“These are the words of the Covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the Covenant which He made in Horeb. Now Moses called all Israel and said to them:‘You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharoah and to all his servants and to all his land – the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs and those great wonders….that you may know that I am the Lord your God…therefore keep the Words of this Covenant and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do...
All of you stand today before the Lord your God; your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives – also to the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water – that you may enter into a Covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I make this Covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord your God, as well as with him who is not here with us today (for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, and you saw the abominations and their idols which were among them – wood and stone and silver and gold); so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’ – as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The Lord would not spare him; for then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this Book would settle on him, and the Lord would blot out his name from under Heaven. And the Lord would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the Covenant that are written in this Book of the Law, so that the coming generation of your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, would say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the Lord has laid on it; the whole land is brimstone, salt and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah…which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath. All nations would say ‘Why has the Lord done so to this land? What does the heat of this great anger mean?’ Then people would say: ‘Because they have forsaken the Covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which He made with them, for He brought them out of the land of Egypt; for they went and served other Gods and worshipped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this Book. And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.’ The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the Words of this Law.” Deuteronomy 29:1-29
God commands us to enter into Covenant with Him and with one another. When we Covenant with God, we are, by God’s grace, embracing the relationship He has called us to by His redeeming grace.
When we covenant with one another we are by God’s grace, embracing the Covenant relationships that He has authorised in His Word.
We are a Covenant people. Our most treasured relationships are guarded by Covenants: Baptism, marriage, church membership, being set aside and commissioned for the Lord’s service. We relate to one another on the basis of covenants, because this is the way that God has chosen to relate to His people. From Adam, and Noah, to Moses and David, even to the New Covenant of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The New Covenant“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah…This is the Covenant that I will make with the House of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My Law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34
The Old Covenant with Moses was written on tablets of stone, the new Covenant of our Lord Jesus Christ is written on our hearts and in our minds. “They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting Covenant with them that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.” Jeremiah 32:38-40
God initiated a Covenant with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17 & 18). The Scripture speaks of God covenanting with the Levites and the priests and others called to minister for Him (Jeremiah 33:21). After leading the people in a prayer of national repentance, Nehemiah and the leaders of Israel made a binding agreement with Almighty God, putting it into writing and affixing their seals to it. “And because of all this, we make a sure Covenant and write it, our leaders, our Levites and our priests seal it.” Nehemiah 9:38
The Scripture speaks of “The Covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.” Nehemiah 13:29
God commands us to enter into Covenant with the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:12). God makes Covenants with His people (Genesis 6:18; 15:18;17; ; 2 Samuel 23:5; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Isaiah 55:3; 61: 8; Hebrews 8:7-12).
God Covenants with nations (Exodus 34:10; Isaiah 42:6).
Nations must Covenant with the Lord (Jeremiah 34:18-19).
Nations must be faithful to the Covenants that they have with Almighty God (Jeremiah 34:10-20).
The rainbow is a sign of the Covenant God made with Noah and his descendants (Genesis 9:16).
The Sabbath is a sign of God’s Covenant with the children of Israel (Leviticus 24:8).
The earth is defiled when people transgress God’s Laws and break His everlasting Covenant (Isaiah 24:5).
Nations are required to be faithful to their Covenant with Almighty God (2 Kings 23:3; 2 Chronicles 29:10; 2 Chronicles 15:12; Ezra 10:3). The Scriptures prophesy a time when all nations will enter into Covenant with Almighty God: “I the Lord have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, I will keep you and give you as a Covenant to the people, as a light to the gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison. Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” Isaiah 42:6-7
“In His days the righteous shall flourish, an abundance of peace until the moon is no more. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, and His enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the Isles will bring presents, the kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him…His Name shall endure forever; His Name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; and all nations shall call Him Blessed…and let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.” Psalm 72:7-19
In the Bible kings made covenants with their people (1 Chronicles 11:3; Jeremiah 34:8; 2 Kings 23:3); and people made covenants with their leaders ( 2 Chronicles 23:3; 2 Kings 23:3).
Church leaders and church members are also to make Covenants with one another and with the Lord (2 Kings 11:4; 2 Kings 11:17; 2 Kings 11:4).
Loyalty and Commitment
God expects us to enter into relationships of commitment with obligations, duties, loyalties and privileges. What the Voortrekkers vowed on the eve of their battle with the Zulus was quite reasonable and in accordance with Reformed history. Dingaan had violated the agreement he had made with Piet Retief and treacherously murdered hundreds of Boers. Now the Voortrekkers were solemnly entering into a Covenant with Almighty God which led to a great victory at the Battle of Blood River and as a result the spiritual liberation of the Zulu people began, with many Zulus coming to Christ.
“Nevertheless I will remember My Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting Covenant with you.” Ezekiel 16:60
“Moreover, I will make a Covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting Covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forever more.” Jeremiah 37:26
Covenant Breakers Invite God’s Wrath
God controls the destiny of nations and individuals. Our problems are not primarily political, but spiritual. We have created and aggravated our own problems though our disobedience to God’s Holy Law. What a man sows, that shall he reap.
It is human greed, lust and selfishness that underlies the corruption, immorality and crime in society. It is man’s desire to be independent of God, free of moral restraint and liberated from ethical considerations. It has led to the breakdown of moral standards, the break up of modern families and the sell out of our countries to corruption and terrorism.
The problem is sin. Do you spend more time reading the newspapers than reading the Bible? Do you spend more time listening to communists than listening to God? Do you spend more time watching TV than in worshipping Christ? Are you playing more often than praying? Do you worry more about what people think of you than what God thinks of you? Do you labour harder to appease “world opinion” than to please God?
Those who trust in man-made solutions to solve their problems will suffer the consequences of human failure. Worldly wisdom and national strength mixed with human pride are no match for obedience to the principles of God’s Word, faith in the power of Almighty God and humble trust in our Sovereign Creator.
A Call to Repentance and Obedience
The Scripture teaches us in Jeremiah 18:7-10 that if any nation turns away from evil and turns to God, God will bless and build up and strengthen that nation. However, if any nation turns away from God and turns to do evil, God will uproot, break down and destroy that nation.
Deuteronomy 28 teaches us that if a nation is faithful in obeying the clear commands of the Lord, He will bless their fields and their crops, their children and their homes. He will send rain at the right times and grant victory in battle. Similarly, it warns that if we do evil and reject the Lord, He will bring on us disaster, confusion and trouble in everything we do…the Lord will strike us with infectious diseases, with swelling and fever, drought and scorching winds, disasters, dust storms and sand storms. The Lord will give our enemies victory over us and those who hate us will rule over us. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe stands as a recent example of a nation in rebellion to God destroying itself. Zimbabwe shows us a graphic example of the warnings of Deuteronomy 28 fulfilled in every detail.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs1:7). Yet, how often do we fear man and reject God’s Law? We cannot blame God for our failures caused by our own unethical opportunism. We should not be surprised when our wisdom is shown up to be sheer stupidity and our strength is exposed as weakness, when God judges our arrogance with disgrace.
We do not so much break God’s Law as break ourselves upon God’s Laws. If you step off the edge of Table Mountain, the law of gravity will ensure that we break every bone in our body. Gravity is not just a good idea, it’s the law!
Just as every manufactured item needs to be operated in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the manufacturers instructions, so too we should not be surprised when things go wrong when we ignore the Creator’s instructions as spelled out in the Bible.
This is true for nations, for families, and for individuals. The very best guidelines for life, morals, ethics and standards are found in the Law and precepts of God as recorded in the Scriptures. Those nations which have entered into Covenant relationships with Almighty God, such as Great Britain, were blessed beyond all other nations – as long as they remained faithful to God’s Law. By God’s grace they mobilised the greatest missionary movement ever seen. They converted cannibals, set slaves free, ended the slave trade, established hospitals, schools, churches, roads, railways, bridges, law courts, bringing the blessings of literacy, medicine and the Gospel of Christ to countless millions of previously primitive people worldwide.
Yet when they failed to be faithful to their Covenant obligations then God raised up the United States to become the most productive, most free and prosperous country in history. Whenever people are faithful to God’s Covenant they are blessed and they become a blessing. When we violate our Covenant commitments we suffer the consequences.
Morals do matter. The spiritual life of our country is crucial. Our relationship to God makes all the difference. Not just lip service or religious ritual, but a personal relationship with God as our Father.
Have you experienced the forgiveness that comes from Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross? Have you been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit? Are you diligently studying God’s Word and seeking to be faithful to His Word in your daily life?
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and that the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you go to possess…I call Heaven and Earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you obey His voice, and you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers…” Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74
Cape Town, South Africa
Fax: (021) 685-5884
This message was presented to Livingstone Fellowship.
The audio CD of this message and other Reformation resources are available from Christian Liberty Books:
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See also: The Day of the Covenant
and The Battle for South Africa