The Covenant and the Mercy
In our verses today, Moses refers to the covenant and the mercy that the Lord swore to Israel’s fathers. When we read something like that, as we have seen in previous sermons, it isn’t always easy to know what “fathers” are being referred to.
Scholars make their analyses, and each presents the case as to what he believes is being said. At times, one case seems as possible as another and a third just as likely as the first two. The same is true with what Moses says today. It can be confusing, because there are various ways that the term “fathers” can be defined.
Is it those who received the law? Is it the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Or, is it all of them or some other group? Sometimes deciding is made easier by later passages in the Bible, and sometimes they may muddy the waters to us even more. Not because the word is conflicted, but because we are.
This is especially true because we may come at the Bible with our own presuppositions. If so, we will refuse to see what is otherwise plain and obvious. I’m certainly as guilty of this as anyone else. There are certain things I believe about God, about His word, and about His relationships with various peoples at various times. Because of that, I’m sure that my judgment is – in one point or another – clouded. I would hope this isn’t the case, but if it is, I wouldn’t be able to identify it in myself very easily. None of us could.
Text Verse: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
71 That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
74 To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.” Luke 1:68-75
Did you see any similarities in those words to the sermon text we read a minute ago? If so, how are you going to analyze what is said in one passage in relation to what is said in the other?
Did the church replace Israel? Is there one covenant for Israel and another for the Gentiles? Why does one speak of a land grant and the other doesn’t? Does the promise of land go hand in hand with the other promises to Israel? Can it be separated from them? Are the Gentiles included in any land grant?
On and on, we have to evaluate the word as best we can. We can’t ignore any of it, but we have to consider it in relation to what the Lord intends. It’s not always that easy, and one error in analysis can lead to many others. As always, what I have evaluated for you to consider today should be supplemented by your own study and consideration.
It’s important because this is God’s word. As such, it presents what He has done, intends to do, and to whom He intends to do it – at any given time. We all fit into the picture somewhere, but we don’t fit into it everywhere. So, keeping things in their context is necessary.
In understanding the context, we can then determine what God will do for us and with us. Isn’t that exciting? It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
There is a chiastic structure to verses 9-12 that I plucked out of those verses the day this sermon got typed. So you are aware of it, here it is –
With that in view…
I. Therefore You Shall Keep the Commandment (verses 9-11)
9 “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God,
v’yadata ki Yehovah elohekha hu ha’elohim – “And know for Yehovah your God, He, the God.” The words are emphatic, but the emphasis is left out of English translations. There is a definite article before the word God. In other words, Moses is stating unambiguously that not only is Yehovah Israel’s God, but He is THE GOD.
This is one of only five times in the book of Deuteronomy that the definite article is placed before the word Elohim, or God, in this exact manner. It was seen twice in Chapter 4, and it will be seen once in Chapter 10 and once in Chapter 33.
As Moses says He is THE GOD, and as simple logic tells us that there can be only one God – meaning in the sense of the Creator God and not a “lesser god” – then this One God is Yehovah. That this is evident is understood from the theological points known as the 12 First Principles. Points 7 and 8 state –
- Only Necessary Being Can Cause a Contingent Being (Bn —>Bc). This is known as the Positive Principle of Modality. What it means is that there is a Being that cannot Not exist. He must exist. As we exist, and as we are certainly not necessary, but rather are created beings, then God must exist. The principle is reducible to the undeniable. Understanding this, we then turn to point 8 –
- Necessary Being Cannot Cause A Necessary Being (Bn>Bn). This is known as the Negative Principle of Modality. Again, the principle is undeniable. Only one Necessary Being can exist. Any being which exists apart from a Necessary Being is contingent and could Not exist. It is self-evident. In other words, because a Necessary Being must exist (point 7), and because only He is necessary, then only He is God.
Without giving the logical explanation for it, this is what Moses is conveying to the people of Israel. His words simply proclaim it is true, and they ask us to logically consider them (as we have done), and to accept that if Yehovah is that Necessary Being, then He is THE GOD.
That thought brings in the obvious next thought. How do we tell “if Yehovah is that Necessary Being?” Can it be some other “god” that some culture or another follows? How do we find out? The gravity of getting this wrong is such that only a fool would not want to be sure.
The answer is to be found in several logical steps. The first would be to contemplate all twelve of the First Principles. In understanding them, it is possible to weed out all of the false gods, and also the false presentations of the true God.
But that only eliminates, it doesn’t confirm. And so, man next evaluates whatever has not been eliminated – which is the God of the Bible, Yehovah. We can know that all other gods are false, but that does not prove Yehovah is THE GOD.
In comparing Scripture with logic, we will find that nothing about the God of the Bible is contradictory to logic. From there, we can go further and see that not only is the God presented in the Bible supported by such logic, but He goes beyond it, telling what He will do before it comes to pass – meaning He gives us the prophetic word.
This prophetic word includes what God has done, is doing, and will do with a particular group of people – Israel. Thus, the God of the Bible not only reveals Himself as possibly being the true God, but He then confirms that possibility through His actions. One of those actions, which came through Israel, is the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
In that, nothing is contrary to the logical principles which have been set forth, it was spoken of in advance, and it is therefore a confirmation of who Yehovah is, and of the word He has given. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we have a sound and reasonable faith. And this continues to be true for Israel, even though Israel rejected Him. Why? Because Yehovah is…
9 (con’t) the faithful God
ha’el ha’neeman – “the God, the faithful.” I said that ha’elohim, or “the God,” is seen just five times in Deuteronomy. I was referring to that exact expression. Here, there is – again – an article before el, or God. This is one of just two times this expression is used in Deuteronomy, once here, and once in Chapter 10.
Moses then qualifies that by saying, ha’neeman, or “the faithful.” The word signifies to confirm or support. In other words, God is faithful – confirming His words. They are to be trusted. In the case of Israel, what will be said in the coming words and verses indicates that Israel could, and indeed, will be cut off for disobedience.
But we find elsewhere that this is never permanent. God’s covenant with them will stand, even in their breaking of it. He will never break His own side of it. For now, Moses continues describing THE GOD…
9 (con’t) who keeps covenant and mercy
shomer ha’berit v’ha’khesed – “keeping the covenant and the loyal love.” It is tragic how out of 27 translations referred to for this sermon, only one included the definite articles – “the covenant and the mercy.” Moses is being especially careful to describe the actions of Yehovah and how they relate to Israel.
The use of the article before the verb “mercy” gives it the force of an adjective, showing that He is to be trusted because it is His very nature. He will keep the loyalty to His mercy faithfully.
9 (con’t) for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
l’ohhava u-l’shomere mitsvotav l’eleph dor – “to those who love Him and keep His commandments to thousandth generation.” This is similar to the second commandment found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 –
“For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:9, 10
There is a difference in this verse though, which very few translations pick up on. The word “generations” is in the singular – “to thousandth generation.” It is as if Moses is looking ahead in time and anticipating the faithfulness of God, counting each generation and seeing that His lovingkindness is not missing toward even one of them. However…
10 and He repays those who hate Him
There are those who hate God, and then there are those who hate God. Some hate Him for whatever reason they think is justified. They may hate Him because He took away a beloved spouse or a child. They may hate Him because they lost a great fortune. They may hate Him because they were born crippled.
People find their own reasons that God is to be hated based on who they are, meaning that they feel they are deserving of better. Thus, their hatred of Him ultimately demonstrates that they believe it is they, and not He, who is the center of the universe.
Then, there are those who hate God not explicitly, but implicitly. They may say, “Yes, I just love God. He and I are in tight.” But it is a lie because they don’t obey His precepts, whatever they may be, demonstrating that they have no love for Him.
If one has no love for God, they – by default – hate God. There are not the usual gradations of love and hate that we may express towards a person we can see, touch, and so on. This doesn’t mean, however, that someone who exactingly fulfills God’s law loves Him, nor does it mean that someone who fails to exactingly fulfill God’s law hates Him.
David failed to fulfill the law, and yet his love of God is revealed throughout his life, his actions, his writings, and so on. And the Lord’s love for him is seen as well.
The Pharisees and Sadducees meticulously kept the law, and yet they had no love for God. And, the words of Jesus, who is God, shows that the Lord had no love for them as well.
Because of these things, the words of this passage need to be considered in their proper context, which is a heart relationship towards the Lord and a heart attitude towards His law. When the hatred toward God is seen, either actively or implicitly, he will repay them…
10 (con’t) to their face, to destroy them.
It is debated what el panav, or “to their face,” means. Some views are “openly and publicly,” or “at once,” or “in their lifetime.” But it is evident that many who hate the Lord, whether explicitly or implicitly, lived long, trouble-free lives. Job speaks about that.
What Moses is surely conveying is that man will be judged, and he will personally know that his judgment is from God, regardless of the day it comes. This is certain because Moses next says…
10 (con’t) He will not be slack with him who hates Him;
These words make it sound like the earlier option of the Lord’s judgment coming “at once” is the most likely. However, the alacrity of the Lord is not conditioned on our expectations, but His foreknowledge, wisdom, and purpose. Peter makes this evident –
“But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:8, 9
We may look at the promise of the Lord to repay an offense to someone’s face as only fulfilled if it comes in his life. But that is because we want justice in that manner. But to God, that is unnecessary. It is He who will judge, and He will do so in a manner which is the most perfectly executed.
And how good that is for many of us who openly rebelled against God for much of our lives! And yet, that open rebellion was met with the judgment of grace and mercy. It is judgment, nonetheless, but it was judgment brought down upon His Son in our place.
Can anyone say that the Apostle Paul had his hatred of the Lord repaid in the way we expected from our reading of Deuteronomy 7? Probably not. Despite his zeal for the law (which he admits in both Acts and Philippians), it cannot be said that he loved the Lord, because the law foretold of the coming of Christ.
It told what He would be like, what He would do, how He would do it, and so on. And yet, Paul rejected the obvious when Christ came. In rejecting Christ, he demonstrated hatred toward the Lord. The repayment of that, at least for Paul, was one of the most incredible displays of “before your face” that anyone could ever imagine –
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts” 9:4-6
How the Lord handles His affairs is solely up to the Lord. How He repays any given person is also solely up to Him. As Paul says elsewhere, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?”
The Lord will have mercy on whom He has mercy, but that mercy is still in the form of a judgment. No infraction against Him will be treated otherwise. But the mercy on those who received it is taken out as judgment on Another who did not. Either way…
10 (con’t) He will repay him to his face.
No person’s hatred of God will go unpunished. It may appear that way when we see the wicked and corrupt continuously getting away with their actions, but they are actually only heaping up greater guilt for the day of their judgment, whenever it will be, and in whatever manner He determines for it to come about.
For those who truly wish to please the Lord and not see judgment either in themselves or in a Substitute, Moses implores the people (Oh, thank heaven, it’s)…
11 Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments
The NKJV gets it right this time. The word “commandment” is singular, not plural. The words “statutes” and “judgments” are plural. They are also prefixed by definite articles. There is the duty of the law, meaning the commandment, and then there are the statutes and the judgments which define that law, and which comprise it.
Moses is giving the law with its many details in anticipation of the people hearing and responding. As he next says…
11 (con’t) which I command you today, to observe them.
These words show, quite clearly, that hating the Lord can be either active or passive. In failing to observe the commands, it demonstrates a hatred toward the Lord. But again, and as we already saw, this is not to be taken in the absolute sense, nor is it necessarily to be taken in the reciprocal either.
Just because someone observes the law, it doesn’t mean they love the Lord. It may be a self-love looking for the approval of others. And just because someone fails to observe the law perfectly, it does not mean that his heart does not love the Lord. In both, the attitude of the heart is considered. This is true throughout the rest of the Bible. For example, from Isaiah –
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle.
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
Or of lambs or goats.
12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who has required this from your hand,
To trample My courts?” Isaiah 1:11, 12
The answer is that the Lord required them in the law, but He did so in the context of what we are looking at today – faithful observance, not rote observance. Isaiah goes on to speak of the feasts, the Sabbaths, the assemblies – all being repulsive to the Lord because the people’s hands were tainted with blood and their lives were filled with evildoings.
The Lord your God, He is the God
He is ever faithful and true
Of His great deeds we shall forever applaud
When He at last all things makes new
He keeps the covenant and the mercy
He shall never forget those who trust in Him
Let there be no controversy
Because of the Lord, the devil is done in
No longer does Satan have the power
To tear God’s people away from Him
Christ is our protection and our high tower
Because of Christ our Lord, the devil is done in
II. Which He Swore to Your Fathers (verses 12-16)
12 “Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them,
v’hayah eqev tishmeun – “And it shall be, following after, you listen.” It is a somewhat rare word, eqev. In Deuteronomy, it will only be seen here and in the next chapter. It speaks of consequence and so “because” is fine. But the word’s etymology will help understand what is being conveyed.
It comes from the verb aqav, meaning the hind part, or following after. That comes from the noun aqev, meaning the heel, or a footprint. At times, such as in Psalm 19, it is translated as a “reward.” What Moses is conveying is that one thing will be the consequence of the other. Just as there is anticipated repayment for those who hate Him, there is expected reward for those who heed, demonstrating that they love Him.
Moses gives the commandment and the statutes and the judgments. From there, the people listen (meaning hearken) to these judgments, and then they keep and do them –
You (all – it is plural) listen
And you (all – it is plural) keep and do
Then, in the footprints of that action…
12 (con’t) that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers.
The words revert from the plural to the singular – the Lord your (singular) God will keep with you (singular) the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your (singular) fathers.
The wording, going from the plural to the singular, is precise and beautiful. Israel can expect the reward, but they cannot expect it if the people pursue the word willy nilly. “This group does, and this group doesn’t, but who cares?”
The people (all of them) must listen, keep, and do. In this, the people (Israel) will receive the blessing. One can see the rejection of Jesus as an example. Some of Israel received Him. But the people (all of them) did not. The blessing for corporate Israel was not received.
That is why it repeats the same phrase as in verse 9, but which is translated correctly by the NKJV this time: ha’berit v’eth ha’khesed – “the covenant and the mercy.” It is this which Moses says, “which He swore to your fathers.” This then is ultimately speaking of the covenant of Messiah, and the loyal love which stems from Him.
This was never truly realized in Israel, and the blessings they received –as seen in Scripture – were only shadowy reflections of what was promised, and which will ultimately come to pass at some future point when they acknowledge Christ as Lord.
We can be absolutely certain this is correct because it is exactly what Zacharias prophesied by the Holy Spirit in our text verse today, and which reverts all the way back to Abraham. This is not merely speaking of the Mosaic Covenant, but the fulfillment of it in Christ, and thus the promised blessing to all peoples which was made to Abraham.
Israel will receive that someday because Moses is speaking not to the Gentile world, but to Israel alone. In the Song of Moses of Chapter 32, however, Moses says, “Rejoice O Gentiles with His people.”
One could argue that is only speaking of the Gentiles because the word “with” is inserted. But Paul repeats that in Romans 15:10, and he clearly indicates that “with” is to be understood in Deuteronomy. Moses next says what this reaction of the Lord will be…
13 And He will love you and bless you and multiply you;
The “love” follows on from the promise to Abraham –
“By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” Genesis 22:16, 17
Israel would receive the promise of Abraham, because it was ordained to be so. The inclusion of “love” here signifies that they are obedient to the words of Moses and accepting of the promise based on that. In other words, the love will be displayed when they receive the One whom the commandment anticipates. Until then, the love is imperfect and conditional. At some point, it will be a complete and fully realized love.
13 (con’t) He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land,
The two are necessarily stated together to show blessing upon blessing. In impoverished nations, the rate of babies being born normally doesn’t decrease. However, without the fruit of the land, it becomes a double curse, rather than a blessing. And so, to mention the fruit of the land implies anticipated health to the fruit of the womb. The fruit of the land is then further explained as…
13 (con’t) your grain and your new wine and your oil,
Here, Moses promises blessing upon the dagan or “grain.” That comes from dagah, meaning to multiply or increase. Also, the tirosh, or “new wine,” which comes from yarash, meaning to take possession of or inherit. Thus, it is fresh, unfermented, wine. And also, the yitshar, or “fresh oil.” That is from tsohar, or midday. Thus, it is as if oil that produces light.
13 (con’t) the increase of your cattle
The word translated as “increase,” is sheger. It is only seen in Exodus 13 and four times in Deuteronomy. It signifies offspring of beasts. The word translated as “cattle” comes from a root signifying “to learn.” Thus, Moses is referring to animals which are tamed and yoked, learning to be obedient to the master.
13 (con’t) and the offspring of your flock,
Here, the word “offspring,” ashtaroth, is a rare plural word. It is introduced here, and it will only be seen three more times in Deuteronomy. It comes from a root signifying to either be or become rich. Thus, in their multiplication, one amasses wealth.
These blessings are promised to the people, but more, they are promised to be…
13 (con’t) in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you.
This is the greatest of all of the promises, even though it simply appears tacked onto the end as if an afterthought. The land promise is what makes the rest of the blessings possible, and that land promise is only possible if the people are living in accord with the Lord as Moses puts forth in this passage.
At times, the people lived in the land while suffering under deprivation, hostility from their enemies, and so on. At other times, the people were exiled from the land. In this, they were cut off from all but the most basic covenant promises – that of being kept as a people.
However, while in the land, they could – if they were obedient to the word in a proper, heart-directed way – experience these promised blessings of the Lord.
Understanding this, we again see that the exile of Israel, and all of the woes that have come upon them, are because they failed to heed the word. If the Lord is God, and indeed He is, then their failure to receive Christ as their Messiah is what brought all of the calamity upon them.
The Mosaic covenant is incomplete without the coming of Christ, and in His coming, it is fulfilled in Him. Thus, all of these promises are denied to Israel in their fullest sense until they realize this and call out to Him. When they do…
14 You shall be blessed above all peoples;
As has been noted, at times, these promises came upon Israel in a limited way, and for a limited time. During the reign of Solomon, this was as close to being realized as at any other time in Scripture. But it was still an imperfect blessing even then. Solomon departed from the Lord, and trouble ensued.
One could argue then, that this is only a hopeful anticipation which is never fully realized. This is especially so because in the coming of Christ, the people of the church are on an equal status with the Jews, all being one in Christ.
However, that is not what this is referring to. It is referring to the status of Israel among all peoples. That is not a promise which is set aside in the coming of Christ and their acceptance of Him. Rather, it is the fulfillment of this promise now.
The countless promises of the messianic blessings upon the people of the land of Israel have never been fulfilled. But they will come to pass. Israel being above all peoples in this capacity is seen again and again in Scripture. One obvious example is found in Zechariah 14 –
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. 18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” Zechariah 14:16-19
The promises have come to pass during Israel’s infrequent times of obedience, but they shall come to pass – in their fulness – in Israel’s acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus. And, Moses next says…
14 (con’t) there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock.
Again, as with verse 13, Moses promises that the blessing of (or toward) the womb will be assured. This will be upon both males and females, and upon both man and beast. Here, the word is aqar. It signifies being barren, and it is almost always referring to the barren womb of a woman. However, in the case of a man, it signifies being sterile. The words of this verse follow after the earlier promise made in Exodus 23 –
“No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.” Exodus 23:26
Throughout the Bible, the ability to procreate is considered a blessing, and to not be able to is considered exactly the opposite. It was a cause of shame. Moses promises that this will never be the case to the people who are faithfully obedient to the commandment of the Lord. Further…
15 And the Lord will take away from you all sickness,
Here is another new word, kholi, or sickness. It signifies any malady, anxiety, disease, or even grief that a person may experience. It is used when speaking of Christ and of the people of Christ in Isaiah 53 –
“He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:3, 4
It certainly can’t be said that there was any time in all of Israel’s history that this could be considered as truly fulfilled. And yet, the words of Moses say that such a state is anticipated in rightful obedience to the law. But, because this state was not realized before Christ’s coming, as is clearly evidenced from Isaiah 53, and because it says that Christ bore our griefs, then it again shows where the disconnect for Israel stands – in their rejection of Christ.
Such an ideal time is promised in the writings of the prophets when Christ dwells among Israel for one thousand years. However, the final realization of this is actually stated towards the end of Revelation –
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
This is the ultimate point of Christ’s coming. It isn’t just an earthly reign of Christ among Israel, but an eternal heavenly reign of Christ among all of the redeemed from all of humanity. For now, Moses says…
15 (con’t) and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known,
Here is another new word, madveh, or disease. It will only be seen here and in Deuteronomy 28. The word comes from davah, which is used in Leviticus 12:2 to signify a state of uncleanness which defiles a woman. Thus, one can assume the diseases mentioned here are such that a person would become defiled.
The term, “the diseases of Egypt,” is specifically mentioned as such three times in the Bible. The first was in Exodus 15 where it used a different word, makhaleh –
“If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.” Exodus 15:26
This now is the second time the diseases of Egypt are mentioned, using this new word instead. The Lord promises to withhold such diseases from the people in their faithful compliance to the commands now given. What is possible, is that the sanitary laws found within the law would, ostensibly, prevent these. In not obeying the law, this would be the inevitable result of their disobedience.
Whether this is correct or not, the people had known these diseases, and Moses promises that they will know them no more if they are faithfully obedient. Instead…
15 (con’t) but will lay them on all those who hate you.
Those who hate the Jews would also naturally hate the practices of the Jews. As this is so, then the diseases prevented by adherence to the law would naturally cling to them. Thus, this does not necessarily mean the Lord actively places them on their enemies, but it occurs because of their own rebellion against what is contained within the law itself.
This is, obviously, conjecture. But the many washings and inspections for skin ailments, molds, and the like – as well as the laws for sexual morality – does point to a cleanly society, and this would only be the case through obedience to what the law prescribed for such things.
And, as I said, there is one more specific reference to the diseases of Egypt. It uses the same word as here, and it is also found in Deuteronomy 28 –
“If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD, 59 then the Lord will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues—great and prolonged plagues—and serious and prolonged sicknesses. 60 Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you.” Deuteronomy 28:58-60
In adherence to the law, these diseases would be kept from them. In failing to observe the law, the diseases would cling to them. One can hardly think that anything but the meticulous care of the hygiene and sexually moral verses of Leviticus being adhered to, or not adhered to, would bring about the stated result of the words of Moses.
As those laws would be shunned by the inhabitants of the land, it is another reason for what Moses next says…
16 Also you shall destroy all the peoples whom the Lord your God delivers over to you;
v’akalta eth kal ha’amim – “And you shall eat up all the peoples.” Moses was probably thinking of the disaster of their first time at the door of Canaan. When the twelve spies were sent to inspect the land, upon their return a bad report was sent among the congregation so that they began to rebel. At that time, Joshua and Caleb called out –
“The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” Numbers 14:7-9
They called the inhabitants “their bread.” Here Moses says that the people are to eat up the inhabitants. Thus, it means to utterly consume them, like bread. In this, he says…
16 (con’t) your eye shall have no pity on them;
This takes us back to verse 2 where it said, “and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.” The reasons for this are many, but one of them must be tied to the last verse.
In being unclean, they would bring their unclean habits among Israel. The very diseases the Lord was to keep them from would infect them. This would be because their own morals would become slack, their own adherence to the law would wane, and so on. Another obvious reason completes our words today…
*16 (fin) nor shall you serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.
In allowing the inhabitants to live, an inevitable result would be departing from the Lord and serving other gods. It had already happened more than once outside the land. Once they were happily settled into the land, it would be sure to come about, just as the rest of the Old Testament testifies to.
In this, there would be sin heaped upon sin. The people would first disobey the command to consume the inhabitants, and then they would resultingly start to serve their gods. One step would lead naturally to another, because sin is – as it notes – a moqesh, or snare.
That word comes from yaqosh, meaning to lure or lay bait. In other words, the people would actually be baiting themselves into sin by committing the first sin of failing to do as instructed. There is never a time that sin doesn’t affect more than just the initial act. It will always spread beyond itself in some way or another.
The best way to understand that is to simply look at what occurred in Eden. The bait was laid, the trap was set, and man sinned. But that one sin didn’t just have one negative effect. Rather, through that one sin, every single evil thing that we have ever faced – in all of human existence – arose.
This is how sin works. And the tool by which it has its hold on us is the law. Not that the law is bad, but that the law allows for sin to take place. Our own evil desires trap us, we disobey the law, and sin is the result.
This is why Jesus is so very important for us. The law was given, the law was violated, and sin entered the picture. But with the entrance of that sin came death, and that death has transmitted to all people. As we continue to see, week after week, the Law of Moses does not solve that problem, it only magnifies it – it is like a mirror reflecting back on us all of our defects.
But in Christ, the law reflects back only the purity of God’s perfection. Without sin, the law highlights His perfect goodness. It radiates it out like a beacon for us to come and participate in it. And so, what do we do? We come to Christ and His perfection covers us.
When we are in Christ, we can look at the mirror and only see His perfection, and that is what God sees as well. The law, this giant and impossible body of writings, can no longer condemn us because we are imputed His righteousness. That is the sweetest deal of all. Now, when we look at the law, we can see the greatness of what God has done.
Israel will too, someday. For now, we are continuing on through this book, seeing where they failed and thus, honestly, seeing where we too fail. Let us remember this and let us come to Christ and participate in the ultimate victory of God’s people. May it be so for you, and may it be today. Amen.
Closing Verse: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 5:2-5
Next Week: Deuteronomy 7:17-26 What is it by which we are most awed? (The Great and Awesome God) (28th Deuteronomy Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
The Covenant and the Mercy
“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God
The faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy always
For a thousand generations with those who love Him
And keep His commandments all their days
And He repays those who hate Him to their face
To destroy them, so to you I say
He will not be slack with him who hates Him
He will him to his face repay
Therefore you shall keep the commandment
The statutes, and the judgments, to them you shall be true
Which I command you today
To observe them, just as I am instructing you
“Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments
And keep and do them; to you they are no bore
That the LORD your God will keep with you
The covenant and the mercy which He to your fathers swore
And He will love you and bless you and multiply you
He will also the fruit of your womb bless
And the fruit of your land
Your grain and your new wine and your oil from the press
The increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, it is true
In the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you
You shall be blessed above all peoples
The Lord’s special flock
There shall not be a male or female barren
Among you or among your livestock
And the LORD will take away from you all sickness
And will afflict you with none (this word is true)
Of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known
But will lay them on all those who hate you
Also you shall destroy all the peoples
Whom the LORD your God delivers over to you, so you shall do
Your eye shall have no pity on them
Nor shall you serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you
Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true
And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days
Hallelujah and Amen…
9 “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; 10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. 11 Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.
12 “Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. 13 And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you. 14 You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock. 15 And the Lord will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you. 16 Also you shall destroy all the peoples whom the Lord your God delivers over to you; your eye shall have no pity on them; nor shall you serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.