By Eugene Garner
THE MOSAIC COVENANT
AND THE THEOCRATIC KINGDOM
The last two lessons have dealt with God's call of Israel to be a special people unto Himself -- an elect nation and kingdom of priests.
Toward the establishment of His kingdom over them He had given a law to govern their personal, spiritual and civil affairs. Shortly before the death of Moses, when Israel was dwelling in the land of Moab, God commanded him to enlarge the words of the covenant first made at Mt. Sinai. The addition would deal with their possession of the land promised to Abraham and his seed. Israel's national existence, as her safe-dwelling in the land, would be dependent on the loyalty with which the people served their covenant-God and obeyed His will, (Deut. 6:1-15; 8:11-20; 11:26-28; chapter 28; 30:15-20).
III. GOD'S PURPOSE TO RULE GLORIOUSLY OVER HIS ELECT PEOPLE COULD BE REALIZED ONLY AS THEY DWELT OBEDIENTLY IN THE COVENANT LAND.
The divine purpose is wrapped up in an earthly territory; without a sphere of rule the Theocratic ordering is incomplete and impossible. At Mt. Sinai God gave instructions concerning their conquest of the land, (Ex. 23: 20-33).
- THE NATION IS REMINDED OF GOD'S FAITHFULNESS TO HIS COVENANT, (Deut. 29:1-15).
- With a mighty hand He has brought them out of Egypt and preserved them through their wilderness experiences.
- Judging their enemies, (Psa. 9:16).
- Showing mercy toward His elect, (vs. 5-8; Psa. 136:10-26).
- All this they have seen; but they have not perceived it, nor laid it to heart.
- God has not yet given them understanding; though He may not be blamed for this, (Rom. 11:8; Isa. 6:9-10; Acts 28:26-27).
- They have felt no need; therefore, have not asked of God, (Psa. 111:2-8).
- Moses reproves their dullness to stimulate in them a desire to understand, (Deut. 4:5-9; Josh. 1:7-8; John 7:17; comp. Heb. 5:11-6:12).
- Neglected faculties will be taken away; they will decay through disuse, (Luke 19:23-26).
- Lack of understanding involves men in deep guilt, Jas. 1:5-7; Eph. 4:17-21; 2 Thes. 1:8).
- If they are to prosper in the way, they too must be faithful to the covenant -- as they have sworn at Mt. Sinai.
- If they will now submit themselves under His yoke, He will this day establish them "a people unto Himself" as He has sworn; the far-reaching significance of this offer Moses tries to impress upon his beloved people.
- SOLEMN WARNING IS GIVEN AGAINST UNFAITHFULNESS.
- Three things they must guard against, (Deut. 29:16-21).
- Idolatry -- their hearts must not wander after strange gods (Deut. 13:6-11); nor should ours.
- Apostasy -- there must be no deliberate "standing off" from revealed truth and known responsibility, (Zeph. 1:4-6; Heb. 10:25-31; 2 Pet. 2:17, 20-22; 2 Thes. 2:3-4).
- Presumption -- they must never imagine that God will ignore or make special allowances for their sins, (vs. 19-21; Amos 3:2; 2 Pet. 2:10; Isa. 47:7-8; Rev. 18:7-8).
- If punishment comes upon them because of their infidelity, all men will recognize it as the righteous judgment of God -- a fulfillment of His faithful Word, (Deut. 29:22-28).
- Defection begins with individuals, but its contagion will effect the whole nation, (I Cor. 5:6b; Jer. 2:11; Rom. 1:23; Heb 12:15).
- Such defiance of God's order will bring severe judgment; the fruitfulness of the land cannot be enjoyed by a people who have forsaken their Maker and Provider, (2 Kings 17:9-23; 2 Chron. 36:13-21; Ezek. 19:10-14).
- The privileges and responsibilities of the covenant-position are inseparably connected, (Deut. 29:29).
- "Secret things belong to the Lord"; they are unsearchable, (Rom. 11:33).
Mankind is, naturally, inquisitive -- often forgetting what misery was inflicted on the race through Eve's indulgence of this characteristic. It is wise for us to leave with God the management of His decrees, causes, purposes, times and methods. If we learn proper reverence, labor faithfully, and patiently await God's schedule, He will lead us to higher altitudes of spiritual and intellectual experience, (Psa. 25:14).
- What God has revealed is our responsibility -- that we may do it. Glorying in intellectual attainment is an abomination before the Lord; whoever becomes a "doer" of that which is revealed "shall be blessed in his deed," (Jas. 1:22-25).
- GOD THEN REVEALS TO ISRAEL HIS MARVELOUS GRACE AND STEDFAST LOVE; IN WRATH HE WILL REMEMBER MERCY, (Deut. 30:1-10).
If the nation, in exile, repents and turns sincerely to Jehovah, He will be merciful. The nation will be restored to the land of promise, and once again the tokens of His covenant-favor will be bestowed. But:
- Israel must remember whence she has fallen, (Jer. 2:2-13; comp. Rev. 2:5).
- There must be a genuine repentance (change of mind and attitude, a returning) toward God, (Deut. 4:29-31; Lev. 26:40-45; Rom. 11:23).
- God will then, compassionately, restore their fortunes.
- He will gather His elect from the uttermost parts of the earth.
- He will bring them into the land of their fathers, that they may possess it, (comp. Gen. 28:15; 48:21; Neh. 1:9; Isa. 43:5-6; 48:20; 62:11-12).
- They will be more prosperous and numerous than their fathers, (Jer. 31:27-28).
- He will circumcise their hearts to love Him -- putting the curses upon their enemies; only they must obey Him and keep His commandments, (Deut. 30:6-10).
- It was remembrance of this promise that prompted Solomon's prayer at the temple dedication; and the prophets never forgot it, (I Kings 8:33-40).
- NOR IS GOD'S REQUIREMENT TOO HARD OR TOO FAR OFF; IT IS NEAR -- A MERE MATTER OF RIGHT HEARTS, (Deut. 30:11-14).
- God does not require anything impossible or impractical of His people.
- He does not ask us to believe anything that is incredible.
- There is no reason why we should be ignorant of His will; His demands are not hard to determine or understand.
- But all this is true only as God has our hearts -- only as we are trusting Him, (Rom. 10:1-13).
- THE NATION HERE FACES ITS CRUCIAL MOMENT OF DECISION, (Deut. 30:15-20).
- A choice must be made; it is true in every life, (Josh. 24:15).
- The alternatives are clearly set forth.
- Loving and faithful obedience will mean life and perpetual blessing in the land of promise.
- Rebellious and unbelieving hearts will permit only a brief sojourn in the land; death will be their end, for they will assuredly be cut off from the "land of the living."
- Heaven and earth are called to witness that the choice here made is deliberate.
- Moses makes a final heart-rending plea that his beloved people should "choose life ... and live!"
The Mosaic covenant demonstrates God's tender love for His people and His faithful remembrance of Abraham. He planted a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. Given every possible advantage, blessing and protection, it brought forth only "wild grapes." Though it was "holy, just and good," the law did not profit Israel -- weakened by her sinful flesh, (Rom. 7:12; 8:3).
The blessings of the covenant were never realized by the nation. The law demanded a righteousness that it gave no power to fulfill. Only as its demands were met, satisfied and fulfilled could its blessings be experienced. To a nation that loved only itself, such an experience was impossible.
God purposed, through the covenant nation, to banish pagan darkness -- enlightening and enriching men of all nations. But, in presumptuous pride, the nation would not have it so -- ultimately losing its covenant standing and privileges. The Divine lamentation over such blind ingratitude speaks of the depth of God's love, (Hos. 11:4; 8; Psa. 81:10-16; Matt. 23:37-39).
The King was rejected and the fulfillment of His Kingdom purpose delayed. The nation was cut off
from the covenant-position, and a strange people grafted into the true stock of Israel. We stand by faith. The record of God's dealing with this people is written for our profit; may we truly take it to heart.
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
- On what was Israel's national existence (as a covenant people) and her safe-dwelling in the land dependent?
- Though God had already called a special people, and given them a righteous law, what more was necessary before His theocratic order could be established?
- Had the nation fully appreciated what God had done for her thus far?
- Why had God not given them understanding?
- Why did Moses reprove their dullness?
- What happens when we fail to use what God has given us for His glory?
- What did God promise to do for Israel that "very day" if they would submit themselves under His yoke, in faith?
- What three sins did Moses specifically warn against on that occasion?
- Can one enjoy the privileges of the covenant if he refuses to accept its responsibilities?
- What does God promise if Israel, even in exile, turns to Him with her whole heart?
- Is God's requirement really difficult from the heart of faith?
- What, briefly, is the secret to a right relationship with God?
- What choice was Israel called on to make on this occasion?
- What witnesses were called to record their decision?
- What heart-riding plea did Moses make?
- Did Israel ever realize the full blessings of the covenant? Why?
- What ultimately happened to the nation?
- Is God pleased when His people sever themselves from the covenant-position?
- May we profit from an observation of Israel's experience?
- How would you summarize the Mosaic covenant?