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declaration of Independence March 23 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Deuteronomy 29:2–32:47

Witnesses to a Covenant With God

On July 4, 1776 fifty-six men met to approve the United States Declaration of Independence. It was document to separate the control of the colonies from the tyranny of King George III of England. By later signing this document (August 2), they placed their lives and fortunes in jeopardy (more...). Today, we have other kinds of written documents we call contracts. We have work, property, marriage, and other kinds of legal agreements. The importance of having witnesses to verify a contract or a covenant is that they authorize it as being genuine, and the signatures also serve as a witness to those who would violate it.

In today's Bible reading the LORD enters into a covenant with Israel (this is in Moab before they cross over the Jordan River into Canaan). He preempts the covenant by charging them to remember the way the LORD delivered them from Egypt and led them through the wilderness for over forty years—providing them food and water, keeping their clothes and shoes from wearing out, and giving victories over their enemies. Even many second generation Israelites (those under twenty at the time of Israel's deliverance and desert trek) were eyewitnesses to God's faithfulness. Have we been eyewitnesses to his faithfulness? For the benefit of the next generation we need to share it.

As was said in previous Bible studies, the structure of the book of Deuteronomy follows the pattern of the Suzerain treaties typical of the Middle East treaties of that day (more... ). We have covered other elements of the treaty and now come to the final element: witnesses to the treaty. Unlike the Suzerain treaties, however, the LORD does not call other deities to witness the treaty, since he alone is God, but he does call heaven and earth to witness it (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The words of Deuteronomy and an especially composed song also serve as witnesses to the treaty. God tells Moses to take the scroll of the book of Deuteronomy and place it beside the Ark of the Covenant (not in it; the ten commandments are in it), and then teach the song to the Israelites. These will serve as instructions to succeeding generations and testimonies against those who would violate the covenant. Do we do anything to help us remember the words of the LORD? In the U.S., the Ten Commandments were once posted on school walls and in court rooms as visual reminders (witnesses) of God's holy standards. Now that they have been removed, we often have to look in our homes and churches for witnesses to God's covenants and works. If we or our families attend Sunday School, we find that is one place people rehearse the great works of God through Bible stories and songs.

At the end of the covenant, the LORD gives the purpose for carrying out his law and asks the people to make a choice (Deuteronomy 29:9, 12-13 and Deuteronomy 30:19-20). God tells them to choose life with him and obedience, so they might prosper and keep the land and his blessings.

Although most of us are not Israelites, if we choose to turn from our wrong doing and receive him we have the promise of eternal spiritual life (John 1:12; 3:16; more...). Then, if we abide in Christ and his words abide in us, we have the promise of answered prayer (John 15:7). If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another (1John 1:7). If through the Spirit of God we put to death the deeds of the flesh, we shall live (Romans 8:13). Like the Israelites, we, too, are faced with a choice. God wants us to choose life with his blessings, instead of his displeasure and discipline. Choose like the Apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, NIV).

What happens if we mess up? Is there no hope? Yes, there is hope. As God gives hope to Israel if she messes up, we have hope if we turn to God from our wickedness. The Apostle John says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9, NIV). We can be restored and once again enjoy the favor and blessings of God!

During this time a new leader is chosen, a witness of God's leading. Although Moses is a great leader, he became unfaithful by taking honor for himself when he struck a designated rock instead of speaking to it (Numbers 20:1-10). Moses is the human leader of all Israel. Of whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48), so God needed Moses to be faithful in everything. He wasn't. God replaces Moses, therefore, and chooses Joshua to lead them into the Promised Land of Canaan. Joshua's Hebrew name means “Jehovah saves.” In the New Testament, the name “Jesus” is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” (Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words , ISBN 0-917006-03-8, p.614). As Joshua will lead the Israelites into the promised land of Canaan, Jesus also leads us into the promised land of heaven (John 14:1-3). In that sense Joshua is a type of Jesus Christ (although Joshua was never crucified). Like Christ, Joshua provides a positive example of being obedient in everything. If we desire our descendants to be faithful, will it be said that we are faithful witnesses?

Every seven years, at the Feast of Tabernacles, the Law (probably the book of Deuteronomy) is read again. This is to remind the Israelites of their commitment to the LORD, along with the blessings and curses associated with it. Moses' song, recorded in Deuteronomy 31:30–32:43, is also sung. Songs are good memory tools, especially if they have a good lilt to them. This song is a testimony of God's favor if they obey, God's curses upon them if they disobey, and God's renewed favor if they turn to him, repent, humbly confess their sins, and obey him. It would be beneficial for Christians to be reminded of their commitment to the Lord and renew it periodically.

Lessons to Live By

  • Have we been eyewitnesses to God's faithfulness? For the benefit of the next generation we need to share it.
  • Churches are witnesses to God's covenants and works.
  • Like the Israelites, we, too, are faced with a choice. Choose life with the forgiveness, peace, and favor of God, instead of his displeasure and punishment. (more...)
  • There is hope if we mess up in our Christian life.
  • Jesus leads us into the promised land of heaven.
  • Like Christ, Joshua provides a positive example of being obedient in everything. If we desire our descendants to be faithful, will it be said that we are faithful witnesses?
  • Use the memory tool of a song to help you remember God's Word.
  • Periodically renew your commitment to the LORD.

Focus Verse

Deuteronomy 31:12 (NIV)

Assemble the people-- men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns-- so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God.

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A Look Ahead: Moses the mighty leader of Israel dies, leaving a blessing for each of the tribes. Then Joshua takes over as the chosen military leader to bring Israel into the Promised Land. Join us for our Next Lesson about Transferring Leadership

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