"These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb." (Deuteronomy 29:1)
Forty years before, starting in Exodus 19, at mount Horeb or Sinai, in Arabia, God had instituted his covenant with Israel. At that time he had given the part of the Law that they would need during the time in the wilderness and an outline of what they were to do in the land. As they prepare to go into the land, he has given greater detail as to how those laws are to be applied in a permanent land for long term blessings. It in not a new covenant, but clarification of the contract they already had.
“And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God. And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them: And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh.” (Deuteronomy 29:2-8)
For forty years, Israel had not had grains with which to make bread nor had they had grapes for wine or a variety of food. They had not had new clothing or shoes during the entire time. They had complained about the lack of variety, but God had deliberately limited them so they could get to know him as God. The intention was that they begin to understand that while he would always give what was needed, it was his right to decide what they should have. Despite the lack of things they craved, they had experienced tremendous victories over their enemies.
Many Christians today have not learned to “…be content with such things as ye have…” as Hebrews 13:5 commands us. It was a lesson Paul had learned according to Philippians 4:11-12. “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Until we learn this, we have not really learned to trust God.
"Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do. Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, De Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 29:9-13)
Moses reminded them that this was the contract they had made with God, to keep his commands, forty years before, and that their prosperity depended on keeping it. During the forty years they had seen the blessings for obedience and the cursing for disobedience. God wants to be able to fulfill his promises to their forefathers. He calls on them to renew their commitment at this time.
“Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day: (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by; And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:) Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.
And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law: So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?” (Deuteronomy 29:14-24)
The Covenant was not just between the people and God, but also with Joshua as their leader and with Eleazar the priest. In addition, the covenant was with all the future generations of Israel. Should some future person or group decide they no longer needed to keep the covenant, God would bring the promised curses on the individuals involved with out question. If it went that far, God would destroy the entire nation leaving the land like the area around Sodom, the valley containing the Dead Sea. More than four thousand years after Sodom was destroyed, hardly anything grows there. Like Sodom, the destruction would be so complete as to cause people to ask why it was that way.
“Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 29:25-28)
Even their destruction would be a testimony to the righteousness God expects from his people. The cause of their destruction would never be completely forgotten, just as Sodom’s has never been.
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Things God hasn’t revealed are not man’s business. Mankind is responsible for the things God has revealed. Unfortunately, a great deal of effort is devoted to things God hasn’t revealed such as details about the return of Christ, instead of “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” as Matthew 28:20 commands us. This verse is worth remembering.