Need for Renewal of the Covenant
Moses appealed to the people to renew the covenant with God that had been established at Mount Horeb. He spoke to the people about the demonstrations of God’s goodness in their past as a means of encouraging them to commit to the covenant. He reminded the Israelites of three important historical facts that illustrated the goodness of God.
First, their deliverance from Egypt (29:2-3).
Second, the way in which God miraculously provided for them in the wilderness (29:5-6).
Third, their victories over Sihon and Og and subsequent occupation of their lands (29:7-8).
Yet, in spite of the fact that they personally witnessed God’s great acts and had seen more than enough evidence of His goodness (29:2-3), the people failed to fully comprehend the significance of those acts (29:4). God allowed them to see and experience great things that they might know that He is God (29:6).
These verses list all those who were present for the covenant renewal ceremony. Notice the following things from this passage.
First, notice that the various groups of people listed are in descending order. The leaders were listed first. They were to set the example that the others were to follow. Every member of society was represented, including children and foreigners.
Second, notice the use of the word “today” in verses 10, 12, and 13. Moses did not want for the people to delay in their response. He wanted for the people to make a commitment to the covenant “today.” There was a note of urgency in Moses’ appeal. They had more than adequate information to make an intelligent decision. They had heard the penalties/curses that would come upon them for violating the terms of the covenant as well as the blessings for honoring the terms of the covenant.
Third, notice that the covenant would clearly establish them as God’s people (29:13). The covenant obligated God to the people, but it also obligated the people to God. They were to be His people. They were to depend upon Him and to live their lives according to the terms of the covenant.
Fourth, notice also that the covenant was to include those not present on that day (29:14-15). The decision of the generation present at the covenant renewal ceremony would have an impact on the generations to come.
Practical Consideration: We should leave a legacy of obedience to the next generation. Moses called upon the people to commit themselves to the terms of the covenant. He knew that the decision of the present generation would impact future generations. As Samuel Johnson said, “The future is purchased by the present.” Moses could not decide for the people, he could only encourage them to make the right decision. A contemporary gospel song states, “May those who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way. And may the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe, and the lives we live inspire them to obey.” Someone has said that the evil that men do, as well as the good, follows after them.
Consequences of Rejecting the Covenant
Moses again warned the people against involvement in idolatry, which was one way in which they could violate the terms of the covenant. Notice the following things from this passage.
First, the people had firsthand experience with idolatry: “for you know … ” (29:16) and “you have seen … ” (29:17). Someone has said, “Experience is an excellent schoolmaster.” The people’s experience should have taught them the worthlessness of idolatry. Moses wanted for the Israelites to understand that saying, “yes” to the covenant meant saying “no” to idolatry.
Second, it was the responsibility of every individual (29:18a) to shun idolatry, which Moses likened to a poisonous plant (29:18b). It was the personal responsibility of each person to obey the terms of the covenant lest they have a corrupting influence on others (see 1 Corinthians 5:6). Moses warned the people of the deceptiveness of sin and the danger of being presumptuous while involved in sin (29:19).
Third, God’s judgment would certainly come against those who participated in idolatry (29:20-23). Sin, cautioned Moses, would bring God’s judgment against the whole nation. God’s judgment would cause other nations to wonder why God had chastised His own people (29:24). The answer was simple: because God’s people forsook Him and violated the terms of the covenant and followed after other gods whom they knew not and to whom they were under no obligation (29:25-28). God is never impulsive in His judgment. God always has a reason for sending judgment even though some may not understand those reasons (29:29).
Fourth, our responsibility is not to worry about the secret things” (the things which motivate God to take disciplinary action). Our responsibility is to obey “the things revealed” (29:29).
Practical Consideration: It is in our best interest to obey God. Moses repeatedly told the people of the dangers of disobeying God. He repeatedly told them that their prosperity and success in the Promised Land was directly linked to their obedience to God. He repeatedly warned them of the consequences of forsaking God to follow after other gods. If the people chose to disobey God in the Promised Land then they would do it with a full understanding of the dangerous consequences of such a foolish choice. They had heard enough to understand that it was clearly in their best interest to obey God.