking on Himself certain obligations. A covenant assumes two parties. Thus we know the covenant with all creation between God and Noah and his descendants. There is also the covenant with the fathers, whereby only conditions are on the side of God, to give Abraham a rich offspring and to bring him into the land of promises.
Then we hear here of the covenant God made with Israel at Horeb. This covenant is essentially based on grace, what God has done. But the moment the people reject living by grace and place themselves under responsibility, God gives them the law. This makes the covenant dependent on their obedience. The covenant of Horeb is therefore a covenant based on the law, and on that basis, it is impossible for the people to enter the land.
Here we have another covenant, the one in the land of Moab. This covenant brings together the principles of the grace of God expressed in the covenant with the fathers, and the law of God as the foundation of the covenant of Horeb. For the establishment of this covenant, Moses again places the actions of God in the past before the eyes of the people. This particularly concerns those under twenty years of age at the start of the wilderness journey. They have seen everything. The people he addresses are the new generation who will enter the land. All who are over twenty years of age at the beginning of the wilderness journey, have been killed in the wilderness.
Do those of this new generation have an eye for what the LORD has done? Do they understand how dependent they are on His grace? Did they listen to His voice? The LORD has given them no heart, eye, or ear, by which they turn to Him. This did not happen because the LORD did not want it, but because they did not want it. They did not ask Him for it! Their rebelliousness and evil prevented Him from giving them what He wanted to give.
They have already seen God’s deeds, but they have not understood the language God has spoken through them. This is how it goes with the signs and wonders that the Lord Jesus does especially in the Gospel according to John. If the people do not see the glory of the Lord Jesus through the signs, they are spiritually blind. That also applies to us.
Moses also reminds them that the clothes and shoes they wear since their exodus from Egypt are not worn out. After forty years in the wilderness, their clothes and shoes have suffered nothing (Deu 8:4). They have not survived because of their own facilities and self-made supplies of bread and wine. All this time God has miraculously ensured that they have not lacked food and drink. The daily manna and the water from the rock are a testimony of His love and mercy, of His involvement with their ups and downs. By this they can know that He is the LORD their God.
Also with respect to their enemies, God has taken care of them. They have already been able to capture land. Thus it is clear that God has thought of them in all circumstances and provided them with all that is necessary. From His side, nothing has been lacking. Surely this is a tremendous exhortation to listen to Him, with new prosperity in prospect. God wants nothing but bless them, as long as the people listen.
This covenant of the LORD is made with all ranks of the people. Even all those who are still in the loins of the people, “those who are not with us here today”, the generations to come, are involved. They all form His people. He solemnly declares that they are. He will fulfil His promises to them, made to their fathers. But if they want to experience the blessings of His promises and the declaration that they are His people, they will have to keep the words of the covenant.
16 - 28 How the People Can Lose Everything
16 (for you know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed; 17 moreover, you have seen their abominations and their idols [of] wood, stone, silver, and gold, which [they had] with them); 18 so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. 19 It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered [land] with the dry.’ 20 The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. 21 Then the LORD will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law. 22 “Now the generation to come, your sons who rise up after you and the foreigner who comes from a distant land, when they see the plagues of the land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it, will say, 23 ‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.’ 24 All the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?’ 25 Then [men] will say, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. 26 They went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. 27 Therefore, the anger of the LORD burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; 28 and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land, as [it is] this day.’
These verses suggest how we can lose everything again. In verse 18 the dangers are summarized. First of all, we lose our blessings when we regain an eye for the things that are found in the world outside the people of God. In the second place we lose our blessings, not because of what comes from outside, but because of what can be within man, a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood.
Decay originates from what comes in from outside and from what comes out from ourselves. If we get an eye for the things of the world and are attracted by them, it will not miss its inner effect. When believers get bitter (wormwood is bitter) against each other, it is often because the world has entered into the thinking (Heb 12:15).
Wormwood or gall is the name of an intensely bitter plant. Wormwood is probably the very bitter broth of that plant. It is often used in the Bible as an indication for bitterness (Jer 9:15; 23:15; Lam 3:15,19; Amos 5:7; 6:12; Rev 8:10-11). This poison (or gall) worked as a kind of opium. Therefore it has been used to intoxicate or anaesthetize those who were executed (Mt 27:34).
When the intoxication of bitterness is present, apostate thoughts come. This leads people to talk about peace (cf. Jer 23:17), although there is no peace, but on the contrary destruction is imminent: “While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape” (1Thes 5:3). The Lord will neither forgive nor spare such preachers of peace.
In verses 19-21 it concerns an individuals. The responsibility of the individual comes to the fore. Because the people are unfaithful and do not remove evil from the midst, the LORD Himself will take care of this individual. But then we see how Moses’ speech passes from the individual who has to be removed to a whole people being driven away.
God does not destroy the people, but “uproots them” (verse 28). Unfortunately, in the history of the people, this is becoming a reality. The ten tribes are taken away by the Assyrians. The two tribes are carried away to Babylon. In this way the people experience the reality of the loss of the blessings. God makes sure that they can no longer enjoy His land and His dwelling place.
In an application to us, we can say that He takes away from the believers who are unfaithful the knowledge of the true place of the believer in the heavenly places and of the place where the Lord gathers His own around Himself. These are the two main subjects in this book.
29 Secret Things and Things Revealed
29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.
“The secret things” refer to God’s gracious acts with a remnant if He must punish the people as a whole as a result of their transgression of the law. In the next chapter some of these secret things will become visible. If He wants to give restoration, that is a secret thing. For faith it is a revealed matter, the fulfilment of which will take place in the future.
“The things revealed” refer to the law in which He has made His will known. These are the ways of God in His government, which He communicated in the previous chapter and in this chapter by Moses. For this and the coming generations, those revealed things form the basis for living in the land.
This verse is no excuse not to occupy ourselves with the things of God as if they were secret things. Scripture encourages us to concern ourselves with all that God has revealed to us. What He has revealed is found in the Scriptures. What we find in the Scriptures we can understand through His Spirit Whom He has given us (1Cor 2:9-10). God has revealed to us through the light of the New Testament what is meant by the secret or hidden things we read about here.