Choose Life!

With the thirtieth chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses concludes his third speech. He has been addressing the second generation Israelites on the plains of Moab, just before their entry into the promised land. In his first speech he recounted their history. In the second, he spoke of the Law which they must obey completely. During the third discourse, he promises them blessings if they obey and curses if they do not obey. Now they must make a choice. This is the climax of the book. Will this generation obey and be blessed or go after the gods of the nations and be cursed?

Response to the Covenant Revealed

God’s Prediction

In the opening verse God assumes that Israel will break the covenant. “Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you..” (30:1a). From Judges to 2 Kings, the Israelites continued to turn away from God and toward idols. Finally they will go away into captivity after the Temple and Jerusalem are destroyed.

Israel’s Recollection

However, Israel will remember God’s blessings and repent. They will return to Him with their heart in loving obedience. Moses predicts this will happen: “…and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you” (30:1b). Moses prophesied about 1406 BC. Ten tribes of the north went into captivity to the Assyrians around 722 BC. About one hundred and fifty years later the Kingdom of Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 586 BC. After seventy years of captivity in Babylon the Jews would return to Jerusalem to worship only Jehovah.

Restoration of God’s People

  • Restoration is Conditional

The restoration of God’s people to Him is conditioned upon their obedience. “And you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul” (30:2). The phrase “to return” occurs seven times with some variation in meaning. Four involve Israel as the subject (1,2,8,10) and three God (3a, 3b, 9). The Hebrew word for “return” indicates an act of sincere repentance. If they expect God to return to them they must first return. This is the essential first step in restoration. Next they must obey. This obedience involves all, not just some, of God’s commandments. God requires total commitment. Everyone is required to turn with all their heart and soul.

Restoration From Bondage

Upon repentance and complete obedience, God will restore them: “that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity” (30:3a).

  • Restoration with Mercy

They will be gathered from exile and returned from Babylon and other nations among whom they have been scattered. “And have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. 4 If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you” (30:3b,4). God’s compassion for His children is seen in the desire to go and bring them home. No matter how severe the judgment or how distant the exile, God will restore the people. No distance is so great it is outside the jurisdiction of Divine mercy.

  • Restoration to Land

“Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers” (30:5). The phrase “your fathers possessed” is past tense for something that has not yet happened – the first possession of the land.

Thus “your fathers” refers to the present generation who are about to receive the land. The current generations will inherit the land, a generation will be exiled and their future ancestors will return to possess it once more.

During the restoration to the land God performs circumcision on their hearts. “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (30:6). . Uncircumcision is a figure of speech for the wicked and godless (Acts 7:51). To circumcise their hearts involves removing all moral, and spiritual barriers to true devotion to God. Idolatry will never again be a prominent feature of Israelite practice after the Babylonian exile.

  • Restoration with Conditional Blessings

First, God will put curses upon their enemies (30:7). God is in control of the rise and fall of nations and will bring these haters of his people down so they will never oppress His people again.

Next, the Jews must continue in obedience to “the voice of the Lord and to all His commandments” (30:8).

Obedience will bring a threefold fruitful bounty on one’s body, livestock and land (30:9). The Canaanites believed Baal was an agricultural and fertility deity, so his Canaanite worshipers maintained that it was he who could provide them with healthy children and abundant harvests. God is the one who gives and withholds the rain in its proper measure and time, not the pagan fertility gods.

Promises and blessings are conditioned upon obedience to God Law. This applies to every generation. “If you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (30:10).

God’s Word..

At this point the Israelites might wonder whether of not if it is God’s Law which is faulty since He predicts they will not keep the covenant. Moses answers this objection before it can be brought up.

  • God’s Word Is Comprehensible

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you,…” (30:11a).

The term “commandment” occurs frequently in Deuteronomy indicating the entire covenant (4:2; 5:29; 7:9; 8:2,6; 11:8,13,22,27; 13:4,18; 15:5; 26:13,18; 27:1; 28:1,9,13; 30:8). Dummelow wrote, “All that is essential in revelation is plain; it is within the compass of human understanding and will?” God’s Laws are not “too difficult” or beyond comprehension.

  • God’s Word Is Achievable

Moses further defends God’s Word: “ …nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’” (30:11b-13). The commandments of God are not out of reach as if one had to reach for it out of heaven or travel the over the sea of a distant land to accomplish it. God’s commandment is well within reach. Obedience is possible!

  • God’s Word Is Intimate

Instead of being far away, God Word “is very near” (30:14a).

  • God’s Word Is Speakable: …in your mouth…

The Law of Moses as well as all scripture, are speakable by everyone. They can read, memorize and recite it.

  • God’s Word Is Inward

Scripture is not just for external action but to be an internalized message in the heart.

  • God’s Word Is Doable

Therefore, all God’s commandments are doable. Under the Law “…ordinary people can indeed live in a way that is broadly pleasing to God and faithful to God’s law, and that they can do so as a matter of joy and delight. This is neither self-righteousness nor a claim to sinless perfection…” (Wright 290).

Challenge: Choose Life

A new generation of Israelites have a chance to make the right choice unlike their forefathers who left Egypt to die in the wilderness.  God offers Israel two simple options to choose from: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil” (30:15).

First, Moses reminds them of the conditions and consequences of choosing life. If they truly want to live and multiply in the land, they must love God, walk in His ways and keep His commandments (30:16).

On the other hand Moses warns them of the conditions and consequences of choosing death: “But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess” (30:17,18). The previous generation chose the golden calf. In time, the ten tribes of Israel will choose the two golden calves set up by King Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:28-30).

Moses calls for witnesses of heaven and earth to confirm the terms of the covenant had been given to them. It was customary in Ancient Near Eastern suzerainty treaties to call on the gods to serve as observers and guarantors of the agreement. Moses calls upon the creation of the true God.

As if the choice set before Israel was not easy enough, Moses goes ahead and tells them which choice to make: “…therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (30:19).

Moses concludes this speech calling upon them to love, obey, and be loyal to God. The earnest request to “love the Lord your God” is central to the covenant relationship (Dt. 6:5; 5:10; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1,13,22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6,20; Jos. 22:5:23:11). If they do these three things God will bless them with life, length of days, and possession of the land.

The life of a Christian mirrors the history of Israel’s failure and restoration. All baptized believers have committed themselves to obey God’s New covenant (Jer. 31:31-33). God knows Christians will sin (1 John 1:7-10). Therefore, God has a second law of Pardon for Christians who sin (1 John 1:9). He can thus redeem us again form the bondage of sin (Col. 1:13). He will delivers us from our enemies (2 Thess 1:5,6). Our hearts can be circumcised (Col. 2:11,12). He has many blessings for the faithful (Eph. 1:3). His Word is both knowable and assessable, and doable (1 John 5:3). He has given us a choice and told us which to choose (Matt. 7:13,14). When we decide for God, we decide for the blessing of life. If you have turned from God, turn again and choose life.

– Daniel R. Vess

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