“And He said: ‘Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods. You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.”—Exodus 34:10–17 (NKJV)
The word covenant almost seems like an antiquated term these days. A covenant is basically a binding agreement to certain terms between two or more parties—like a marriage, for example. Biblical covenants are agreements made between two parties which establish a relationship between them. In the case of today’s Scripture, God is making a covenant between Him and His people. Sometimes these covenants would include within them blessings for obedience and, conversely, curses as a consequence for disobedience.
The Lord here is doing something completely undeserved for the Israelites after they had just betrayed Him. As a reminder, while Moses (who God used to lead these people out of slavery in Egypt) was speaking with God on Mount Sinai, the people grew impatient and asked Aaron to create “gods” to go ahead of them because they didn’t know what had happened to Moses. Aaron obliged—he took some of their gold, made a calf statue, and even had an altar made for it. The next morning, the people made offerings to it and then ate, drank, and indulged in revelries (Exodus 32:1–6).
When Moses found out he got very upset. But still, he went to God and asked for forgiveness for the people. And if God wouldn’t forgive, he asked to be the one who suffered the consequences. God still gave the consequences to the people who sinned against Him, but now in these verses, He makes another covenant with them.
Here we see Him commit to going before them and driving out the people they would encounter in order to take the Promised Land. But they needed to do their part, too. They needed to destroy these people’s altars and sacred items they worshipped so the Israelites wouldn’t be tempted to compromise with these clans and end up worshipping their gods and idols as well. The Lord reminds them, yet again, not to make idols, which ties into the first commandment God had given them (Exodus 20:3).
Just like the Israelites, we want faithfulness without commitment on our end. We want the Lord (and others) to do great things for us, intercede, save us in times of trouble, etc., but when we get impatient or when we’re tempted by our selfish desires, we think its okay to just “have a little taste” of something we know we shouldn’t mess with. The next thing we know, we’re so out of the will of God for our lives that we end up either mad at Him, others, ourselves, or all of the above!
He doesn’t give “rules” because He’s a controlling God. He gives us “guardrails” within the terms of His covenants to help keep us on the narrow path that leads to life. He wants us to be devoted to Him because He’s always been faithful and devoted to us. No one else will ever be as faithful as He is and forever will be!
Pause: Have you ever made a covenant with someone? Why or why not? If you have, what were the terms?
Practice: Look up the covenants God made with His people. Write down what traits or attributes of God you see from reading these covenants.
Pray: Dear Lord, it’s so hard to commit and stay committed sometimes. Please help me to not stray when I’m tempted. Give me strength to stay on the narrow path that leads to life with You. Thank You for Your faithfulness. Amen.