Deuteronomy 29:1-29 Renewing our covenant

Promises are easily forgotten, even when sincerely made.  With the passage of time vows taken wholeheartedly can be neglected or broken.  An initial covenant commitment to the Lord may have been made with enthusiasm, recognising our own sinfulness and the free offer of salvation in Christ, but as time passes that commitment may weaken into spiritual coldness and sin.

There is therefore great value in renewing, with God’s help, our commitment to him.  In turning to Deuteronomy 29 we must remember the unity of God’s Covenant of Grace, such that the principles of covenant renewal apply to both the Old and the New Covenant.  We consider Deuteronomy 29:1-29 Renewing our covenant.

1. The foundation of covenant renewal

Before covenant renewal Moses reminds Israel of God’s mighty acts – ‘you have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes’ (v2).  He begins with the deliverance from Egypt (v2-3), whilst v5-8 trace their history up to the present moment.  They are not told to look back on their own achievements but on the work of the Lord.  The stress is on what God has done to bring them to this point, although they have lacked the spiritual insight to grasp this (v4).  As we prepare to renew covenant, we begin by looking back in order to give God the glory for what he has done.  We think of election (Ephesians 1:4), which removes any ground for pride.  This is worked out in redemption (1 Peter 2:24), applied by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We have so much evidence of his love and grace, so we renew covenant in humble thankfulness.

2. The form of covenant renewal

The actual ceremony is not described, but the necessary elements for covenant renewal are present.  Note the reference to the covenant at Horeb (Sinai, v1) – this is a renewal of an existing relationship.  Covenant renewal is for those who are the Lord’s redeemed people.  Renewal does not add extra requirements, but reinforces obligations already accepted.  It is an updating of commitment – note ‘standing today’ (v10).  Commitment to the Lord is always to be fresh and vital.  It affects ‘today’, it is a present reality.  The Lord is central to covenant renewal.  The initiative is always his – ‘which the Lord your God is making with you’ (v12).  He decrees the terms on which we belong to his people and his grace enables us to respond in love.  Our covenanting is an acceptance of God’s promises (v3).  We are his ‘friends’ (John 15:15), ‘children of God’ (1 John 3:1).  Covenant children (v11) and succeeding generations (v15) are also in view, the future members of the church of God.

3. The fruit of covenant renewal

We see what the ongoing result of renewal should be in v9 ‘keep the words of this covenant and do them’.  Obedience to God’s covenant law is the evidence of the reality of our covenant commitment (see John 14:15).  Note ‘that you may prosper’ – there will be growth in grace and useful service.  We must guard against hypocrisy and self-deception (v19ff), but the ending is positive – v29 – grace-enabled obedience is possible for God’s covenant people.

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