New European Commentary


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Deu 30:1 When all these things have come on you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where Yahweh your God has driven you-
We're wrong to think that God passionlessly waits for us to repent or pray to Him, and then He will forgive or act for us. He loves us, simply so; and with all love's manipulation of circumstances, seeks to pour out His love upon us. Thus repentance itself is a gift which God gives and is not totally upon human initiative (Dt. 4:29-31; 30:1-10; 1 Kings 8:58).

Deu 30:2 and return to Yahweh your God and 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-

Time and again, Moses speaks of the state of their heart. He warns them against allowing a bad state of heart to develop, he speaks often of how apostasy starts in the heart. Moses makes a total of 49 references to the heart / mind of Israel in Deuteronomy, compared to only 13 in the whole of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. This indicates the paramount importance which our Lord attaches to the state of our mind. This was perhaps his greatest wish as He faced death; that we should develop a spiritual mind and thereby manifest the Father and come to salvation. Moses likewise saw the state of our mind as the key to spiritual success. But do we share this perspective? Do we guard our minds against the media and influence of a mind-corrupting world? It's been observed that the phrase "The God of [somebody]", or similar, occurs 614 times in the Old Testament, of which 306 are in Deuteronomy. Our very personal relationship with God was therefore something else which Moses came to grasp in his spiritual maturity. Statistical analysis of the word "love" in the Pentateuch likewise reveals that "love" was a great theme of Moses at the end of his life (Moses uses it 16 times in Deuteronomy, and only four times in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers).

Deu 30:3 then Yahweh your God will turn your captivity and have compassion on you. He will return and gather you from all the peoples where Yahweh your God has scattered you-
God’s attempt to regather Judah from captivity before they had repented therefore indicates His grace, operating at times beyond the conditions which He has stated in His own word.

Deu 30:4 If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of the heavens, from there will Yahweh your God gather you, and from there He will bring you back.
Deu 30:5 Yahweh your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed and you shall possess it, and He will do you good and multiply you above your fathers-

"Drive out" is s.w. "possess". We must note the difference between the  Canaanite peoples and their kings being "struck" and their land "taken" by Joshua-Jesus; and the people of Israel permanently taking possession. This is the difference between the Lord's victory on the cross, and our taking possession of the Kingdom. Even though that possession has been "given" to us. The word used for "possession" is literally 'an inheritance'. The allusion is to the people, like us, being the seed of Abraham. The Kingdom was and is our possession, our inheritance- if we walk in the steps of Abraham. But it is one thing to be the seed of Abraham, another to take possession of the inheritance; and Israel generally did not take possession of all the land (Josh. 11:23 13:1; 16:10; 18:3; 23:4). The language of inheritance / possession is applied to us in the New Testament (Eph. 1:11,14; Col. 3:24; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Pet. 1:4 etc.). Israel were promised: "You shall possess it" (Dt. 30:5; 33:23). This was more of a command than a prophecy, for sadly they were "given" the land but did not "possess" it. They were constantly encouraged in the wilderness that they were on the path to possessing the land (Dt. 30:16,18; 31:3,13; 32:47), but when they got there they didn't possess it fully.

Deu 30:6 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, so that you may live-

Some time, read through the book of Deuteronomy in one or two sessions. You'll see many themes of Moses in Deuteronomy. It really shows how Moses felt towards Israel, and how the Lord Jesus feels towards us, and especially how he felt towards us just before his death. For this is what the whole book prefigures. "Love" and the idea of love occurs far more in Deuteronomy than in the other books of the Law. "Fear the Lord your God" of Ex. 9:30; Lev. 19:14,32; 25:17 becomes "love the Lord your God" in Deuteronomy (Dt. 6:5; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1; 19:9; 30:6,16,20). There are 23 references to not hating in Deuteronomy, compared to only 5 in Ex. - Num.; Moses saw the danger of bitterness and lack of love. He saw these things as the spiritual cancer they are, in his time of maturity he warned his beloved people against them. His mind was full of them. The LXX uses the word ekklesia eight times in Deuteronomy, but not once in Moses' other words (Dt. 4:10; 9:10; 18:16; 23:1,2,3,8; 32:1). Responsibility for the whole family God had redeemed was a mark of Moses; maturity at the end of his life, at the time of Deuteronomy. It is observable that both as a community and as individuals, this will be a sign of our maturity too.

Deu 30:7 Yahweh your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you and persecuted you.
Deu 30:8 You shall return and obey the voice of Yahweh and do all His commandments which I command you this day-

The Hebrew word for ‘hear’ is also translated ‘obey’ (Gen. 22:18; Ex. 19:5; Dt. 30:8,20; Ps. 95:7). We can hear God’s word and not obey it. But if we really hear it as we are intended to, we will obey it. If we truly believe God’s word to be His voice personally speaking to us, then we will by the very fact of hearing, obey. The message itself, if heard properly and not just on a surface level, will compel action. We can delight to know God’s laws and pray daily to Him, when at the same time we are forsaking Him and His laws; if we are truly obedient, then we will delight in God’s law (Is. 58:2 cp. 14). We have a tendency to have a love of and delight in God’s law only on the surface. John especially often uses ‘hearing’ to mean ‘believing’ (e.g. Jn. 10:4,26,27). And yet the Jews ‘heard’ but didn’t believe. We must, we really must ask ourselves: whether we merely hear, or hear and believe. For we can hear, but not really hear.

Deu 30:9 Yahweh your God will make you plenteous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, for good. Yahweh will again rejoice over you for good, as He rejoiced over your fathers,
Deu 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, and if you turn to Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deu 30:11 For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off-
Moses assures them that full obedience to his Law is possible (even if finally nobody achieved it). It wasn’t as if they had to climb up to Heaven or go down beneath the sea, they had to simply from the heart obey it as a way of life and thinking. In Rom. 10:6-9 Paul quotes this passage, having observed that in practice nobody has actually succeeded in fully keeping the Law. He says that the going up to Heaven was done by Christ at His ascension, and going beneath the sea and returning by Christ at His resurrection; and so what remains is not to keep the Mosaic law but to believe in the word of Christ; and the “life” promised here (:15) will be eternal life for those in Christ.

Deu 30:12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven and bring it back down to us and make us hear it, that we may do it?-
Paul comments that truly Israel have already heard the essence of the Gospel we preach, in that “the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach” (Rom. 10:8). He quotes here from Dt. 30:12: “For this command [to be obedient- or, as Paul interprets it, the word of the Gospel] it not far from thee [cp. how God is “not far” from anybody, Acts 17:27]. It is not in heaven above, that thou shouldest say, Who will ascend for us into heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?” (Dt. 30:12 LXX). As Moses spoke these words on the last day of his life, he was at the foot of Nebo, which he ascended for his final meeting with God. He is surely alluding to the way in which he had ‘ascended to heaven’ before in ascending to God on Sinai, fulfilling Israel’s wish that he should bring God’s word to them rather than God Himself speak with them. He had returned bringing God’s word to them, to which they had agreed they would “hear and do”. Earlier, in Deut 5:27, Moses had reminded the people how they had said: “Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it”. Now he is telling them that actually the word he had brought to them needn’t have been brought to them as in essence it was within their hearts. It is for exactly this reason that Paul could reason elsewhere in Romans that the Gentiles do by nature the things contained in the Law, although they don’t know the letter of the Law. And the same principle is found in 1 Thess. 4:9: “As touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves [i.e. from within yourselves?] are taught of God to love one another”. This is rather like how the Gentiles were not ‘written unto’ and yet they knew from their conscience the essential spirit of the Mosaic Law.

Deu 30:13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go down into the deeps for us and bring it up to us and make us hear it, that we may do it?
Deu 30:14 But the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Deu 30:15 Behold, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil-
Joshua was encouraged that "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you" (Josh. 1:5). But these very words are quoted in Heb. 13:5 as the grounds of our matchless confidence that the Lord God will be with us too! As He was with Moses- not just in power, but in wondrous patience and gentleness- so He will be with us too. Not only did God encourage Joshua to see himself as in Moses' shoes; He inspired Jeremiah likewise (Jer. 21:8 = Dt. 30:15,19), and Ezekiel (Ez. 2:3 = Dt. 31:27; Neh. 9:17; Num. 17:10); and He wishes us to also see Moses' God as our God. But if Moses' God is to be ours in truth in the daily round of life, we must rise up to the dedication of Moses; as he was a faithful steward, thoroughly dedicated to God's ecclesia (Heb. 3:5), so we are invited follow his example (1 Cor. 4:2; Mt. 24:45). Note that the promise of Moses that God would not fail nor forsake Joshua, but would be with him (Dt. 31:8) was similar to the very promise given to Moses which he had earlier doubted (Ex. 3:12; 4:12,15). Such exhortation is so much the stronger from someone who has themselves doubted and then come to believe.

Deu 30:16 I command you this day to love Yahweh your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments, His statutes and His ordinances, that you may live and multiply, and that Yahweh your God may bless you in the land where you go in to possess it-
“If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15,21,23; 15:10) reflects a major identical theme in Dt. 5:10; 7:9; 11:1,22; 13:3,4; 19:9; 30:16. Moses at the end of his life, when he spoke Deuteronomy, was very much the image of the future Lord Jesus.

God is His word (Jn. 1:1); to love God is to love His word. If we love Christ, we will keep His words (Jn. 14:15,21; 15:10). This is evidently alluding to the many Old Testament passages which say that Israel's love for God would be shown through their keeping of His commands (Ex. 20:6; Dt. 5:10; 7:9; 11:1,13,22; 30:16; Josh. 22:5). Israel were also told that God's commands were all related to showing love (Dt. 11:13; 19:9). So there is a logical circuit here: We love God by keeping His commands, the essence of which is love of people, therefore His commands are fundamentally about love. Thus love is the fulfilling of the law of God; both under the Old and New covenants (Rom. 13:10).

The Hebrew mishpat, "ordinances", has a wide range of meaning. The idea is of judgment, as if God and His Angels gave these laws as their considered judgment after considering the human condition, and Israel were to abide by them. But the word also the idea of a right or privilege; and that is how we should see God's laws. They are only felt as a burden because of human hardness of neck towards God's ways. His laws are not of themselves burdensome, but rather a privilege and blessing. The law was indeed "holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12), designed to inculcate a holy, just and good life (Tit. 1:8), a way in which a man should "walk" in daily life (Lev. 18:4), a culture of kindness and grace to others which reflected God's grace to man. If we dwell upon the idea of "rights" carried within the word mishpat, we note that the law begins in Ex. 21:1,2 (also Dt. 15:12-18) with the rights of a slave- those considered to have no rights in the society of that day. The "rights" to be afforded by us to others are the essence of God's rightness / justice.  

Deu 30:17 But if your heart turns away and you will not hear, but shall be drawn away and worship other gods and serve them-
The heart that turns away from God by free choice then becomes drawn away by other forces.

Deu 30:18 I declare to you this day, that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land, where you pass over the Jordan to go in to possess it-
Moses pleaded with them to see that "this day... this day... this day" he set before them life and death, forgiveness or salvation (Dt. 30:15-19). The Lord Jesus had His mind on this when He told the thief with the same emphasis that "this day" He could tell them that he would be saved, not condemned (Lk. 23:46). He felt like Moses, but greater than Moses, in that He not only set before men the choice, but could grant them the salvation they sought.

Deu 30:19 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-
Finely aware of the seriousness of our relationship with God, Moses pleads with Israel to "choose life", not with the passivity which may appear from our armchair reading of passages like Dt. 30:19. I wonder if he wasn’t screaming this to them, breaking down in the climax of logic and passion which resulted in that appeal. Yet he knew that the majority of Israel would not choose life. When he appeals to them to choose obedience he is therefore thinking of the minority who would  respond. Yet he knew that the majority of Israel would not choose life. When he appeals to them to choose obedience he is therefore thinking of the minority who would respond. Our Lord Jesus, with his knowledge of human nature, must have sensed that so many of those called into his new covenant would also turn away; He must have known that only a minority of Israel would choose the life which He offered. Yet like Moses He doubtless concentrated his thoughts on the minority who would respond. Moses spoke Deuteronomy without notes. It was no set piece address. All these things were in his heart; their proneness to failure, the coming of judgment for sin, his knowledge of their future apostasy. Enter into the passion of it all. The man who was willing to give his eternal life for them, about to die for the sake of their provocation- singing a final song to them, giving a final speech, which showed that he knew perfectly well that they would turn away from what he was trying to do for them, and therefore the majority of them would not be saved.  

Deu 30:20 Love Yahweh your God, to obey His voice and to cling 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-
Yahweh was to be loved with all the heart, soul and mind (Dt. 6:5). This is understood by Joshua as meaning that those who loved Yahweh would not "mix with" and intermarry with the nations and accept their gods (Josh. 23:11,12,16). "Love" for God was not therefore a feeling; Joshua said that they must "take good heed therefore to yourselves, that you love Yahweh" (Josh. 23:11). This is the love of conscious direction of the mind, the love which is a choice rather than an emotion.    

"Cling" is "cleave". The idea of 'cleaving' to God is a big theme of Moses in Deuteronomy (Dt. 4:4; 10:20; 11:22; 13:4,17; 28:21,60; 30:20); the only other time Moses uses the word in his writings is in Gen. 2:24, concerning a man cleaving to his wife. Moses seems to have been suggesting to Israel that their covenant relationship with God meant they were marrying God. This was a real paradigm breaker. We may be used to such things. But against the theological background of the time, not to say the generally low level of spirituality among Israel, this was a shocking idea. It reflected the heights to which Moses had risen. 

The Lord’s common Upper Room theme of ‘abiding’ in Him uses the same word as Moses used in the LXX when exhorting his people to ‘cleave unto’ God (Dt. 10:20; 11:22). This abiding involved loving God and keeping His commandments- all ideas which occur together in Dt. 13:4; 30:20.