The Word Made Fresh
1This is the agreement the LORD told Moses to make with the Israelites while they were in Moab, in addition to the agreement made with them at Horeb. 2Moses called the people together and said, “You have heard what the LORD did to Pharaoh and his officers and other leaders in Egypt. 3You know all about the great trials and other signs and wonders the LORD performed. 4But so far, the LORD has not helped you to see or hear or understand. 5I led you through the wilderness for forty years, and your clothes and sandals have not worn out. 6You survived even though you had no bread or wine or liquor. All this was done for you so that you might know the LORD your God.
7“When you came to this place king Sihon of Heshbon and king Og of Bashan attacked us, but we beat them back. 8We took their land and gave it to Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 9So, be careful to follow the provisions of this agreement and you will do everything wisely.
10“Today you stand before the LORD your God – your leaders and tribal elders and officials, all the men, 11children and women of Israel and the foreigners who cut your wood and draw your water. 12You are gathered here to take an oath to enter into the agreement the LORD your God is offering you today. 13You will do this so that you will be established as the LORD’s people, and so that the LORD will be your God as promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, your ancestors. 14The LORD is making this agreement with you, and not only with you who are standing here 15but also those who are not present today.
16“You know how we lived in Egypt, and how we came through all the people of the lands through which we have travelled. 17You have seen their contemptible idols of wood and stone and silver and gold. 18It may well be that there are people here whose hearts are already turning away from the LORD our God to serve the gods of those people. It may well be that there is already a bitter and poisonous seed sprouting among you. 19Such individuals among you will hear these words and pat themselves on the back and think they are safe in spite of their stubborn rebellion that destroys young and old alike, 20but the LORD will never forgive them, and the LORD’s anger will burn against them and all the curses in this book will assail them until the LORD has erased their names from the earth. 21The LORD will separate them from the tribes of Israel and bring the disasters upon them that are written in this book of the law of the LORD. 22Your children who come after you and foreigners who come from distant lands will see how their land was devastated by the afflictions sent by the LORD. 23They will see the land barren as if burned up with salt and sulfur, with nothing planted or growing – a barren land with no vegetation, like Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD wiped out with fierce anger. 24And they, and all the nations, will wonder what caused the LORD to become so angry as to do this. 25And they will say, ‘It happened because they abandoned the agreement the LORD, the God of their ancestors, made with them when they were brought out of Egypt, 26and they turned away to worship other gods whom they had never known before and whom their God did not give them. 27That’s why the LORD was angry and brought every curse they had been warned about in the LORD’s book. 28So, the LORD ripped them out of their land in great fury and threw them away into the other land where they have now gone.’
29“The LORD our God has many secrets, but has revealed some things to us, and those things belong to us and our children forever so that we may keep all the words of this law.”
1: In the Hebrew Bible, verse 1 is placed at the end of chapter 28 as verse 69. I like that placement better because it is then clearer that “these are the words of the covenant” refers to the previous chapters and not to the following ones. We are told that this is an additional covenant to the one at Mt. Horeb, not a replacement covenant.
2-9: Here begins the third and final speech of Moses – his farewell to the people. He begins by reminding them of their history – their time in Egypt, their wilderness trek, their opposition from Sihon and Og, and the agreement to allow three tribes to remain on the east side of the Jordan (provided they send troops to help the other tribes subdue the land).
10-13: A new covenant is being ratified with all the people – men, women, and children, and even foreigners who live among them.
14-15: The covenant is being made by Moses with God, on behalf of the people – both those who are present and those “who are not here with us today,” perhaps referring to generations unborn.
16-29: Moses seems to be particularly concerned about the religions of the people of Canaan. He again warns them to stay away from the other gods, and gives them horrible descriptions of the consequences of forsaking the covenant with God.
Moses’ greatest concern was that his people would be enamored of the exciting, sexually charged rituals of other gods worshiped by the people in Canaan, and wander far from the way of life God is calling them to live. We are in danger, too, of straying from the faith that has been bought so extravagantly for us. The lures of the world around us are dangerous precisely because they appeal to our basest instincts. Fame and acclaim, fortune and pleasures, lure us away from the simple, faithful lives God calls us to in the Scripture and in the example of God’s only begotten Son. The warnings Moses gives the people of Israel are just as appropriate now as then.