Dear Radio Friends,
We consider in our broadcast today a passage we started explaining in last week’s broadcast: Deuteronomy 7:6-9. These verses read: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.”
Moses here speaks to Israel the words of God’s covenant. He reassures the nation before entering into the land of Canaan: “You are a holy people unto Jehovah your God: Jehovah your God has chosen you to be a special people unto Himself.” God’s covenant is a relationship God establishes with His elect people in Christ. That relationship is one of friendship. In it God shares His love with His chosen people. God sets His love upon them alone exclusively. He loves no one else. He shows His grace, that is, His favor and blessing, to them alone. God does not desire to share His love or grace with others outside of that bond of friendship. God is a holy God who has separated unto Himself a holy people—a people He by His graces makes spiritually pure and clean.
God did that with the people of Israel then. But God has done that throughout the ages with His church out of every generation. God chooses or elects His church out of every generation, establishing with them this same covenant He speaks to Israel here in Deuteronomy. God still does that today. The church today may embrace these words of God’s covenant. God speaks them to believers today—to you and me—together with all of His church wherever He chooses to gather her in this world.
We say this on the basis of the truth of sovereign predestination. From eternity God has chosen the entire body of His church from the beginning of time to the end. He has chosen each member of that church. And with those chosen members of His church God speaks the words of His covenant: you are my child and I am your Father! He says this to that elect body of believers throughout the ages as a whole too: I am your God and you are my people. Although we did not go into this in detail, we also briefly discovered why we can believe this today as well as Israel could then. We are all chosen in Christ unto a true and living faith. We all belong to Christ by faith. When we belong to Christ, we are Abraham’s children and heirs according to the same promise that he received.
But that brings us back to what we learn here in Deuteronomy once again. Why does God keep covenant with His elect people? This question is answered in these words of Moses. Did God see something special in them that made them worthy of choosing them? Were they someone great and mighty in the earth? Did they earn God’s friendship and fellowship? Or did God choose His people merely out of grace and for the sake of Jesus Christ? Obviously, it is the latter! This too is taught here in the Word of God before us.
I. A Faithful God
God had established His covenant with the nation of Israel. He chose this nation to be a special people above all that were upon the face of the earth. Why? The nation of Israel was not some great and powerful nation in the earth. Egypt was far greater. Assyria was far greater. All the nations that possessed the land of Canaan to this point were greater and mightier than Israel. God does not judge men according to earthly standards. One may be powerful and famous and wealthy and noble in the earth, but God is no respecter of persons when He chooses individuals. The same is true regarding the church of Jesus Christ. It is not made up of the nobles and princes, though some of these have been and can be a part of that kingdom. God did not establish and preserve the nation of Israel in His covenant on account of this nation’s power and greatness.
But we can even go farther than this. God did not choose this nation because of her faithfulness to Him! As we mentioned last week, time and time again she had complained against God in the wilderness. She had tempted God at Mt Sinai when she worshiped the golden calf. She had rebelled against God more than once in the wilderness. It was abundantly clear that God had not set His love upon this people because of her worth spiritually. Though redeemed from Egypt by means of the blood, nevertheless she had shown herself unworthy of God’s love and favor. If it had not been for God’s grace, He would have destroyed this nation a long time ago! And what can be said of this nation can be said of us today too. Though we are redeemed in the blood, nevertheless we too have shown ourselves totally unworthy of God’s fellowship, love, and favor. But then why did God choose Israel as a holy and a special people? Why had He chosen to set His love upon her?
The answer lies in verse 8 of our text: “But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” You see, when God established His covenant with Abraham, then Isaac, and later Jacob, God swore an oath to each one of these men that He would keep His covenant. This oath that God swore confirmed His covenant and its promises with His people. God would give to Abraham and his children the land of Canaan, and God would make of Abraham the father of many nations. In Abraham would all the peoples of the earth be blessed.
But the significance of this is found in the fact that God did not even have to swear an oath! God is God. In Him there is no lie! He is truth. Furthermore, God does not change His mind. The counsel of the Lord stands forever. He will not stray from what He has planned in eternity. God established His covenant with Abraham and with his children, including you and me today, and He will not remove His fellowship from His people at any time—ever! God did not need to swear an oath therefore. But He did! We find the reason God did this in Hebrews 6: 17, 18: “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation.” That is how sure God’s covenant is to those with whom He establishes it. God will never sever the bond of the covenant He shares with His elect people. His love and favor to His elect church as a whole and to each elect saint is sure. God does not turn away from them. The church and God’s people are His bride and He vows, He swears an oath to His bride: I will not leave you—ever! You are my people and I am your God. And I will be your God forever and ever to a thousand generations!
So the question once again: why does God keep His relationship of friendship with His people? The answer: Because of who God is! We learn in verse 9 of our text that God is a faithful God.
That term faithful means “sure, immovable, unshakable.” We serve a God who never swerves from His purposes. He is sure, steadfast, immovable. He fulfills all things exactly as He has planned them. That is how sure God’s covenant is with believers! God’s covenant does not rely on man. God does not remove His fellowship from His people when they sin! He does not say to us: if you disobey me or if you fail to believe in me I will no longer uphold my end of the bargain and remove my covenant from you! If He said that, we would despair! Salvation would be so uncertain because, let’s face it, fellow believers, we are sinners. We sin against God just as the people of Israel murmured against God in the wilderness! So often our faith is weak. To think that God might cut us off from His love and favor on account of this? That would be devastating for us! But God is not fickle. He does not flip-flop. He is faithful! For that reason we have, to use the words of the writer to the Hebrews, “hope as a sure anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”
But why would God for His own name’s sake tolerate us sinners? A holy God cannot have fellowship with such sinners as we are. A holy God would not fellowship with a nation that always complained against Him. The wicked shall not stand in His sight! How then can and does God remain faithful to His covenant with us? Read the end of verse 8: “the Lord redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” God here reminds the people of Israel that because of His oath He redeemed them out of the house of bondmen. He delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Notice the wording: God redeemed Israel from the house of bondmen. God redeemed His people from bondage. That word means “set free.” God through His mighty hand set Israel free from the bondage of Egypt and the hand of its ruler Pharaoh. But this term does not mean simply “set free.” It means set free by means of a price being paid. One is freed with a price. For example, in the nation of Israel at times a man and his family, because of debts, would be sold into slavery. If someone else was willing to pay his debts, however, this man and his family could be set free.
That is the idea of the term redeemed here in these words of Moses too. Israel was set free from the bondage of Egypt because a price was paid for her. What price? Blood—the blood of the Lamb. The night the nation of Israel was delivered from Egypt the command was issued that every family slay a lamb. The blood of that lamb was then spread upon the lintel and side posts of their houses. That night God sent an angel of death through the land of Egypt. That angel of death entered into those houses not covered with the blood and killed the firstborn. Those covered in the blood God delivered from Egypt and set them free from the house of bondmen. Set free because a price was paid—the blood of the Lamb. I say that, of course, in order to make a point. The blood of lambs sacrificed to God is not able to deliver anyone from bondage. All those lambs slain, whose blood was spread on the doorposts of the houses—that blood did not pay a price.
It is only the blood of Jesus Christ Himself that is able to redeem! The blood of the sacrifices in the Old Testament always pointed God’s people in faith to Christ. Neither ought we to overlook the truth that the bondage of Egypt was an Old Testament type or picture of the bondage of sin. Israel was delivered from Egypt, and God’s people are delivered from sin, only on the grounds of the blood Christ shed on the cross! He redeems us from sin. Christ paid the price.
We well know the price Christ paid to redeem His people from the bondage of sin. He hung on the cross and bore the full wrath of God against their sin and guilt. He suffered the eternal punishment of hell, and in doing so He paid the price for their sin. He set them free from sin and made them righteous in the sight of God. We, fellow believers, who are unworthy in ourselves to share in God’s fellowship, are made worthy by Christ. God views you and me in Christ’s blood as if we have no sin. Besides, through the power of the cross Christ has destroyed the dominion of sin and Satan over us. Just as God delivered Israel from the hand of Pharaoh, so also does Christ deliver us from the hand of Satan who enslaves us.
It was also for Christ’s sake that God delivered Israel from Egypt. It was for Christ’s sake that God brought Israel through the wilderness. It would be for Christ’s sake that God would give Israel the victory over her enemies in Canaan. We may not overlook that truth, either! Israel belonged to God because she was redeemed in the blood of Jesus Christ! God’s saints then were bought with the price of the precious blood of Christ. Otherwise, this people would not have been the object of God’s favor and fellowship then. Which means, in turn, that this nation of Israel was chosen as a special people in Christ! They were elected from eternity already in Christ. God viewed His people then in the blood of the Messiah that was to come.
And that is why we can view Israel together with ourselves. That is why we can say that the covenant of God embraces us together with Israel. Election governs God’s covenant. This is why all of God’s people can enjoy God’s fellowship and favor—His covenant. God always and ever views us not as we are exposed in our sin, but in the blood of Jesus Christ. In Him we are worthy of sharing in God’s covenant blessings—we are worthy of being called God’s children.
God keeps covenant with us because God keeps mercy with us. In verse 9 of our text we read that of God too. He keeps mercy with His people. God’s mercy is that attitude of God toward His people in Christ by which God is kind and compassionate. When God sees us in our low estate of sin, He takes pity and shows to us His compassion by delivering us out of the misery that sin causes us. In other words, God sees us as we struggle with sin and its effects in our lives and feels sorry for us. He takes pity upon us. Instead of destroying us in His wrath, for Christ’s sake He reaches down His mighty hand and redeems us! Instead of giving us over to our enemies, He fights for us and gives us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of turning away from us as we deserve, God is merciful to us. He holds us in His care and loves us. This is what makes this whole idea of God’s mercy so comforting for us. It gives us great joy and assurance. In the place of our doubts and fears we receive the joy of our salvation. What is more, we know that God is the only God, the faithful God who always keeps covenant with His people to a thousand generations.
II. A Special Knowledge
This is how Moses ends the Word of God to God’s people too in verse 9: “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” He enjoins us to know Jehovah God, the God of the covenant, the only God, the faithful God. We must know Him with the knowledge of faith. Such knowledge is an intimate knowledge of the heart. It is a knowledge of God that draws us to Him and seeks Him as the only good. He must be our life and stay. We do not hold God at arms’ length and simply say all kinds of nice things about Him. We must embrace Him and love Him and walk with Him. He is our only help and shield! So, the knowledge we have is not simply a head knowledge. It is the knowledge of the heart—a heart bound together with God in covenant fellowship with Him. It is also a knowledge that results in our walking in God’s ways and commandments. Notice the end of this verse. God keeps covenant only with those who love Him and keep His commandments.
No. Moses is not saying here that God’s covenant and mercy are conditioned on our loving Him and keeping His commandments. We have been emphasizing that this is never the case. Moses is simply identifying those with whom God does establish His covenant. Those who are saved in the blood of Christ will love God and keep His commandments. Not in order to earn God’s love and fellowship, but because they desire in thankfulness to share in that fellowship. The fellowship of God is enjoyed by way of faithful obedience to God. When we walk in disobedience to God, even though we will never lose God’s love and fellowship, nevertheless we will not experience them. God always preserves us in His grace. We can never fall away from His love and fellowship. But we will not experience God’s friendship with us when walking in the way of disobedience.
But when we walk in love and thankfulness to God, He pours out on us the joy of His favor and love. As we walk in the way of God’s commandments God also imparts to us the knowledge that He is pleased with us. Such is the way God deals with His people. We thank God for the knowledge He gives us of His fellowship with us. We thank Him for holding us in His sovereign and mighty hand. And we thank Him that He has done all of this for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. How wonderful is God’s fellowship with us His people!