Introduction: Jesus, the great “I AM”, gave the First Covenant to Moses at Mount Horeb (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). Yet, with the three exceptions of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the generation that received His Covenant died off due to its rebellions. They showed that none can fully comply with the Law. Yet, on the plains of Moab (located in modern day Jordan), He showed His grace in offering His Covenant a second time to Israel’s next generation. In the book of Deuteronomy, He repeated the Ten Commandments and then repeated and expanded upon many of the original statutes given in Exodus and Leviticus. Among other things, He revealed to this next generation the 10 blessings and the 40 curses that would come with their decision to obey or disobey. From this summary chapter on renewal, He provides at least seven important lessons.
First, the promises in Jesus’ Covenant last forever. His blessings that come with a society’s Spirit-led obedience are available for every generation to enjoy. Second, although He revealed many signs and wonders to the Jews, He warned that He did not reveal the fullness of His Covenant at that time. This was an allusion to His “New Covenant” that He would offer in the New Testament. While His First Covenant of the Ten Commandments would continue to offer the promise of material blessings, His New Covenant would offer spiritual blessings, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. Third, He repeated His promise from the prior chapter that obedience to the First Covenant would bring the material blessings of provision, protection, and prosperity. Fourth, He also repeated His promise from the prior chapter to bless an entire nation if the nation as a whole kept His Covenant. Fifth, He repeated His warning to future generations that if they returned to the gods of this world, they would bring curses upon themselves. Sixth, He also repeated His warning that if a nation returns to the gods of this world, it will also bring curses upon itself. Finally, He warns that the wisdom of the Law is one of His secret things for you to discover. Mankind will, however, deny His wisdom in its arrogance. Thus, you must be careful not to be swayed by the ideas of mankind when it comes obeying His Word.
The Renewal of God’s First Covenant. Jesus gave His First Covenant of the Ten Commandments to the Jews at Mount Horeb. Yet, even though that generation had died off due to its disobedience, He showed His grace by offering this Covenant to the next generation in Moab: “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.” (Dt. 29:1). When Moses repeated the Ten Commandments in Moab, he also stressed that the second generation had received the Covenant of the Ten Commandments, even though they were not there at the time: “The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.” (Dt. 5:2-3). The Jewish authority Rashi interpreted these statements to mean that God’s Covenant was for all future generations.
The lesson for you. God is slow to anger and does not want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). He is also faithful to forgive if and when you repent (1 Jo. 1:9). Although you cannot earn either your salvation or the spiritual blessings of the Holy Spirit, the material promises offered in the First Covenant are always available when you repent and follow the Ten Commandments out of love, not obligation. The same is true for the nation. While it also cannot earn its collective salvation for its members, it can either cause its members to be blessed or cursed through its decision to follow or reject Jesus’ Ten Commandments. Jesus did not come to relieve believers from any need to follow the Ten Commandments. Instead, He made it an act of devotion, not obligation. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15). “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (Jo. 14:21). Commandments like the Sabbath are not a test for your salvation (Col. 2:16). Yet, living within the protections of the Ten Commandments allows Him to bless you with the 10 blessings of the First Covenant. Is there any part of His Ten Commandments that you are willfully disobeying?
God’s power to keep His promises are confirmed by His signs and wonders. While parties to a business contract must always contemplate a breach or the inability of one party to perform under the contract, this is never a concern with God’s promises to His people. He showed both His faithfulness and His power to fulfill the Covenant by freeing the Jews from Pharaoh and by protecting and providing for them while they wandered in the wilderness: “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.” (Dt. 29:2-3). God’s power and faithfulness to perform was a theme repeated throughout the Torah: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.” (Ex. 19:4). “Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” (Dt. 4:34). “[T]he great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and the wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out.” (Dt. 7:19(a); 5:15(a); 7:18; Jer. 32:21).
The lesson for you. These stories were written so that you might have hope in God’s promises (Ro. 15:4). His signs and wonders are also not confined to the Jews. Every believer has also been freed from something. At a minimum, every believer has been freed from the bondage of eternal death (Ro. 6:4, 22). Every believer has also been transformed into a new creation with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17). For some, God has also delivered them from an addiction, a health problem, or a broken relationship. If you know that He has the power to keep His promises to provide for you, what should that motivate you to do in gratitude? (Ro. 12:1-2). Are you sharing what He has done for you to others?
Jesus later revealed the mysteries of His Covenant. Although Jesus revealed the terms of His First Covenant and the consequences for obedience and disobedience, Moses warned that He did not reveal the fullness of His wisdom at that time: “4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.’” (Dt. 29:4). This is one of the most quoted statements in the Bible. No less than three Old Testament prophets quoted it. e.g., “He said, ‘Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.’” (Is. 6:9; 42:19-20; Jer. 5:21; Ezek. 12:2). This is also one of the few Old Testament quotes that Jesus repeated in all four Gospels: “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;’” (Matt. 13:13-14; Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10; Jo. 12:40). This verse from Deuteronomy is also quoted in the book of Acts (Acts 28:26-27). It is also quoted in Romans: “just as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day.’” (Ro. 11:8). What does all this mean?
The promise of the New Covenant. Jesus did not reveal the fullness of His promises to Moses. Yet, He later promised that He would make a new and even greater Covenant with His people: ‘“Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 31:32; Heb. 8:8-9). “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’” (Lk. 22:20). God “who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6). “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.” (Heb. 8:7). Under the New Covenant, your salvation is not tied to observing the Law: “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Ro. 7:6). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, ‘cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’--in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal. 3:13-14). While the First Covenant made no promises regarding eternal salvation, the New Covenant makes it clear that faith in Jesus is all that is needed (Jo. 3:16). What are you supposed to do now that your eyes have been opened to the New Covenant? Jesus advised: “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” (Jo. 4:35). Have you lifted your eyes and hands to help with His harvest?
Where God guides, He provides. God showed His faithfulness and power by providing for the Jews’ material needs in the wilderness: “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.” (Dt. 29:5-6). “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.” (Dt. 8:3-4; Ex. 16:31; Lk. 4:4; 1 Cor. 10:3). “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Is. 40:31). Jesus promised to provide for those who seek His righteousness, which is found within the Ten Commandments: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). If you are lacking in anything, are you seeking after God’s kingdom and His righteousness?
Where God directs, He protects. God also showed His faithfulness and power by protecting the Jews in the wilderness: “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.” (Dt. 29:7-8; Dt. 2:33; Nu. 21:21-26). “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5; Ps. 18:30; 2 Sam. 22:31). If you are feeling attacked by your enemies, are you taking refuge in God?
To the one who obeys, He conveys. God also promised the Jews prosperity if they stayed obedient to Him: “9 So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.” (Dt. 29:9). “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:7). If you give hoping to become rich or out of greed, God most likely will not respond. Yet, if you tithe with the right motive of love, God promises to make you prosperous. “[T]est Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”’ (Mal. 3:10 (b)). If you are lacking in your financial needs, are you tithing out of devotion and not out of a desire to become rich?
United we stand with God, divided we fall. Jesus’ First Covenant was with all of society. Society would either by blessed or cursed depending upon the conduct of society as a whole: “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.” (Dt. 29:10-13). “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.” (Gen. 17:7). Jesus offered the promise of eternal salvation to the individual. He offered no path for a nation to ignore His Ten Commandments and still expect to receive His blessings and protection: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17). What is the standard that believers must make for the nation to be under His protection? It is again the Ten Commandments. If the Church teaches that its ok to ignore the Ten Commandments, how can the Church tell society to follow them?
Jesus’ Covenant with society is with every generation. There are some who will seek to dismiss Jesus’ First Covenant as a unique set of promises and obligations that applied to the Jews in Moses’ day. Yet, He warned that His Covenant applied to everyone, including the generations that were not present at the time: “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.” (Dt. 29:14-15). Through our faith in Jesus, we have been grafted into His Covenant as His “adopted children.” (Eph. 1:5; Ro. 8:14; 8:16; 9:8; 9:26; Acts 2:39). Society can inherit the blessings of His Covenant or its curses. The Church must stand united to lead society back to its Judeo-Christian roots from which it has strayed.
The curses on a disobedient individual. Any person who willfully disobeys God’s Law stands outside His protections and may bring curses upon him or herself: “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.’” (Dt. 29:16-19). “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud.” (Is. 57:20). “They do not know the way of peace, and there is no justice in their tracks; they have made their paths crooked, whoever treads on them does not know peace.” (Is. 59:8). “That when the wicked sprouted up like grass and all who did iniquity flourished, it was only that they might be destroyed forevermore.” (Ps. 92:7). “But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; the posterity of the wicked will be cut off.” (Ps. 37:38).
The lesson for you. Don’t believe that His mercy and grace has given you a license to sin: “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13). “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Ro. 6:1-2). “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7). If you use His mercy and grace to sin, you will find only pain. Disobedience was never a test for salvation. Yet, it is a test for whether you live in the fullness of His blessings on Earth and whether you will be protected from the enemy’s attacks. Is there any sin that you need to repent of?
The foreshadow of eternal judgment and the need for salvation for God’s book of life. The Torah never made explicit the existence of eternal life or what is needed to get there. That is why the Sadducees mocked Jesus for teaching that one existed (Mk. 12:18-27). Nevertheless, Moses twice alluded to an eternal life in the context of warning that God might “blot out” the names of the unrighteous: 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.” (Dt. 29:20-21). “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.”’ (Ex. 32:33). David later again alluded to the afterlife when he also wrote about the names of the wicked being “blotted out”: “You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever.” (Ps. 9:5). “May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.” (Ps. 69:28). Although the Law brings great wisdom, it is only through Christ that you can guarantee that your name will never be “blotted out” in God’s eternal book of life: “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” (Rev. 3:5). “[B]ut rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Lk. 10:20(b)). If you are thankful that your name is written in the eternal book of life, what are you doing to show your gratitude? (Ro. 12:1-2).
The curse of destruction on a disobedient nation. God warns that if a society willfully rejects God’s Law, He will punish it like He did to Sodom and Gomorrah: “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.’” (Dt. 29:22-23). God “rained down” burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24). Jeremiah later warned that God would rain down a similar judgment upon the nations: “As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah with its neighbors,’ declares the LORD, ‘No man will live there, nor will any son of man reside in it.’” (Jer. 50:40). The warning against the practices of Sodom and Gomorrah are repeated in the New Testament: “[A]nd if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;. . . then the Lord knows how . .. to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,” (2 Pet. 2:6, 9(b)). “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7). America has recently embraced the exact same lifestyle that brought judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. What the Bible condemns, society now calls hate speech. What used to be considered sin, is now called a civil right. Isaiah warned: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20). Are you willing to stand up for God’s Word, even if you are ridiculed by your friends? (Ro. 1:16). Is your Church acting like salt (an irritant) in the wound of sin?
The curse of oppression for a disobedient nation. God also warned that a nation which chooses to be ruled by the idols of the flesh will be oppressed by the enemy: “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.’” (Dt. 29:22-28). “[T]herefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you. The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand,” (Dt. 28:48-49). “It shall come about when they say, ‘Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?’ then you shall say to them, ‘as you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you will serve strangers in a land that is not yours.’” (Jer. 5:19). “This you will have from My hand: you will lie down in torment.” (Is. 50:11(b)). “These two things have befallen you; who will mourn for you? The devastation and destruction, famine and sword; how shall I comfort you?” (Is. 51:19).
Our nation also faces oppression if it embraces the idols of the flesh. If America will not turn back to God, He may hand it over to the idols that it has made for itself: “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. . .” (Ro. 1:24, 27-31). America is now consumed with the idols of the flesh including pornography, adultery, drugs, alcohol, gambling, greed, and vanity. If God repeatedly judged Israel with captivity and exile, should America feel immune from His punishments? He offers protection to the nation if it returns and stays obedient.
The wisdom of God’s Law appears foolish to mankind. Finally, God warns that many will reject His warnings because the secret wisdom of His Law will appear as foolishness to many: “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.” (Dt. 29:29). “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Prov. 25:2). “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Ro. 11:33). “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7). “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14). “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.’” (Matt. 13:35; quoting Ps. 78:2). Today, many parts of society deny the wisdom of Jesus’ First Covenant. Many seminaries teach that the Torah was not written by Moses, despite the claims of both Moses and Jesus to the contrary. Likewise, many parts of the Church don’t spend much time teaching the First Covenant under the belief that the only relevant wisdom today is in the New Covenant. Yet, the Bible makes clear that all Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching (2 Tim 3:16). Do you delight in the wisdom of the Law like David did: “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day”? (Ps. 119:97). “I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love.” (Ps. 119:47). If you cannot say the same thing, you have not found the secret wisdom in His First Covenant of the Ten Commandments.