Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Twenty-Nine Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Verses 1-3: "These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb. 2 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, 'You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; 3 the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders." Note that the Lord commanded Moses to speak these words and caused them to be written so we will see them now. The message to ancient Israel and us right now is: We are to look at history and also at our own past, RECOGNIZING the Hand of God in Scripture and in our lives. How many times could you have died in your life, but did not? How often has God delivered you, bringing you to this moment when you can choose to remember and trust in the Lord, as Moses lived and taught? Many of those who listened were young and had not personally seen Israel's deliverance, but they were receiving the words of someone who did see. Moses was there. So was Caleb, and Joshua as well. If all of us are like judges hearing eye-witness testimony and then judging what was said, what will your decision be about the words of this chapter?
Verse 4: "Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear." God KNOWS whether or not each of us will be willing to hear, trust and respond. Wonderfully, He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). But He also gives us the ability to say "no" to Him. It's to our sorrow and His when we do reject Him, but His love includes the freedom of allowing us to run away. Faith involves a "heart" that KNOWS, spiritual "eyes" that SEE, and "ears" that "hear" the Lord. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). "Jesus (is) the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). We are GIVEN the capacity to believe, and if "the Lord has not given you a heart to know..." it's because you have not yet chosen to accept His gift. The good seed of God requires fertile, receptive soil in which that seed may grow.
Verses 5-8: "I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot. 6 You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, in order that you might know that I am the Lord your God. 7 When you reached this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan came out to meet us for battle, but we defeated them; 8 and we took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of the Manassites." We've seen descriptions of these situations, places and people before. Israel knew about them, and so can we, just by prayerfully reading the Books of Moses. Can you imagine your clothes and shoes staying like new for forty years? If I have an article of clothing that I like, it's generally too late to find another one like it after the first one wears out... but what if it did not wear out? And how about food sufficient for the day being delivered to us each morning in the form of tasty manna—for free! And our cultural tendency toward alcoholism—what if all that disappeared? Couple that with continued victory in the battles of life; and having ample land, homes and business properties simply given to us—how would that feel?
Verse 9: "So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do." We tend to dwell on our failures, and even more on the "wrongs" that were done to us, often forgetting the other times when subtle blessings have been ours. But when we finally come to our senses and recognize God's presence, His comfort, even during the "bad" times, then we become able to thank Him and praise Him, even when things don't look so good. And there IS a direct relationship between our attitudes and what comes next in our lives.
Verses 10-13: "You stand today, all of you, before the Lord your God: your chiefs, your tribes, your elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel, 11 your little ones, your wives, and the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, 12 that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today, 13 in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Moses was speaking to Abraham's descendants and resident aliens with words to men, women, children, leaders, followers... everyone in Israel. And if you don't know that ALL the words of Scripture apply at least in some way to you, then you've never read and understood Galatians 3:29—"If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." You are to look in Scripture and finally see that it is addressed to you; to each one of us—personally. You are to consider your own life and discover that you were not merely "lucky" when something good happened to you—it was not "luck"—it was God's blessing, His deliverance, given out of His immeasurable love for us all.
Verses 14-15: "Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today." A covenant is a contract between two or more parties, and this contract reaches from the ancient past into the center of your life and mine today. God reaches through time and space, offering you, through His grace, FAITH within a faithless world. He offers life to you, expressed through the life, death and life again of God the Son, signed in His blood. Your oath is the acceptance of His offer. He gives forgiveness, healing, and joyous eternal life to you; and in response, you give your life to Him.
Verses 16-21: "(for you know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed; 17 moreover, you have seen their abominations and their idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which they had with them); 18 so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. 19 It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.’ 20 The Lord shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven. 21 Then the Lord will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law." There is a whole reality out there beyond the universe as we know it, and yet eternity is also right here, right now. The assumption of many is that if we can't see it, it doesn't exist, but we need to get beyond such presumptions. The Lord sees us and knows everything about us. Embracing idolatry is more subtle and dangerous than we thought; it includes the placing of ANYTHING ahead of our love for the Lord. Marriage, family, money, income, health—even charitable endeavors can become a form of idolatry. You can tell from these verses that God, our Creator and Lord, reasonably hates our descent into false religion, and your life will be infinitely better when you trust in Him.
Verses 22-24: "Now the generation to come, your sons who rise up after you and the foreigner who comes from a distant land, when they see the plagues of the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it, will say, 23 ‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.’ 24 All the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?’" Since God personally and continually deals with everything and everyone, His actions are far more complex than we comprehend. If we say or do something, it affects us and maybe a few others. His actions embrace each one of us specifically, all companies and organizations, and every nation on earth. When trouble comes to some person or nation, we are SUPPOSED to wonder—why did it happen? And learn from it. Not all problems come from sinful behavior, which we are to learn from reading Books like Job. But sin, like the idolatry seen in this chapter, WILL bring God's judgment, and we are to learn from what led to it.
Verses 25-29: "Then men will say, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. 26 They went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. 27 Therefore, the anger of the Lord burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; 28 and the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.’ 29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." Idolatry, defined as placing anything ahead of loving and trusting our Lord, brings inevitable, eventual destruction. Israel was to be uprooted from the land, taken from the promises of God and enslaved anew by their enemies. We are being shown a great secret: We are to remember and finally trust in the Lord—right now—and be saved.
Father, I have placed so many people and interests ahead of You that I don't even know where to begin. Best I can, I confess them now, and place my faith in God. I am Yours, my Lord. I trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.