TODAY’S READING: Deuteronomy 29–31
Moses began the last sermon of Deuteronomy, the last public address of his life, by summing up what was most crucial. He reminded the Israelites that they have entered into the covenant and oath of God (Deut. 29:12) in the very same way that God covenanted and made oath to Abraham and the fathers (v. 13). The tripartite formula was simple: I will be your God; you will be My holy people; and I will dwell among you to bless you and make you a blessing to all the unreached peoples of earth. This is the message of the Bible. This is the heartbeat of God. This is the lens with which we must view the world, history, and the days to come.
Moses indicated the universality of this hermeneutic in verses 14 and 15 when he commented that this covenant included those not present on that particular day. Reaching backward to Abraham and the patriarchs, reaching forward to the prophets, Christ, and the Church, Moses declared that God’s will for the world always plays out in the context of all nations. Verse 16 tells of the redemptive story unfolding in order that Egyptians could see, understand, and participate. Verses 22 to 24 tell of our children, the foreigner, and all the nations watching what Jehovah does with His people. We will be an example, good or bad. God will demonstrate through us what He will do among all nations. Verse 25 tells us that even the peoples of the world understand the justice of God in His punishing of His people when they break His covenant.
Moses could not stop talking about the nations (30:1–4) because God can’t stop thinking about them and He will never stop loving them. God is so committed to being worshiped by every ethnic group that He will make it possible whether or not His people are compliant. If we submit to God’s great passion, He blesses us, and His blessing spreads to all the earth. If we rebel against God’s great passion, He curses us, scatters us to all the earth, and uses that negative example to get His invitation across. God will include all the nations, all the peoples of earth in His family, and the invitation will go through His people. Whether that invitation is a joyful one or a scary one is up to us. God’s goal is to rejoice over us and our obedience (vv. 9–10), even as He rejoiced over our fathers, but His grand purposes will advance even if we get petulant and disobedient.
The choice of life and death cannot be disconnected from the offer of blessing that God offered Abraham (vv. 15–16). Leaders will come and go (31:1–30), but the essential covenantal understanding of God remains. Life and death, blessing and cursing, love and obedience are all connected to God’s covenant with Abraham: “I will be your God and dwell among you if you love and obey me. You will be my special people with the unique privilege of extending my blessings of redemption to every people group on earth. If you remember this privilege and rejoice in it, all will be well with you. If you despise this birthright, all will be ill—but my purpose will go forward anyway.”
God’s life in His people was never intended to be an insular circle of blessing. God’s love for His people was never intended to be confined to one family or nation. The whole reason God ransomed and redeemed Israel from Egypt was that it be a shining example to the nations, a witness to what God will do for all of them. The whole reason God has redeemed us is that He can use us to take that redemption glory to the uttermost parts of the earth. The greatest danger of wrath from God may not be the sins of commission; it may very well be the disobedience, the non-compliance, the non-sending of missionaries to the Swahili Muslim coastal peoples of East Africa and beyond. Could it be that Moses bluntly says to us over the years: Life is to participate fully in God’s missionary plan to be glorified by all peoples, and death is to do anything lessor, anything otherwise? I think that’s exactly what he’s saying.