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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Deuteronomy 30

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 30 God’s Continuing Mercy.

This chapter begins by recognising that both the blessings and the cursings described in Deuteronomy 28 will finally have their effects. Moses was fully aware that God had not at this stage permanently given to His earthly people a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear as he had said (Deuteronomy 29:4). It was he himself who had declared that they were a stiffnecked people (Deuteronomy 9:6) and needed to be circumcised in heart (Deuteronomy 10:16). He had certainly experienced enough in the wilderness to know how unreliable they were. He thus reluctantly had to recognise that Yahweh had given these warnings because He knew that they would necessarily be fulfilled. Man’s sinfulness made it finally inevitable. Through these things Israel would have to learn their lessons.

But his confidence was also in the fact that God would fulfil His promises to the patriarchs. He knew that God would not fail in that. Thus he recognised that just as God had shown mercy when the people had been driven from the land in Deuteronomy 1:44, so would He do so again when the people were driven from the land in the future. He had already made that clear in Deuteronomy 4:27-30, and he repeats the same idea now.

The covenant relationship very much underlies this whole section. They would be removed because they broke the covenant. But Yahweh would again turn to them. They were therefore then to turn to Him. Then would they be restored when they submitted to His covenant again. Compare Hosea 14:4, ‘I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for my anger is turned away from him.’


Verses 1-10

Chapter 30 God’s Continuing Mercy.

This chapter begins by recognising that both the blessings and the cursings described in Deuteronomy 28 will finally have their effects. Moses was fully aware that God had not at this stage permanently given to His earthly people a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear as he had said (Deuteronomy 29:4). It was he himself who had declared that they were a stiffnecked people (Deuteronomy 9:6) and needed to be circumcised in heart (Deuteronomy 10:16). He had certainly experienced enough in the wilderness to know how unreliable they were. He thus reluctantly had to recognise that Yahweh had given these warnings because He knew that they would necessarily be fulfilled. Man’s sinfulness made it finally inevitable. Through these things Israel would have to learn their lessons.

But his confidence was also in the fact that God would fulfil His promises to the patriarchs. He knew that God would not fail in that. Thus he recognised that just as God had shown mercy when the people had been driven from the land in Deuteronomy 1:44, so would He do so again when the people were driven from the land in the future. He had already made that clear in Deuteronomy 4:27-30, and he repeats the same idea now.

The covenant relationship very much underlies this whole section. They would be removed because they broke the covenant. But Yahweh would again turn to them. They were therefore then to turn to Him. Then would they be restored when they submitted to His covenant again. Compare Hosea 14:4, ‘I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for my anger is turned away from him.’

The Promise That When They Return to God, He Will Turn to Them (Deuteronomy 30:1-10).

(Pronouns are all ‘thou, thee’ until Deuteronomy 30:18).

Moses had already made known that he knew that they were a stiffnecked people, and thus he knew that the possibility of them being ejected from the land was not a question of ‘if’, but of when. But then, they were assured, if they turned to Him, He would turn to them.

Analysis using the words of Moses:

a And it shall come about, when all these things are come on you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you will call them to mind among all the nations, to which Yahweh your God has driven you (Deuteronomy 30:1).

b And will return to Yahweh your God, and will obey His voice according to all that I command you this day, you and your children, with all your heart, and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 30:2).

c That then Yahweh your God will turn your captivity (or ‘your fortunes’, literally ‘turn your turning’), and have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all the peoples, to whom Yahweh your God has scattered you (Deuteronomy 30:3).

d If any of your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there will Yahweh your God gather you, and from there will He fetch you (Deuteronomy 30:4).

e And Yahweh your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you will possess it;

e And he will do you good, and multiply you above your fathers (Deuteronomy 30:5).

d And Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live (Deuteronomy 30:6).

c And Yahweh your God will put all these curses on your enemies, and on those who hate you, who persecuted you (Deuteronomy 30:7).

b And you will return and obey the voice of Yahweh, and do all His commandments which I command you this day (Deuteronomy 30:8).

a And Yahweh your God will make you plenteous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your ground, for good, for Yahweh will again rejoice over you for good, as he rejoiced over your fathers, if you will obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 30:9-10).

Note that in ‘a’ the proposition is put to them that if the things which will come on them, the blessing and the curse, which Moses has set before them, are called to mind when they are among all the nations, to which Yahweh their God has driven them, then in the parallel He will respond with the blessing, He will make the work of their hands prosper so that they will produce many children see the birth of many cattle and enjoy good harvests, but only if they truly respond and obey His commandments and statutes as written in the book of the Instruction (Torah) and turn to Yahweh with all their heart and soul. In ‘b’ the necessity is they respond and return to Yahweh their God, and obey His voice according to all that Moses commands them that day, them and their children, with all their heart, and with all their soul, and in the parallel the same condition is applied, that they return and obey His voice and do what He commands.

In ‘c’ He will then turn their captivity (or ‘their fortunes’, literally it reads ‘turn your turning’), and have compassion on them, and will return and gather them from all the peoples, to whom Yahweh their God has scattered them, and in the parallel He will turn their curses on their enemies who had hated and persecuted them. In ‘d’ if any of their outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, even from there will Yahweh their God gather them, and in the parallel He will work on their hearts so that they truly love Him. In ‘e’ Yahweh their God will bring them into the land which their fathers possessed, and they will possess it too, and in the parallel He will do them good and even multiply them above their fathers of old.

Deuteronomy 30:1

And it shall come about, when all these things are come on you (thee), the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you will call them to mind among all the nations, to which Yahweh your God has driven you,’

Aware from long experience of the truth about the people he was dealing with, Moses informed them that he was aware that in the future they would experience both the blessing and the curse, as described in Deuteronomy 28. See also Deuteronomy 30:19 here. He expected that for a time they would keep covenant and would experience blessing. The blessing would come on them. But then as time went by he was sadly confident that the faithfulness of many of them would lapse, and then they would begin to experience the cursings, until at length God had had to drive them out of the land (compare Deuteronomy 4:27-30).

But when that happened they were to call to mind, when they were among ‘all the nations’ to which Yahweh their God had driven them, all that God had said through him related to the blessings and the curses. Note the emphasis on ‘all the nations’. No particular exile was in mind. This is not a prophecy except in the fact that it is a declaration that the cursing was to be taken seriously and would inevitably be carried into effect. This reference to both blessings and cursings takes us back directly to Deuteronomy 28.

Deuteronomy 30:2

And will return to Yahweh your God, and will obey his voice according to all that I command you this day, you and your children, with all your heart, and with all your soul,’

In that day they (Israel as a community not each individual person) will return to Yahweh their God, and will obey His voice in accordance with the covenant, and will begin again to obey His commandments with all their heart and soul (compare Deuteronomy 4:29). They will thrust idolatry from them, and again seek His face. They will set aside all else out of a firm desire to know Him again, and will commit themselves to obey His voice.

He knew that this would happen because of the faithfulness of God, and because of His promises to their forefathers. He knew that nothing could finally frustrate God’s final purposes, just as Israel’s faithlessness in Deuteronomy 1:26 had not done so. He had simply turned to others, in that case their sons.

Deuteronomy 30:3

That then Yahweh your God will turn your captivity (or ‘your fortunes’, literally ‘turn your turning’), and have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all the peoples, to whom Yahweh your God has scattered you.’

And when that time came Yahweh their God would have compassion on them. He would reverse their situation. As He had brought them from Egypt, so would He bring them from all the peoples among whom He had scattered them, and restore them to the land which would now welcome them again because they were from their hearts responding to the covenant. Note here the stress on the fact that He will know exactly where they are. He is not just a local God. He is God of the whole earth.

“Turn your captivity.” Most now favour translating as ‘turn your fortunes’. The idea is basically the same, that their lot will be changed because Yahweh intervenes. It would be recognised as normal that some would have been carried away as slaves, while others would have fled for refuge and be relatively free. Some would be captive. And some would simply be struggling to survive.

That there was in the future such a turning back to God which resulted in their returning to the land is clear from Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah. They were then being given their second chance. But there is no reason for seeing in this description the return of the Jews to Palestine in our own time. For that is not a return in faith. As far as the Christian is concerned it is a return in unbelief, and even the Jews themselves recognise that Israel as a whole is a worldly nation. It may be that God has a purpose for bringing them there at the present time, but it is not necessarily so. And it is not strictly in accord with what is described here, for this refers to a change of heart before their return. The present return was not required by the prophecy.

We must remember that the purpose of the land was that within it should be built up the Kingly Rule of God. But once that Kingly Rule was seen as available to all men everywhere because its nature was heavenly, the land became redundant. In the end the land was superseded by its greater spiritual reality, and today that Kingly Rule is centred on another land, the heavenly land. The earthly land is no longer of importance. All must be centred on the Kingly Rule of God and on the King, Jesus Christ, and on our future with Him in the new Heaven and the New Earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). If some of the Jews are to have a part in it, and they probably are, it can only be by becoming Christians. But the land is no longer the goal.

Deuteronomy 30:4

If any of your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there will Yahweh your God gather you, and from there will he fetch you,’

However far from the land they may be, He will gather the outcasts from where they are. From whatever place they are He will fetch them. (And so he did, for Palestine was repopulated with Jews from all parts of the world well before the coming of their Messiah, Jesus Christ).

“Outcasts.” Literally ‘those driven’, therefore the ones driven out of the land and driven there by God.

Deuteronomy 30:5

And Yahweh your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you will possess it; and he will do you good, and multiply you above your fathers.’

And He will bring them back to the land from which He drove them out, the land which their fathers had possessed, and they will once more possess it. And He will prosper them there. He will ‘do them good’. And He will once more enlarge their numbers (compare Deuteronomy 30:16; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 13:17, contrast Deuteronomy 28:63). There is implicit in this that they will not be replaced in His favour by another nation, because the promises to Abraham must be fulfilled.

That this in fact happened the later prophets and history have recorded. Beginning as a trickle the people began to pour back into the land, so that by the time of the coming of Jesus Israel were once more well established in Palestine, and had experienced periods of independence and prosperity, and many of them were seeking God with heart and soul, as the ministries of John the Baptiser and Jesus made clear. But as had happened previously the hearts of many, especially the leaders, grew cold, and His kingdom was never established.

The enlarging of their numbers then went beyond all that they could possibly have dreamed when not only large numbers of Jews around the world, but also even larger numbers of Gentiles, through Christ, became members of the true Israel, and true sons of Abraham (Galatians 3:29; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:11-22; Romans 11:17-26) by becoming Christians. For now the vision of the land has become that of a greater land, and of a greater Kingly Rule of God (Hebrews 11:15-16; Hebrews 12:22-24) based on a better sacrifice and a better hope (Hebrews 9-10). What God offered now was far better than the old land, which had been but its earthly representation at a time when people would have understood nothing better.

It should be noted here that a welcome within the covenant was always available, right from the start, to any who chose to follow Yahweh and come within its terms. Indeed Israel was from the beginning inclusive of many who were not strictly descended from the patriarchs. These included the servants and slaves of the ‘households’, the mixed multitude of Exodus 12:38, and many who subsequently united with Israel in the covenant, witnessed to by names such as that of Uriah the Hittite.

It was added to by proselytes who added themselves to Israel in the post Old Testament days. The establishing of the Christian ‘church’ (in Jesus’ terms the ‘congregation’ of new Israel - Matthew 16:18) as the Israel of God, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, was simply following on the pattern. There can be no other Israel in Biblical terms than the one composed of those who are in Christ, believing ‘Israel’. Unbelieving Israel is no Israel (Romans 9:6; Romans 11:17 with Romans 11:23). There cannot be two Israels. If rejected Israel are to become Israel it will be by response to Christ and a uniting with His people, now the true Israel.

Deuteronomy 30:6

And Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.’

This new people would be established because of what God would do, because of His work in men’s hearts (compare Philippians 2:13). The idea behind this way of describing it (circumcising the heart) is taken from Deuteronomy 10:16. The thought is of a transformed heart which is turned to righteousness, either by the cutting away of sin and disobedience, as the foreskin is cut away in circumcision, or through the shedding of the blood of the covenant as the blood is spilled in circumcision (compare Genesis 17). But while in Deuteronomy 10:16 they were to circumcise their own hearts, (although the thought was always there that it was with Yahweh’s assistance), here it is Yahweh Who is to circumcise their hearts. The idea is therefore of the activity of God working in sovereign power, transforming their lives and putting love for Him in their hearts, so that they may fulfil Deuteronomy 6:4-5, loving Him with heart and soul, and may live. This was also what Jeremiah had in mind in Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 32:36-44. Compare also Ezekiel 36:26. It certainly took place through the ministry of Jesus and the early church.

As ever the thought behind ‘living’ is not only that of being alive, but of living abundant and fruitful lives, lives of joy and wellbeing and blessing, what Jesus spoke of as eternal life, life under the Kingly Rule of God.

Deuteronomy 30:7

And Yahweh your God will put all these curses on your enemies, and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.’

And the curses, which would no longer be on them, would be put on their enemies, on those who hated them and persecuted them. Strictly speaking the curses of the covenant could only come on those who rejected the covenant, thus this would signify that these enemies had had the opportunity to come within the covenant, but had rejected it. But it may be that the connection is more general.

Of course as a result of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the covenant was offered as a new covenant to the whole world, but it is the irony of sin that in the early days it was the unbelieving Jews, the rejected Jews, who were one of the greatest enemies of the church of Christ, the new Israel. That they endured the curse, and would until they repented, is evident from Luke 21:20-24 compare Matthew 23:37-38.

(As Paul makes clear in Romans 9-11; Ephesians 2:12-22 and elsewhere the true Israel still continued in the church of Jesus Christ, which was solidly based on Him (as the archetypal Jew) and His Apostles (all Jews) and on large multitudes of Jews who had put their faith in Him, to whom were joined the new mixed multitude of all those Gentiles who responded to Jesus Christ. This was now the true Israel, the Israel of God, God’s covenant people. The cast off Jews could only have their part in it by coming to Him and submitting to Him as their Messiah. Until they did they no longer had, or can have, any part in God’s Israel).

Deuteronomy 30:8

And you will return and obey the voice of Yahweh, and do all his commandments which I command you this day.’

And the result of their return to God would be that they would obey His voice and do all His commandments as commanded through Moses. Through God’s working the covenant would be triumphant in accomplishing its purpose. A faith that does not result in obedience is no living faith, and we are still equally responsible for fulfilling the principles of what Moses taught except in so far as they are superseded by and fulfilled in Christ, or made impossible by the conditions of the times. And we are to do this, not in order to be accepted into His covenant, but because He has brought us into His covenant and we seek to please and obey Him (Hebrews 8:6-10; Hebrews 10:16).

This picture of joyous obedience is the sign of the true people of God. It was no doubt seen in those who returned from Exile. It was seen in the faithful remnant described in Luke 1-3 who were awaiting the coming of the Messiah. It will be seen in the church too. Outwardly the church may appear grown old and tired, but the true people of God within it will ever be finally vibrant and obedient, even though sometimes they have to undergo trial, because they are His.

Deuteronomy 30:9

And Yahweh your God will make you plenteous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your ground, for good, for Yahweh will again rejoice over you for good, as he rejoiced over your fathers,’

That the remnant of Israel, the ‘few in number’, did return to God is testified to in history and they did eventually prosper and enjoy the covenant blessings, being plenteous in the work of their hands, fruitful in begetting children, and abundant in cattle and agriculture (Deuteronomy 28:11). And so it mainly continues today for those who are the church, the true Israel. God blesses their births, God blesses their work, God blesses their productivity. Indeed one of the churches’ great problems has always been that those who became Christians tended to prosper, and this then led on to complacency and forgetting God. This is not, however, to doubt that there are many Christians who are poor, especially in countries where they are a small minority. But their tendency will always be to grow richer simply because they work hard, are abstemious and can be fully trusted.

Deuteronomy 30:10

If you will obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.’

But the promises are all dependent on true response to God. They are fulfilled only for those who obey His voice, and thus keep His commandments and His statutes as written in the book of His Instruction, and if they turn to Him with all their heart and soul. As Jesus would later say, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me’ (John 10:27). This is the life to which He has called us.


Verses 11-14

His Commandment Is Something That Can Be Achieved (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).

Moses again stressed that what he was calling on them to do was not difficult to achieve. It did not demand great expenditure of effort and great daring, a seeking to achieve God’s secrets, but it called for a loving response to what was already known. It was not something far off that was unreachable. It was there to hand if they would but seize it.

Analysis using the words of Moses:

a For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off (Deuteronomy 30:11).

b It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?” (Deuteronomy 30:12).

b Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?” (Deuteronomy 30:13).

a But the word is very nigh to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it. (Deuteronomy 30:14).

Note that in ‘a’ his commandment given that day is not too hard nor is it afar off, and in the parallel it is near in their mouths and their hearts so that they may do it, In ‘b’ and parallel it is not in any unreachable place, whether it be heaven or the mysterious sea, where they could not reach it.

Deuteronomy 30:11

For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.’

He stressed that the commandment that he had given, which contained the commandments and statutes and ordinances, was neither hard to discover nor distant from them. It may be that he had in mind here myths and stories about men’s attempts to consult the gods and to obtain wisdom and understanding, where they sought to ascend into the heavens or travel beyond the seas. These were no doubt fairly common motifs and one or other is found in, for example, the Canaanite legend of King Keret and the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh among others. But this may not necessarily be the case, for he may simply have been thinking of remote, inaccessible places as an example. The sky and the sea would necessarily commend themselves as such. The sky was unreachable and the sea to be feared.

In other nations the mystery of the priesthood and priestly ministrations and knowledge might be kept from the people, but not in Israel. The whole had been laid bare, and was known to all.

“This commandment which I command you this day.” This is typical Mosaic phraseology. Compare Deuteronomy 6:1; Deuteronomy 7:11; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 15:5; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 26:13; Deuteronomy 27:1; Deuteronomy 31:5. See also Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 6:17; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 10:13; Deuteronomy 11:8; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:27; Deuteronomy 13:18; Deuteronomy 27:10; Deuteronomy 28:1; Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 28:13; Deuteronomy 28:15; Deuteronomy 28:45; Deuteronomy 30:8 where ‘commandments’ is used in the plural in a similar way, often following up the above singular usages.

Deuteronomy 30:12

It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?” ’

Yahweh had not put His commandment beyond man’s reach. It was not in heaven that men might say, ‘who will go and get it for us?’ Note his meaningful way of describing it, ‘who will go -- for us?’ Even now he knew that they did not want to get too close to God. They had wanted him to go into the Mount to receive God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 5:27), and it would be the same if the commandments were in heaven. They would want someone else to go for them. And therein would lie great danger, for that was why they could be manipulated by people who made such claims (consider Balaam). But Yahweh’s ways on the contrary were made plain to all. They are to hand in His word.

“Make us to hear it.” What was more he indicates by these words that they were aware of their own weakness. While they did not want God to make them hear it with His terrible voice, for they had heard it once ‘from heaven’ (Deuteronomy 4:36) and that was enough, they did want someone to make them hear it, that they may do it.

But they need not fear. He had gone into the Mount to receive God’s commandment for them ‘from heaven’ (Deuteronomy 4:36) and it was now easily accessible to them, and he was doing his best to make them hear it so they would do it. So they had no excuse.

Deuteronomy 30:13

Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?” ’

Nor would they have to go beyond the sea. No great adventurer (like Gilgamesh) was required who would sail forth to unknown lands to seek to obtain it for them, in order to make them hear it and do it. There was no far off mystery which could bring them wisdom and understanding. God had given it openly there among them.

Deuteronomy 30:14

But the word is very nigh to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.’

For the word was as close to them as it could possibly be. It was in their mouth and in their heart that they might do it. It was there in what he had taught them, and the word from God that he had brought them. They could teach it to their children, they could speak of it with each other, and they could meditate on it in their hearts (Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:7; Deuteronomy 11:18-19). But there was no one who could make them hear it and do it. That was up to their own their final choice.


Verses 15-20

The Choice Is Put To Them Between Life and Death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Analysis using the words of Moses:

a See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil, in that I command you this day to love Yahweh your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, that you may live and multiply, and that Yahweh your God may bless you in the land to which you are going in to possess it (Deuteronomy 30:15-16).

b But if your heart turn away, and you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them, I denounce to you this day, that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land, to which you pass over the Jordan to go in to possess it (Deuteronomy 30:17-18).

b I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your seed (Deuteronomy 30:19).

a To love Yahweh your God, to obey His voice, and to cleave to Him, for He is your life, and the length of your days, that you may dwell in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them (Deuteronomy 30:20).

Note in ‘a’ that the choice between life and death, and good and evil, has been put before them and they are commanded to love Yahweh their God and obey Him so that they might live an multiply, and so that Yahweh their God might bless them in the land which they are going in to possess, and in the parallel they are to love Him and obey Him and cleave to Him so that they might enjoy possession of the land promised to their fathers of old. In ‘b’ if their heart turn away from God and His word then he is the witness that they will surely perish, and in the parallel heaven and earth are called in as witnesses to the fact that he has given them the choice of life or death, blessing or cursing. Thus must they ensure that they choose life by responding fully to Yahweh and obeying Him as His covenant people.

Deuteronomy 30:15-16

See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil, in that I command you this day to love Yahweh your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, that you may live and multiply, and that Yahweh your God may bless you in the land to which you are going in to possess it.’

And this commandment which he had commanded them set before them ‘life and good, and death and evil’. For they could choose either to love Yahweh and walk in His ways and keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, or not. And if they did choose to follow Yahweh then they would live and multiply, and receive blessing from Yahweh their God in the land which they were about to enter and possess. They would receive all the good and the blessings which He had promised. But if they did not only evil and death awaited.

The choice rests with us too. We also must decide whether we will serve Him and wholly follow Him, or whether we will side with those who ignore Him and refuse to listen to what He has to say to them, living for the things of the moment and forgetting eternity.

In Scripture we have a constant reminder to us that there are two sides to God’s workings. On the one hand He carries out His will and none may deny Him, He carries forward His purposes whatever man may do. It is He Who circumcises our hearts. That is His side of things. And on the other He calls on man to choose Whom he will serve. That is our side of things. We must circumcise out hearts, by submitting to Him and allowing Him to circumcise them. The sheep may hear and follow, and that is what they must seek to do, but it is the Shepherd Who draws them. In the end His will and man’s choosing are but two sides of the same coin, with His side predominant.

Deuteronomy 30:17-18

But if your heart turn away, and you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them, I denounce to you this day, that you (ye) shall surely perish; you (ye) shall not prolong your days in the land, to which you (thou) pass over the Jordan to go in to possess it.’

But there was an alternative to life. The alternative of choosing death and evil happenings as described in the cursings. For if their hearts turned away and they refused to hear, because they were being drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, then he, Moses, could only denounce them. He could only stress that they would surely perish, that their days would not be long in the land that they were passing over Jordan to enter and possess it, that they would endure all the judgments that he has described.

Deuteronomy 30:19

I call heaven and earth to witness against you (ye) this day, that I have set before you (thee) life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that you (thou) may live, you (thou) and your (they) seed.’

Indeed he closed this section by calling on heaven and earth as witnesses. We can compare this with Deuteronomy 4:26 where the witness was to the effect of what would follow disobedience described in terms similar to verse 18. But now there was a choice, a choice between life and death, between the blessing and cursing that he had described in Deuteronomy 28, and they could choose either. And he called on them to choose life and the gracious activity of God that would go with it (compare Joshua 24:14-24; Jeremiah 8:3; Jeremiah 21:8).

Calling on heave and earth as witnesses was a regular covenant feature in ancient covenants.

Deuteronomy 30:20

To love Yahweh your (thy) God, to obey his voice, and to cleave to him, for he is your (thy) life, and the length of your (thy) days, that you may dwell in the land which Yahweh swore to your (thy) fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.’

And what did choosing life consist of? Of loving Yahweh their God, and obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him, for He was their life and the source of long length of days. And it consisted in living faithfully in the land which He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and enjoying its promised blessing. Thus they would find fullness of life in God and in His promises.

For us that life consists in even more. It consists in receiving Christ’s life, His eternal life, and enjoying His presence daily; in cleaving to Him, and in obeying His voice, and in living with Him under His kingly power (Colossians 1:13).

And so in these words ends his appeal. He has brought them God’s covenant, he has pleaded for their response. He can do no more.

Note.

It should be noted that in this futuristic picture as depicted by Deuteronomy there is no hint of the rule of a future king, even though it was expected that they would have a king at some point. There is no Messianic expectation, no reference to a temple. The future is depicted very differently from the later prophets. It is depicted solely in terms of returning to the covenant and the land. This confirms the early date of the ‘prophecies’. It would never have been written like this in the days of the kings or after.

(End of note).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 30:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/deuteronomy-30.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 16th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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