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Passage: Deuteronomy 30-31

On Monday, March 18, 2013, Yujin wrote,

For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach (Deuteornomy 30:11).

This translation is a little misleading. It gives the impression that God was saying to the Israelites that the Law was not difficult to obey. This is probably not the meaning here. The point is that God's commandments were not too difficult to understand. What is more, it was readily accessible to them, for Moses would write it down for them, and it would be preached to them on a regular basis by the Levites. Consider these observations by the renowned Old Testament Commenters Keil & Delitsche:

"This commandment" (used as in Deuteronomy 6:1 to denote the whole law) is "not too wonderful for thee," i.e., is not too hard to grasp, or unintelligible (vid.,Deuteronomy 17:8), nor is it too far off: it is neither in heaven, i.e., at an inaccessible height; nor beyond the sea, i.e., at an unattainable distance, at the end of the world, so that any one could say, Who is able to fetch it thence? but it is very near thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart to do it. It not only lay before the people in writing, but it was also preached to them by word of mouth, and thus brought to their knowledge, so that it had become a subject of conversation as well as of reflection and careful examination. But however near the law had thus been brought to man, sin had so estranged the human heart from the word of God, that doing and keeping the law had become invariably difficult, and in fact impossible; so that the declaration, "the word is in thy heart," only attains its full realization through the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God, and the righteousness that is by faith; and to this the Apostle Paul applies the passage in Romans 10:8.

So Paul writes, "By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified" (Galatians 2:16). The reason he gives is that a law-based justification requires perfect obedience to the Law, which every living being falls short of achieving: 

For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them” (Galatians 3:10).

This is more confirmation that what was meant in Deuteronomy 30:11 was not that the Law was "not too difficult to obey" but rather that it was "not too difficult to understand." 

Now, Keil and Delitsche above argue that the words "this commandment" is a reference to the whole Law, as opposed to individual commandments within the Law. They cite Deuteronomy 6:1 as another reference with the singular tense "commandment." There are other references as well. This may very well be the case; however, I discovered something interesting.

Within the Book of Deuteronomy there are numerous references to "commandments" but only one unequivocal reference to "the commandment." For instance, even in Deteronomy 6:1, as well as others passages like it, the KJV always translates what the NASB renders singular (i.e. "commandment") as plural ("commandments"). Now, these translations are sourced in different manuscript traditions, but there is no disagreement where Deuteronomy 30:11 is concerned. Every tradition renders the Hebrew as the singular "commandment". Therefore, there is something uniquely significant about the reference to "this commandment" in Deuteronomy 30:11 that sets it apart from all the other commandments of the Law of Moses. 

What is more, contrary to the conclusion by Keil and Delitsche, consider Joshua 22:5

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love theLord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Joshua writes "the commandment and the law" as separate things. If the singular "commandment" is meant to represent the whole Law, what does "the law" reference? 

What I'm suggesting is that the singular "commandment" may be qualitatively different from the "commandments" in the Law of Moses. 

In Romans 10:5-10 Paul cites Deuteronomy 30:11-14, but rather than seeing "this commandment" as a reference to the Law of Moses, he writes of it as a reference to "the word of faith":

For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Forthere is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:5-13).

Moses wrote that "this commandment" was not "out of reach" so that someone would say, "Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it" (Deuteronomy 30:12). Again, he writes, no one needs to say, "Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it" (Deuteronomy 30:13). Again, a third time, Moses writes, "But the word iis very near you, in your moth and in your heart, that you may observe it" (Deuteronomy 30:14). All of these references have obedience as their common objective.

Yet, the larger context finds Moses repeatedly pointing out that Israel will fail to keep the Law. And He does not point this out as merely a possibility but as a certainty. God tells him this will be the case. How can he, on the one hand, speak of "this commandment" as something not too difficult to understand and readily accessible to obey, yet, on the other hand, prophecy that Israel will certainly violate the "commandments" in the Law and incur the wrath of God?

To Paul's point, "this commandment," "the word," that Moses writes of, is something different from the Law of Moses. It is the "word of faith," which God gives according to His sovereign choice. It does not depend on human effort but on God's grace. Perhaps this is why Moses begins this section with the promise of God in Deuteronomy 30:6,

Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendantsto love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.

What will God do? He will circumcise their heart. To what effect? It will cause them to love the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul. To what benefit? They will live! Isn't this a foreshadowing of the promise of the New Covenant?

Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Theologians observe that even in the dispensation of Law, grace was not absent. When Paul speaks of faith, he goes all the way back to Abraham, whose faith was "reckoned to him as righteousness". Thus, the message of faith was present during the period of the Mosaic Law. Could this reference to "this commandment" and to "the word" be a reference to "the word of faith," which foreshadowed the promise of the New Covenant, whereby God would write His laws upon the hearts of His people? Thus, even in the days of Moses, Israel would have had some sense of salvation by grace, even though the way of faith was somewhat shrouded by the requirements of the Law. 

Friends, I encourage you to always be ready to think outside the box. I find most commentators and theologians will unquestioningly follow the lead of renowned scholars like Keil and Delitsche. While this is usually a right course, it may not always be right, for we are all fallible men. Even as I share on these topics, I hope that you will search these matters out for yourselves and come to your own conclusions. After all, we are all accountable for ourselves, and we will not be acquitted before God because we followed someone else's wrong teaching. 

What I believe about the sovereignty of God in election and the depravity of man comes from my own studies in the Scripture, not from what preachers or teachers have told me. I pray that you will also take such an approach to things. 


Passage: Deuteronomy 30-31

On Sunday, March 18, 2012 (Last Updated on 3/18/2013), Yujin wrote,

“The LORD your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live! (Deuteronomy 30:6 NLT)

In today's reading we get a preview of the New Covenant. It was given not as a present promise but as a future promise, whereby God would change hearts in such a way that the people could and would fully obey God. It is a promise of future perfection that God would achieve apart from any human cooperation and the benefits of which God would unilaterally apply to His chosen. Until then, this was their condition:

But to this day the LORD has not given you minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear! (Deuteronomy 29:4 NLT)

In other words, they did not have minds to understand, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. Except for a chosen few (e.g. Moses, Joshua, and Caleb) the great majority of them would simply serve as evidence of human depravity, of failure in obedience, and of vindication for God's holy and awesome wrath, even as we today are expressions of God's loving and generous grace.

I draw your attention to these Scriptures so that you might understand that damnation is our deserved lot as sinful sons and daughters of Adam, but salvation is God's undeserved gift for those He chooses to adopt in Christ Jesus. The people of Israel stand as undeniable evidence of the failure of human free will to achieve salvation. But when God sovereignly gives us minds to understand, eyes to see, ears to hear, and changes our hearts, it is then that we can love God with all our hearts and with all our souls and so gain eternal life. Although this perfection we do not and cannot fully put into practice in this life because of our sinful nature, we gain the benefits of it by the Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. As the Scripture says, "It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God, that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Corinthianns 1). The perfect righteousness of Christ is applied to our account, so that we are counted as if we lived in perfect obedience as Christ did.

Praise God for His unmerited and wonderful grace through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Passage: Deuteronomy 30-31

On Saturday, March 19, 2011, Unmi wrote,
Deut 30:19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 
Now I question whether it was possible for the Israelites to "choose life." In the previous chapter, Moses tells the Israelites "Your eyes have seen all that the LORD did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. 4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear." (Deut 29:2-4) Unless God himself opens their mind, their eyes, their ears; they can not understand the very truth that is right in front of them.
Paul says the same thing in Romans 11. In addressing the question, "Did God reject his people?" He emphatically says "By no means! I am an Israelite myself" and says that there is "a remnant chosen by grace." ...What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:  “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.”(Romans 11:7-8)  Those who did follow in the ways of the LORD, such as Moses and Joshua did so because of God's election, but the others could not because their hearts were hardened.
This idea of choice is addressed by Joshua as well. After conquering the lands of Canaan, in the final chapter of Joshua, he assembled everyone before him prior to dismissing the tribes to their allotted lands. Joshua tells them “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24: 14-15)  The Israelites of course respond saying that they will choose the LORD.  However, Joshua said to the people “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.” (Joshua 24:19) Even after Joshua tells them to make their choice, he tells them that they are not able to serve the LORD.
Whether Jew or Gentile unless we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we can not choose GOD because “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away.." (Romans 3:10-11) In Ephesians, Paul says "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved...For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9) Paul says that faith is not from yourselves. Faith itself is the gift of God.
Thank you Lord that you regenerate us from our unrighteousness, you give us faith to believe, you free us from the condemnation that comes from being under the Law for the Law does not bring life, but death to those who are under it.
"Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. (Romans 7:9-10)

Passage: Deuteronomy 30-31

On Friday, March 18, 2011, Stephen wrote,

The Israelites are just about to enter the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey and what they hear from God is storms of the curses they will inflict on themselves.  God says, "...I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.”  Nevertheless, God faithfully carries out the promise that He made on oath to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob by bringing the rebellious Israelites to the Land even though he knows what they will do.  They've seen the God's mighty signs and wonders and have been reminded of His Word and disciplined for 40 years in the wilderness.  How come they never learn?  God says, "..when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant."  We all were running toward destruction whether we were aware of it or not.  We all are numb sometimes to our God, being indulged in materialistic blessings just as the Israelites ate their fill and thrive and rejected Him.  Since His Spirit dwells in us, let us be captivated by who our God is rather than what he gives or is capable of giving!  I see how prosperity gospel can distort the truth and mislead people.  I'm wondering how many times materialistic blessings are mentioned in the NT based on our performance!  He gave us faith which promises eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Hallelujah!