This week in our corporate pursuit we come to messages 25, 26 and 27 of the Life-Study of Deuteronomy. Message 25 is a continuation of the warning given by Moses in Deuteronomy chapters 27 and 28. Message 26 is on the Christ who is revealed in Deuteronomy and Message 27 covers the enactment of a covenant with the new generation of the children of Israel.
Deuteronomy 28 continues Moses’ warning to God’s people: “And all these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you listen to the voice of Jehovah your God” (v. 2). The children of Israel would be under God’s abundant blessing if they were to listen to His speaking. Verses 3-13 enumerate and provide the details of this blessing. In contrast, Deuteronomy 28:15 says, “But if you do not listen to the voice of Jehovah your God and are not certain to do all His commandments and His statutes, which I am commanding you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” Verses 16-68 go on to describe the dreadful curses that would be experienced by God’s people if they did not keep His word.
From both biblical and world history we know that the children of Israel experienced many of the curses described in this chapter. It may seem that God had forsaken His people at times given the severity of the sufferings they have passed through. However, these sufferings are used by God to cause His people to return to Him and be restored. Jeremiah 31:18 says, “Indeed I have heard Ephraim lamenting, / You have chastised me, and I was chastised, / Like an untrained calf; / Bring me back that I may be restored, / For You are Jehovah my God.” Rather than indicating that God has forsaken them, His chastisement actually shows that He loves His people and will not let them go. As God’s people today, we may also be under His discipline. Yet we should never be stumbled by this, but rather realize that this is the Lord’s loving care for us in not letting us go (Heb. 12:5-11).
In Deuteronomy 27:1-7 the children of Israel were instructed to erect a stone monument, inscribed with the ten commandments, and next to this, an altar. The ten commandments portray who God is in His attributes. At the same time, they also present God’s standard for man’s living. God’s requirements upon man are based on Who He is. Since it is impossible for fallen man to meet the requirements of the righteous, holy and faithful God, man needs the altar where offerings can be made to God.
This scene is rich in symbolic meaning. Christ Himself, as the embodiment of God, is the reality of the law (c.f. Deut. 30:11-14; Rom. 10:6-8; John 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13). Christ is holy, righteous and full of love and light. Since we cannot satisfy God’s requirement upon us, that is to match Christ, we need an altar. Whereas the alter typifies the cross of Christ, the offerings typify Christ as our Substitute, the One who has met all of God’s requirements on our behalf (Gal. 3:13). The fact that this scene is at the entrance of the good land shows that we enter the good land through the Triune God embodied in Christ!
Deuteronomy 29 and 30 describe the covenant God made with the new generation of His people. This covenant was in addition to the covenant made in the book of Exodus. Verse 1 of chapter 29 says, “These are the words of the covenant which Jehovah commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that He made with them at Horeb.” The purpose of this covenant was for God’s people to keep His words, that they would prosper (v. 9) and for God to establish the children of Israel as His people and Himself as their God (v. 13). According to this covenant there was not to be any person among the congregation whose heart would turn away from Jehovah their God to serve the gods of the nations (v. 18). Such forsaking would cause God’s anger to burn against His people and result in all of the curses described in this book to be brought upon the land (v.27). Yet, according to chapter 30, if the people would return to Jehovah their God and listen to His voice (v. 2), He would once again be compassionate to them (v. 3) and cause His blessing to be upon them (v. 9).
Moses concludes his speaking regarding the covenant in 30:19-20, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life that you and your seed may live, in loving Jehovah your God by listening to His voice and holding fast to Him; for He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell upon the land which Jehovah swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
God’s deep concern expressed in chapters 29 and 30 is that the heart of His people would be turned to Him and that they would keep His word. It is the same for us today (2 Cor. 11:2; John 14:23). Yet, if we attempt to maintain these requirements in and by ourselves, we are sure to fall short, just as the children of Israel did throughout the Old Testament. The picture in Deuteronomy 27 of the stone monument with the altar helps us to see that we can only maintain God’s requirements by enjoying Christ as our Substitute. Rather than being failing doers, by His mercy may we be the Christ enjoyers!