GOD’S COVENANT, WHAT WAS IT?
The Bible has a number of covenants, but the one that ought to be of great interest to a nation such as ours is recorded in Deuteronomy Chapter Four. It was and still is “God’s roadmap for individuals and nations.” Moses summarized it for his people before they took possession of Canaan.
“Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and the laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving to you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, but all of you who held fast to the Lord our God are still alive today.
See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws I am setting before you today?
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord our God at Horeb, when he said to me, ‘Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.’ You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. And the Lord directed me at that time to teach the decrees and the laws you are to follow in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
Moses’ instructions were finally fulfilled under the Kings of David and Salomon when the Queen of Sheba came to admire the wisdom of a people that obeyed God’s commandments (I Ki. 10). When Israel was dispersed among the nations, the faithful survived because of the covenant or the Ten Commandments (Neh. 8). For the same reason, Jesus was sent to revive and reinstate the Law and the Prophets (Mt.5: 17-20). God would put words in the Prophet’s mouth and he would tell them what God had commanded (Deut.18: 18-19). Jesus insisted that He was sent to do the will of God (Jn.6: 38), to do what the Father had commanded (Jn.14: 31) and that His words, not even an iota, shall pass away (Mt.24; 35). During His last meal on earth, Jesus told His inner circle that they should continue reminding each other that God was renewing His covenant with them by the shedding of His blood (Mk.14: 24). It was a reaffirmation that God had not altered His promise to more than a thousand generations (Deut.7: 7-11).
What role do the Ten Commandments play? They are the conditions of the Covenant. They legitimize man’s entrance into the Covenant or God’s kingdom (Mt.19: 17). Man cannot circumvent God’s law by any means (Mt.15: 3), not even by appealing to grace because grace is God’s second chance to man. Jesus brought man grace and truth so that he can re-enter the will of God (Jn.1: 17). Man cannot separate his verbalization from his actions (Mt.7: 21-23; 15: 8-9). Jesus declared repeatedly, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (Jn.15: 14,21; 15: 10). God will not take up residence, nor will Christ, in a human heart that rejects His law (Jn.14: 23-24). Love cannot be verbalized; it must be practiced to a point when it requires the sacrifice of a believer’s life (Jn.15: 9-17). Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would continue to reinforce the covenant (Jn.14: 26).
The Ten Commandments stipulate to man and nations what they have to do to fit into God’s picture and to get along with one another. When man begins to replace God’s law with his own, he overburdens himself and his fellow men with too many rules and regulations. Jesus had this to say about His lawmakers, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. They tie up heavy loads and put them on man’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Mt.23: 2, 4). The Jewish lawmakers created two huge volumes of laws and regulations called the Talmuds, a Babylonian and a Palestinian with over 1500 do’s and don’ts. Over regulations have hampered progress and destroyed individuals and nations. The U.S.A. is becoming one more statistic. It defies logic how anyone can survive federal, state, county, city and other local regulations and the cost to enforce these ordinances? Israel did return a number of times to the Law of God and prospered. It is not likely that contemporaries can.