COVENANT RENEWAL REINFORCES ISRAEL’S COMMITMENT AS GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE TO OBEY GOD’S LAWS
Daniel Block: The significance of this short paragraph within the flow of Deuteronomy is out of all proportion to its length. These four verses summarize key theological issues of the book and provide a hinge between Moses’ lengthy exposition of the specific stipulations and his recitation of the consequences for the nation of their response in chapter 28. Whereas verses 1–15 of this chapter had looked forward to the time when Israel would be well-established in the land, with the opening phrase “this day” in verse 16 Moses refocuses his hearers’ attention on the present moment of decision. Although elsewhere the participle construction with “commanding [you]” always has Moses as the subject, for the first time Yahweh issues the commands. Moses hereby reminds his congregation that while he has been speaking, they have actually been hearing the voice of Yahweh their God. . .
Duane Christensen: The brief exhortation in 26:16–19 functions as the conclusion to the exposition of the law in Deut 5–26, which was used in a covenant renewal ceremony in ancient Israel. It summarizes what has happened in that ceremony, where the words “this day” and “today” (vv 16, 17, 18) refer to both the original day on which Moses spoke and each subsequent time thereafter when the ceremony was held. . .
The recitation of the laws that God revealed to Moses is now complete, and attention shifts to the covenant relationship between God and his chosen people. The people solemnly declare that YHWH is their God and that they will obey him (v 17); and God, on his part, affirms that he will set them “high above all the nations . . . for praise and for fame and for honor” and that Israel shall be a holy people (vv 18–19). . .
To be a holy people is to be a people set apart for God, and for that special task among the nations to which he has called us. The keeping of God’s commandments is not the means of our own vindication or justification before God. God chose Israel to be a special people on the basis of his own lovingkindness—it is a matter of God’s grace, and God’s grace alone. It is our heartfelt response to God’s love and commitment to us as his “treasured possession” that he desires of us by means of obedience to his commands. That is what will bring forth his praise and honor among the nations.
Eugene Merrill: The recapitulative nature of this passage is clear from the repeated use of the technical covenant terms “decrees” ( uqqîm, vv. 16-17), “laws” (mi p îm, vv. 16-17), and “commands” (mi wôt, vv. 17-18) and the reference to Israel as a “holy people” (v. 19), the Lord’s “treasured possession” ( am s gullâ, v. 18).
MacArthur: These 4 verses concluded Moses’ explanation of the law’s stipulations by calling for the total commitment by Israel to the Lord and His commands. These verses can be viewed as the formal ratification of the Sinaitic Covenant between the Lord and the second generation of Israel. In accepting the terms of this agreement, acknowledging that the Lord is their God, and promising wholehearted obedience plus a desire to listen to God’s voice, the Israelites were assured that they were His people and the chosen over all other nations to receive His blessings and the calling to witness to His glory to all the world. See Ex 19:5, 6.
David Guzik: Sometimes we need to be instructed regarding the law of God; sometimes we need to be reminded regarding the law of God. But most often, we need to be exhorted regarding the law of God. We know what to do, but we need to be encouraged to actually do it.
I. (:16) EXHORTATION TO OBEY GOD’S LAW IN THE CONTEXT OF COVENANT COMMITMENT
“This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.”
II. (:17) DECLARATION OF LOYALTY ON THE PART OF GOD’S PEOPLE
“You have today declared the LORD to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice.”
Michael Grisanti: By embracing this covenantal relationship with Yahweh, the nation of Israel affirms a reality and an intention. The reality is that Yahweh is their God. This fact of relationship is not an obligation that Yahweh accepts but a commitment that he makes. The “central covenant reality” (Wright, Deuteronomy, 272) is that Yahweh perfectly fulfills his role as the God of his people by caring for their welfare, protecting them, and guaranteeing their future destiny. The other side of that “covenantal formula” is that Israel is his people. Their promises to “walk,” “keep,” and “obey” are the means by which they can demonstrate their identity as the people of Yahweh to the surrounding nations.
III. (:18-19) DECLARATION OF LOYALTY ON THE PART OF GOD
A. (:18) God’s Valuation of His Chosen People
1. (:18a) A Treasured Possession in Accordance with God’s Promises
“And the LORD has today declared you to be His people,
a treasured possession, as He promised you,”
Jack Deere: To be the Lord’s treasured possession (cf. 7:6; 14:2; Ps. 135:4; Mal. 3:17) meant that He would exalt Israel high above all the nations (cf. Deut. 28:1). Through disobedience and rebellion, generation after generation of Israelites forfeited their right to be exalted over the nations. But Isaiah wrote that Israel’s rebellion would not continue forever, for the Lord will raise up a generation of faithful Israelites in the future who will enjoy God’s grace in a golden age of blessing (Isa. 60-62). That age is commonly called the Millennium.
2. (:18b) Called to Obedience to God’s Law
“and that you should keep all His commandments;”
B. (:19) God’s Vision for His Chosen People
1. (:19a) Elevated above All Nations
“and that He shall set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor;”
Michael Grisanti: All three terms occur in Jeremiah 13:11 and 33:9 in a slightly different order (“fame . . . praise . . . honor”). In Jeremiah 13 Yahweh affirms that he commissioned Israel “to be my people for my renown and praise and honor” and then indicts his covenantal nation for rejecting this role. In ch. 33, which is similar to the present passage, Yahweh looks forward to the day when the city of Jerusalem will bring him “renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth.” Bringing glory to Yahweh before every inhabitant of the world is the ultimate goal of Yahweh’s relationship with his covenantal people.
2. (:19b) Consecrated to Holiness
“and that you shall be a consecrated people to the LORD your God, as He has spoken.”
Peter Craigie: Israel, remaining faithful to the covenant God, would be renowned among other nations, not because of inherent merit, but because the covenant community would reflect the glory of the covenant God in its national life. This glory was the potential of the community of God’s people; but in the two chapters that follow, a solemn warning is issued concerning the natural disasters that would fall upon Israel in the event of unfaithfulness to the covenant God.
Bruce Hurt: This is the ultimate goal for Israel, to be a holy people, a people set apart from the profane godless world and unto the true God of this world. They would be His instrument with which He could bless the world and ultimately through whom would come the Messiah, the Savior of the world. So I agree with Utley’s comment that this passage is Israel’s “GREAT COMMISSION VERSE,” the OT version of Mt 28:19-20+.