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declaration of Independence March 23 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 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 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 covenants we call contracts; for example: work contracts, property contracts, and marriage contracts. The importance of having witnesses to verify a covenant or contract is that they authorize it as being genuine, and the signatures also serve as a witness to those who would violate it. The LORD entered into a covenant with Israel. This was in Moab before they crossed over into Canaan. He pre-empted 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; giving them food and water, preserving 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 God's 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 second millennium B.C. (more... ). We have covered other elements of the treaty and have now come to the final element: Witnesses to the treaty. Unlike the Suzerain treaties, however, The LORD did not call other divine witnesses to the treaty, since he alone is God, but he did call heaven and earth to witness the treaty (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The words of Deuteronomy and an especially composed song also served as witnesses to the treaty. The words of Deuteronomy were saved in a scroll and placed beside the Ark of the Covenant (not in it; the ten commandments were in it), and the song was taught to Israel and all succeeding generations as 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 of God 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 you or your family attends Sunday School, you will find that is one place people rehearse the great works of God through Bible stories and songs.

The LORD gave the purposes for carrying out his law and asked the people to make a choice (Deuteronomy 29:9, 12-13 and Deuteronomy 30:19-20). God told them to choose life with him that they might prosper and keep the land and his blessings.

Although most of us are not Israelites, if we choose to repent and receive him we have the promise of eternal life (John 1:12; 3:16; more...). 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 mortify (put to death) the deeds of the flesh we shall live (Romans 8:13). Like the Israelites, we, too, are faced with a choice. Choose life with the blessings of God, 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. God gave hope to Israel if she messed up, and we have hope if we will repent. 1John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (NIV). We can be restored and once again enjoy the favor and blessings of God!

During this time a new leader was chosen, a witness of God's leading. Although Moses was a great leader, Moses had been unfaithful by taking honor for himself when he struck a designated rock instead of speaking to it (Numbers 20:1-10). Moses was the human leader of all Israel. Of whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48), and so God needed Moses to be faithful in everything. He wasn't. God replaced Moses, therefore, and chose Joshua to lead them into the Promised Land. 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 led the Israelites into the Promised Land, Jesus also leads us into the Promised Land of heaven (John 14:1-3). In that sense Joshua was a type of Jesus. Like Christ, Joshua provided a positive example of being obedient in everything. If we desire our descendants to be faithful, will it be said that we were faithful witnesses?

Every seven years, at the feast of tabernacles, the Law (probably the book of Deuteronomy) was re- read. This was to remind the Israelites of their commitment to the LORD, along with the blessings and cursings associated with it. Moses' song, recorded in Deuteronomy 31:30- 32:43, was also sung. Songs are good memory tools, especially if they have a good lilt to them. This song was a testimony of God's favor if they would obey, God's curse upon them if they would disobey, and God's renewed favor if they would turn to him, repent, 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 provided a positive example of being obedient in everything. If we desire our descendants to be faithful, will it be said that we were faithful witnesses?
  • Use the memory tool of a song to help you remember God's Word.
  • Periodically renew your commitment to God

Today's Bible memory verse:

Deuteronomy 31:12

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… (NIV)

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