28 June 2013

Deuteronomy 7:12-16

“If you heed these ordinances, by diligently observing them, the LORD your God will maintain with you the covenant loyalty that he swore to your ancestors” (v. 12)


Ancient Israel lived in a world where there were many covenants or treaties between states and empires. The book of Deuteronomy is clear that in this world of shifting coalitions the enduring loyalty of the people must be to God, not to the empires and alliances which surrounded them. This special relationship is described as the Covenant - an enduring treaty between God and the people.

"Covenant" is a very important word in the Bible - and a very special word for Methodists. It describes a relationship based on a permanent and all involving promise. God makes a big promise to all of us, and each one of us is invited to make our own promises to God in return.

God's faithfulness in keeping promises seems to be described in a very material way in this passage, but look more closely and you will see that all these blessings are about strengthening the life of the people rather than increasing their wealth. Living faithfully in the Covenant with God brings renewed life. God's promises are always life giving.

Methodists today celebrate an annual Covenant Service in which we renew our promises to God. The covenant promises make it clear that we must accept what God offers and do not expect any rewards. It is enough to know that God is renewing our lives and will always be there for us.

If you read verse 12 in isolation you might think that God's love depends on the people's obedience, but it is clear in the wider story of Scripture that this is not so. We may choose to ignore or offend God - but God still goes on loving. A covenant is "for better, for worse". So if God commits to us in this way, can we commit to love and serve the world around us with the same faithfulness?

To Ponder

  • What are the most important promises you have ever made? And which have been the hardest to keep?
  • What are the relationships which renew your life?
  • If God commits to love us despite who we are and what we do - how can you commit to love and service towards others?

Bible notes author

Stan Brown

Stan Brown is a Methodist minister and a member of the Connexional Team, supporting and developing chaplaincy work in education. With a background in circuit ministry, university chaplaincy and work with schools Stan has a passion for chaplaincy work and the transforming power of education.