Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. […] You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.
Deuteronomy 29:9, 12-15
A brief recap: The Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness for forty years. God’s presence has been with them in fire and cloud, guiding them. They’ve grumbled, and God has provided. Time and again they have turned from God, worshipping idols or false gods instead. And now, we find ourselves here – the renewal of the covenant.
‘Covenant’ isn’t really a word we use much today, but a covenant is serious business; a deeply relational cross between a promise and a legal contract. This covenant, which began with Abraham in Genesis 12, is renewed in the presence of all Israel.
In front of the Lord, in front of Yahweh, all are equal. There is a fundamental social inclusiveness to this covenant – all of Israel are included, even ‘those who are not here today’. That’s both those who were absent, but also those who were not yet born. This is a continual covenant, stretching from generation to generation, further than the Israelites could comprehend.
Despite all that the Israelites had done – and not done – all that they had said, had thought, all the ways that they had disobeyed and turned away from God, still he remained faithful. Still he kept his promises. Still he renewed his vow to them – extending it down through the ages. He promises to be faithful to the end. Faithful, no matter what.
Such faithfulness is hard to fathom, especially in our instant gratification, efficiency-driven culture. We live in a world of TV on demand and instant messaging. A world of shortcuts and commitment phobia, not one of faithfulness.
What would it look like to be faithful where you are? To commit yourself to your workplace, your family, your friendships, your church – come what may? To stick around, to set down roots, and be prepared to weather the storms that will inevitably come?
In a culture of flakiness, faithfulness is a powerful witness to the God who never leaves us nor forsakes us; the one who ‘pitched his tent’ (John 1:14) among us. The one who renewed his covenant commitment in the presence of all Israel, despite the myriad failings of his people.
May the faithfulness of God, demonstrated in this covenant and echoed through the ages, inspire and equip you to be faithful in your situation, to those you love and those you struggle to love, this day and for generations to come.