Why Read the Book of Deuteronomy at the Feast Every 7 Years?
How does the book of Deuteronomy apply to Christians in this New Testament era of the Church?
To find the answer we need to familiarise ourselves with the reason why God called out a nation, which he was going to use as an example to reveal His plan of salvation, which will be available to everyone.
God promised Abraham 400 years earlier that he would lead the descendants out of captivity and set them in a new land (The Promised Land) Gen 15:13-21. He also called them a kingdom of priests, a Holy Nation (Exod 19: 5-6) when He made the Covenant with them at Mt Sinai.
Of course, Israel was to obey the terms of the Covenant, to reap the benefits of the promises he laid with them. They said, “We will do” (Ex 19:8) Unfortunately, Israel did not keep their side of the bargain and disobeyed the laws and ordinances. The result was to wander in the wilderness for the next 40 years as a punishment, Ex 14:20, 30, 33-34. This was because of the mission of the spy’s incident.
At the end of the 40 years in the wilderness Moses called the people together on the Plains of Moab and (Deut 1: 1-5) gave them the second set of laws and ordinances which were given BESIDES the one at Sinai (Mt Horeb) Deut 29:1. Moses gave a second Covenant as they prepared to enter the Promised Land and it was different to the first one. Most Covenant article state that they were the same with only a few updates according to the time and travelling adjustments.
The answer is that the 2 covenants were for 2 different sets of people. We already know from the Bible and history that the first was for the people God called out, that is, Israel, whom He worked with until they went into captivity. The other covenant recorded in Deuteronomy was for a future people. This is revealed in scripture and we will address that claim now.
This where the question “Why read the Book of Deuteronomy at the Feast every 7 years” is answered!
Consider this: at Mt Sinai, the law was given in a dramatic event, there were dark clouds, trembling, smoke, lightening and a piercing sound of blowing like a trumpet, Ex 19:16-19. This experience would have stayed in the minds of those present for a long time. Add to that, Moses wrote it all down on tablets of stone – all very impressive! Conversely, Moses only spoke this second Covenant to the people who had survived the 40 years in the wilderness. These people hadn’t heard the Mt Sinai incident except Joshua & Caleb (who entered the Promised Land) (Num 14:30). The verbal commands Moses spoke could easily be lost.
Let’s look at more interesting details – the first Covenant was delivered and ratified with blood by the young men (Ex 24:5-8); the second was NOT…That’s interesting – maybe sometime in the future it will be – actually, it has been! We’ll keep on this point, Moses was commanded to put the testimony (first Covenant) IN the Ark of the Covenant 40 years earlier (Exod 40:3&20) and now on the Plains of Moab (40 years later), Moses tells the Levites to “take this book of the Law and put it BY THE SIDE of the Ark of the Covenant” – a vulnerable place to put God’s word unlike the first – safe in the Ark.
So, let’s recap:
- ratified with blood (Heb 9:18-22, Exod 24:6-8)
- nobody can add to or take away from it (Deut 4:2, Deut 12:32)
- Placed INSIDE the Ark
- Covenant set
- Not ratified with blood (not yet at that point)
- Not part of the Old Covenant
- Placed at the SIDE of the Ark (Deut 31:26)
- For others not there that day (Deut 29:10-15)
Before answering the question ‘Why read Deuteronomy every 7 years?’ lets add a few more scriptures: In Deuteronomy 29:10-15 we read that this Covenant being made on the Plains of Moab was for OTHERS who were not here today. Who are the others? God was not working with any other nation at that time, but not so in the future!
It would be appropriate to show the promise from God to those who fear Him, (Psalm 25:14) “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him and He will show them His Covenant” This scripture indicates that the Covenant is a secret and the Lord will reveal it to those who are diligently seeking it.
This sets the stage for the next topic, what does the Covenant in Deuteronomy contain? In the margins of some Bibles there are footnotes. It is fascinating to see that when reading about the teachings of Jesus, and the apostles, we see that they regularly refer back to Deuteronomy.
We know that Jesus’ death ushers in these things:
- Jesus’ death ushered in a new Covenant (Mat 26:28)
- It is a better Covenant (Heb 8:6)
- It abolished the Old Covenant for the New (Heb 10:9)
- Jesus Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant (Heb 9:15) (Heb 8,9 & 10)
Now if all the footnotes in the RSV are recorded and compared with the Deuteronomy Covenant laws and ordinances, we see there are approximately 44 matches. This is amazing, as it indicates that this second covenant reflects the teachings of Jesus! Remember Jesus himself said His parables were hidden to the people except the disciples (Matt 13:11), see the following examples: Matt 5:27 (adultery) and Deut 5:18, and Mat 16:15 (2 or more witnesses) and Deut 17:6.
Here is more evidence that the Deuteronomy Covenant was not recorded like the Exodus Covenant on tablets of stone with a smoking mountain, thunder and lightning.
Deut 5:1 – Moses was to summon all Israel and tell them the statutes and judgements (verse 1), he was then told to tell the people, in verse 30, ‘return to your tents again’, but Moses was told in verse 31 ‘But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you all the commandment and the statutes and the ordinances which you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess.' So in affect God told Moses what to teach the people while he only was in the presence of God.
In review – What have we learned from the pages of God’s word:
- There are two different covenants – given 40 years apart
- Old Covenant in Exodus with approx. 70 Statutes and Ordinances, Deuteronomy Covenant has approx. 80, of which 8 are the same and 6 are similar.
- Deuteronomy Covenant made with ‘others not here’
- Old Covenant placed safely in the Ark of the Covenant; Deuteronomy Covenant placed beside the Ark
- Old Covenant ratified with blood (of animals), Deuteronomy Covenant not ratified until Jesus’ came and shed His blood (Matt 26:27)
- Jesus’ blood ushered in the New Covenant in his last Passover night
- Jesus’ teachings reflected in the Deuteronomy Covenant in the book of Deuteronomy
So, Why read the Book od Deuteronomy at the Feast every 7 years?
Deut 31:10-11 states that when God’s people meet at the Feast of Tabernacles, on the seventh year they were to read the Book of Deuteronomy ‘in their hearing’. This meant that they were receiving the teachings of Jesus, unknowingly, two thousand years before He arrived on the scene. It was a witness and something that the prophets longed to see. (Matt 13:17, Luke 10:23, 1 Pet 1:10)
So, the instruction God gave to Moses: that you read the Book of Deuteronomy every seventh year at the Feast of Tabernacles ‘in their hearing’ could very well apply to us as we, New Covenant Christians attend the Feast – where we celebrate the return of Jesus Christ when He will set-up the Kingdom of God here on earth to last for 1000 years.
What better way to learn about our Saviour and King than to have it expounded at the Feast of Tabernacles and how exciting to know that it has already been revealed in the Book of Deuteronomy years ago.
Let’s quote again Psalms 25:14