You Know Enough to be Successful, not Dangerous (Deuteronomy 29:16-29)

You Know Enough to be Dangerous Successful 

Just as yesterday’s reading focused on the goodness of God and the greatness of blessing in his covenant, today’s section looks at the opposite side of things.

Moses begins by recalling to Israel’s memory all their experiences of seeing the futility of life of the Egyptians and other nations – their worthless gods and idols.  Just.Do.Not.Do.It!  Don’t even let a root of such idolatry be found in Israel.

The second paragraph today speaks to the person who only casually or hypocritically accepted the covenant. Such a person should not think they are in good stead only because they have the right family name or were wearing the proper uniform. There are few better paragraphs in the Bible that reveal what God thinks about hypocrites!  Whoa! It brings down disaster upon such an inconsistent and dichotomous person.

The third and fourth paragraphs talk about the distant future for Israel – projecting how indeed the descendents would turn against God, would worship foreign gods, would find disaster and judgment, and would cause even other nations to stand in amazement that a people might so walk away from God and thus incur his wrath.

And finally, verse 29 is a great summary – probably one of the top 100 Scriptures in the Bible. It says that there are truths known only to God, and that may frustrate us that we don’t understand everything that is going on in the world. But what is revealed and belongs to us is for our good, and for the good of those who come after us – again, as we keep the covenant of his law. What we know is enough to make us successful.

16 You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the countries on the way here. 17 You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. 18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.

19 When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The Lord will never be willing to forgive them; his wrath and zeal will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will fall on them, and the Lord will blot out their names from under heaven. 21 The Lord will single them out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.

22 Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it. 23 The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. 24 All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”

29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Today is the Big Day (Deuteronomy 29:1-15)

For those of you who have been following this all along, here we are at day 33 of the readings. And I know that it really looks like this is another déjà-vu all over again – that you’ve read this before. And yes, you have.

BUT, this is the big day you’re reading about – right here, right now – this is the actual call to commitment. This is the official renewal of the covenant of the children of Israel with their God. All the other material to this point has been a setting out of the details to be remembered (from the past) and observed (in the future). Now we have a summary of it and the actual call to enter in.

We might illustrate it this way: through the marriage covenant…

Before a couple is married, we as pastors meet with them fairly extensively and talk in quite a bit of detail about marriage and the covenant they are making. A lot of ground is covered over quite a variety of topics about spiritual conditions and commands, along with their understanding of their obligations to make the marriage a success. We talk about their past, present, and future. Then, on the wedding day, these details are rehearsed by general categorical statements to which the couple enters in a covenant agreement with God and before a company of witnesses, and voila – we have a covenant relationship. So today’s statement of the terms (along with the readings for the next two days – capturing the totality of chapters 29 and 30) would be like reading the text of the pastor’s notes at a wedding ceremony.

So verses 2-8 today rehearse history, and verses 9-15 point to the official promises and guarantees of the covenant. To additionally help the reading, let me add three quick points:

a.  Verse 4 seems a bit odd – about God not giving them the ability to fully see or understand. At this point, Israel was still unable to grasp the full significance of all that God had done for them. God would make this more clear subsequently, and this again illustrates how anyone’s understanding of spiritual truth is in large part dependent upon God’s gracious illumination. See Romans 11:8 where this verse is quoted by Paul in such a context.

b.  Verse 6 – they had manna, but no bread of their making; they had water from the rock, but no wine from harvested crops. God took care of them; they could not have done it without his continuous provision.

c.  Verse 15 – here we see a genealogical/generational aspect of the covenant – the people were making it on behalf of others to come. Just as we were not alive when treaties were made by our government many decades ago, as Americans who have come along in subsequent years, those agreements of benefits and obligations accrue to us as well.

Again, it all comes down to obedience and understanding the great grace of God to invite us into a covenant relationship with him. It is awesome indeed, and calls us to a continual revival and recommitment.

Renewal of the Covenant

29:1  These are the terms of the covenant the Lord commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb.

2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:

Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. 4 But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. 5 Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. 6 You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.”

7 When you reached this place, Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of Bashan came out to fight against us, but we defeated them. 8 We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. 10 All of you are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, 11 together with your children and your wives, and the foreigners living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.