Deuteronomy: A Covenant of Tribute

Continuing in our study of the book of Deuteronomy, we come to chapter 26. This chapter serves as a transitional chapter of sorts, as the law of the land established by Yahweh, springing from the covenant principles set forth in the Decalogue swings back from the relationship between men to the relationship between Israel and her God.

Scripture and summary

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

This section of Scripture can be divided into 3 parts: an action, an oath, and a celebration.

When Israel has secured itself into such a position that they can begin to cease military action and are occupying the land in relative peace that they can begin to farm, when the first of the harvest becomes available, it is to be presented at the place where God has established his sanctuary. This act then segues into the oath, which serves a liturgical function that demonstrates Israel’s uniqueness as the people of Yahweh.(1) The oath serves a greater function anchoring the action of the presentation of an offering to actions and people in the past. (2) Moreover, this oath that is given is not a testimony to actions taken by some distant hero in the past in an attempt to attract the attention of a distant God. No, this is a humble recognition of the fact that it was the God of Israel acting in time, giving grace and salvation.(3) Lastly, because God acted in such a manner, the people are to likewise respond, including the less fortunate and those who have no immediate inheritance in their celebration.(4)

Deuteronomy 26:12-15

Peace and security comes with a cost. Israel’s God, in giving them rest from their enemies and establishing them securely, expects tribute to be brought in a cycle that extends for a number of years. This final tithe is an act of charity.(5) This act, and the testimony accompanying it—provided that it is as the giver swears—is a solemn testimony of one who reflects upon and delights in the law of God, and proves himself a loyal servant of Yahweh.(6)

Deuteronomy 26:16-19

This section closes the largest portion of the book as it provides a bookend to the legal code. It serves as a reminder to the congregation that they should not enter into the covenant with Yahweh if they do not intend to honor it, for it obligates the one who takes it to full obedience. (7) Most importantly, and something that Israel will forget, is that the covenant is conditional.(8)Though it is graciously offered, Yahweh is in charge, possessing full authority and Israel is simply an administrator and participant.(9) While Israel did nothing to receive God’s love—thereby making it unconditional—in order to participate in the good things God desires to bestow in that love there are conditions that must be observed, and this final section demonstrates that point again.(10)

Application

As we prepare to transition into the third part of our study, it serves us to reflect on what has come before. Namely, that God has chosen a particular people, people who had done nothing to deserve the attention of God, to be his unique people. While they would have to struggle and suffer hardship, if they were loyal and obedient then God would deliver to former slaves a home and a place of security. When the people of God finally reached their destination the logical expression of that delivery should be thankfulness.

True gratitude responds in honor and tribute. This is something that eludes most people who call themselves Christians. A faulty theology that sees salvation as something that you merely assent to robs the Christian of a true sense of gratitude. Whereas, if a believer recognizes the debt that was owed, the true desperation of their situation before a holy and just God, cannot help but respond to such a gift as grace and faith with utter thankfulness. And in that, our lives should become something else.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that we should, “…present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship.”(11) God isn’t interested in a mere “tipping of the hat”, he wants all of us. The entirety of our life belongs to the one who has redeemed us in himself. Let us occupy ourselves in focusing on the God who has purchased a people for himself.

Notes

1. Walter Brueggemann. Abingdon Old Testament Commentary Series: Deuteronomy. Abingdon Press. Nashville, TN. 2001. p. 246

2. Rousas J. Rushdoony. Commentaries on the Pentateuch: Deuteronomy. Chalcedon Publishing. Valencia, CA. 2008. p. 439

3. Ibid. p. 439-0

4. Brueggemann. p. 247

5. Rushdoony. p. 445

6. Brueggemann. p. 248

7. Ibid. p. 249

8. Rushdoony. p. 447

9. Ibid. p. 448

10. Brueggemann. p. 250

11. Romans 12:1-2

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