Renewals of The Covenant


19 Covenant on the Banks of the Jordan

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013

Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised Joshua 5:5.

Israel had wandered forty years in the desert. All the adults over age twenty, who came out of Egypt, died in the desert. It was now a new generation with “new worlds to conquer.” For forty years, Moses had taught the people the law of the living God. They had learned to depend on God for food, water, and guidance.

On the bank of the Jordan, they could see the Promised Land. The covenant promises given to Abraham were about to be fulfilled. The nations across the Jordan were larger and stronger than Israel was, but God, as Israel’s leader, assured their success. God saw that they needed to reaffirm and commit themselves again to the covenant.

They had much to learn and seemingly insurmountable challenges to overcome before they could settle down in the Promised Land. As they rested on the banks of the Jordan, Moses had some last words for the people.


The Covenant at the Jordan

Israel was again approaching Canaan, but this time through Gilead and Bashan. By the power of God, they dispossessed the Amorites and took their lands. Now camped on the east side of Jordan, opposite Jericho, Moses gathered all Israel. There he reminded the people of their covenant with God, with blessings and curses dependent on their obedience or disobedience.

The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire (Deut. 5:2-4).

The covenant God offered at Horeb contained new promises for the nation. God said, “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me “| a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exod. 19:5, 6). These words Covenant on the Banks of the Jordan 103 were what God called “My covenant” (Exod. 19:5; Gen. 17:2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 19, 21), pointing to the everlasting covenant of God, established with Abraham. God personally came to the Mt. Sinai in fire and smoke, with a trumpet loud and long and an earthquake. Silence enshrouded the people as God spoke the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments, in the people’s hearing.

Moses went into the cloud and communed with God, receiving more details of what God wanted for His people (Exod. 20:21-23:33). The people ratified their covenant of human promises with God through animal sacrifices, and the people promised, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient”(Exod. 24:3-11). This was the historical old covenant. Moses went into the mount again and received the tables of the testimony, written with the finger of God.

“The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers” (Deut. 5:3), Moses said. This was because of the new features, which included new promises, a conditional statement asking for a response from the people, and the ten-commandment law that had been both spoken and written. The everlasting covenant given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not have these features, yet it formed the basis for the Sinai covenant. Abraham “obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen. 26:5). Those who receive God’s “My covenant” will obey Him out of love.


Talking With God Face to Face

The people could visualize the covenant promise fulfilled as they looked across the Jordan. The descendants of Abraham were now the nation of Israel. They were to take the land and, once settled, were to be a blessing to many people through their example, through God’s teachings, and through the Messiah to come.

Moses talked with God “face to face” at Sinai (Exod. 33:11). “Face to face” is a common idiom for close communion. The above verse speaks of the people of Israel talking with God “face to face” through their representative Moses. God was still close to Israel, and the “face to face” communion was present in the sanctuary services, the Urim and Thummim, and the priests and prophets.

Moses did not see God’s person, so later Moses asked God to show him His glory (Exod. 33:18). God proclaimed His character; “merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,” then He restored the Abrahamic covenant in place of the “old covenant” (Exod. 34:9-11). which was broken by their sin at Sinai. Would they now accept the covenant of God? Would they learn the Commandments of God “and keep and do them” (Deut. 5:1)? The covenant made at Horeb is of no benefit unless each generation makes the covenant its own.

Moses said that God made this covenant with all “who are here alive this day.” The covenant that God made with Adam and Eve, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that He renewed at Sinai is built upon the everlasting covenant. All the people standing before Him that day received the covenant through their fathers. Symbolically each one was present in his father, who was there to hear it given. Every person must now make his commitment to the covenant, and respond in faith.. No one can ride on the coattails of an ancestor. God has no grandchildren.

Ahead of the people was the invasion of Canaan and their settlement on the land. There would be challenges, and there would be temptations. They needed a clear concept of God”˜s purpose in giving them the land and of the responsibilities they would bear as the chosen people of God. Most importantly, they needed to remember how God had delivered them from bondage in Egypt.


Moses’ Last Messages

Moses, who had lead them in the exodus for forty years, gave the closing addresses of his life. He spoke of God making the covenant with each one of them present that day. Joshua became the embodiment of the message and was granted the spirit of Moses. Moses’ influence continued as long as any of that generation lived. It was the legacy of a righteous man and a merciful God. “And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).

The covenant (Deut. 29:9-16), called by some the Palestinian covenant, was a renewal of the Abrahamic covenant. The rest of Deuteronomy 29 and 30 gives more details.

Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. 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, together with your children and your wives, and the aliens living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 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, 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. I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today (Deut. 29:9-15, NIV; cf. Deut. 30:11-15)

Was this covenant different from the covenant made at Sinai? It was a covenant “beside [“in addition to,” NIV] the covenant which he made with them in Horeb” (Deut. 29:1). It was a covenant of dedication to the previous covenant.1 People cannot depend on a covenant made with their fathers. They must express their own commitment to God.

Covenant language is the theme of the whole book. Covenant promises seemed absolute, yet ; they are conditional. Obedience brings blessings (Deut. 7:1-26; 8:1-10; 11:10-15; 28:1-14); apostasy brings curses (Deut. 28:15-68; and 29:18-29).


The Covenant after Moses’ Time

Israel had reached a high point in their spiritual life at the time the nation occupied Canaan. This was because of the new emphasis on the covenant and their relation to God and to the influence of Moses and Joshua.

Soon after their settlement in Canaan, Israel went into cycles of apostasy, oppression, repentance and deliverance-over and over again. Repeated apostasy broke the everlasting covenant over and over again, but each repentance restored the covenant, at least temporarily. Moses made the first of these renewals just before Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan (see Deuteronomy 29:12-15). Each renewal reflected the original covenant as it was summarized by Moses in Deuteronomy 5:2, 3.

Most of these renewals were manmade but pointed to the everlasting covenant and the ten-commandment law. The renewals were a rededication to God following revivals. With time, the apostasy deepened until there was “no remedy,” and Babylon took Israel into captivity (2 Chron. 36:16; Isa. 3:7, NIV; Jer. 30:13, NIV).


Rededication

If the covenant of God is an everlasting covenant, why are the promises different with each presentation? God planned the everlasting covenant before the foundation of the world. His covenant focused on the substitutionary death of Jesus and His sinless life as a human being, illustrating the mercy and love of God. These aspects of the covenant are permanent and cannot be changed by any human being.

God also purposed to change the lives of human beings on this earth, to destroy sin and Satan, and to restore what Adam lost in Eden. This is the covenant presented to the human family by God, and it is from this covenant that all blessings flow from the throne of mercy.

Humans must accept the covenant to receive its blessings and responsibilities. There must be a faith commitment to God and consent for the work of grace in the life. It is this response on the part of humanity that makes the covenant complete and effective. This human aspect must be renewed on a regular basis with rededication and renewed commitments to keep the covenant fresh and effective in the life.

Human experience is constantly varying-from childhood to youth, from youth to adulthood, from child-raising to the prime of life to old age. Yet, these are not the only variables. There are also the challenges of work, of making a living, of maintaining our homes, of changes in society. You can add many others. We need to present ourselves and our plans to God on a daily basis. We need constant reminding of what living the Christian life is and how we need to do it.

We also need a reminder of creation every week. We need to remember redemption and our dependence upon God for everything. To help us do this, God gave us the Sabbath. It is all too easy to forget the ultimate purpose of God in our lives. From time to time, we must make a new commitment to serve Him. The covenant must be renewed with every generation and person (Deut. 5:3, 4).

Jesus in His life on earth met all these problems as a human being. The victory He gained is for our children and us.


Endnotes

1. Deuteronomy 30 foreshadows elements of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31. Moses predicted: “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul “| And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” (Deut. 30:1, 2, 6, 11-15, emphasis supplied).

Through Jeremiah, God declared: “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33, emphasis supplied).

Many verses in Deuteronomy emphasized heart religion and the internalizing of God’s teaching (Deut. 4:6; 5:29; 6:5; 7:6; 10:12, 16; 11:1, 13, 18; 14:2; 26:18; 27:9; 28:9; 29:13; 30:6; see also Ps. 51; Isa. 1:10-20).