Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Covenant and Dynasty in Deuteronomy

"But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it [the land]. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it" (Deuteronomy 1:38).

The book of Deuteronomy is laid out as a covenant or treaty document. In the Bible, covenants have a literary structure containing several sections. The first is the preamble. In this section, the Lord who is making the covenant identifies Himself. In the Ten Commandments, the phrase “I am Yahweh your God” is the preamble. In Deuteronomy, the preamble is 1:1–5. These verses identify Moses as the spokesman for the Lord, who is making this covenant with Israel.

The second section of a covenant is the historical prologue, which describes how the Lord delivered the people from wrath to grace, from bondage to freedom, from sin to righteousness—in this case, from Egypt into His kingdom. In the Ten Commandments the phrase “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” is the historical prologue. In Deuteronomy, the historical prologue runs from 1:6 to 4:43.

In order to understand what Moses said, we must bear in mind that Deuteronomy is a covenant renewal. God had instituted the covenant at Mount Sinai, and forty years later Moses led the people in renewing that same covenant. When God initially gave the covenant, He began the history with the deliverance from Egypt. Renewing it, Moses took up at the point where the first covenant had been made at Mt. Sinai (1:6).

A covenant renewal never reverts to the previous covenant but transforms the older covenant to fit new circumstances. The fundamental principles remain but the specific applications change. God made the covenant with Israel in a wilderness situation, and the law in Exodus and Leviticus is phrased in terms of the encampment. Moses then rephrased the law to apply it to the situation of living in the land.

Another aspect of a covenant is dynastic succession, found at the end of the document. Moses died, turning the nation over to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:1–8; 32:44–47; 34:9). This aspect of the covenant was mentioned in 1:38. We should notice a parallel in the New Testament. Just before He died Jesus renewed the covenant with His disciples, giving them a new law (John 13:34) and turning them over to His successor, the Holy Spirit (John 14–17).

Moses went to great pains to confirm Joshua as his successor, lest the people refuse to follow him. Jesus made it clear that the Holy Spirit is His successor. How faithful are you to Him? Seek to better know and understand the “Other Comforter” Jesus sent us.