Deuteronomy: Covenant

No other book in the Old Testament presents as thorough a treatment of covenant relationship as Deuteronomy. The covenant Yahweh made with Israel at Sinai/Horeb represents the fulfillment of the covenant he had made with Abraham and an extension of his commitment to his descendants (cf. Gen. 17:7). And the covenant ceremonies that underlie the book of Deuteronomy represent the present generation’s own commitment to that covenant (26:16–19). It is within this covenantal context that we may understand the nature and role of the law in ancient Israel. According to Deuteronomy, within that relationship obedience to the law is:
  • not a burden but a response to the supreme and unique privilege of knowing God’s will (Deut. 4:6–8)
  • not a precondition to salvation but the grateful response of those who had already been saved (6:20–25)
  • not primarily a duty imposed by one party on another but an expression of covenant love (26:16–19)
  • not merely an external act but evidence of the circumcision of one’s heart and the internal disposition of fear of and love for God (10:12–11:1; 30:6–9)
  • not a pressured response to a tyrant but a willing subordination of one’s entire being to the gracious divine suzerain (6:4–9; 10:12–13)

In short, obedience to the law offers visible proof of righteousness, which is a precondition to Israel’s fulfillment of the mission to which she had been called and to her own blessing (4:24–25; chs. 11; 28). This obedience is both reasonable and achievable (30:11–20).