With the blessings and curses of the last section, the words of God’s covenant law have come to a close. Now God begs Israel to choose to obey it.
The only problem is, the choice is not as simple as it may seem. Right away, we learn that God has not yet given Israel a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear (29:4). That is why, despite all the miracles they have seen up to this point, they still do not truly trust God.
This leads to a prediction Moses makes about Israel’s future. They will disobey God and be driven out of the land. The curses explained in the last section will come true.
However, God will not leave them in exile forever. He promises that he will circumcise his people’s hearts, giving them the inner disposition they need to finally obey. They will return to the land, love God, and live with him forever.
Moses, knowing what would become of Israel in the future, begs them to choose life over death, obedience over disobedience. After all, the law is not in heaven - it has been revealed (30:12). The law is not in some other country across the sea - it was given to Israel (30:13).
They know exactly what is expected of them and it is not too hard to do (30:11). They should be able to obey! But they will not.
We may have misconceptions about the laws in Deuteronomy, thinking they are impossible to follow and overly rigorous. But hopefully, by reading through them, we will actually see that they are very plain and simple commands that don’t ask very much of Israel.
The point of the law’s simplicity isn’t that it is easy to follow. Rather, it is given to highlight just how sinful the human heart is without God. We can’t obey the easiest commands.
Where is Jesus?
The same is true for us today. Think about simple moral imperatives like, “Don’t lie.” We know what it means. It’s not a hard command. Yet all of us have told many lies. We are like the Israel Moses predicted - exiled, hard-hearted, and unwilling to obey.
So how will we fulfill the law's requirements today? The apostle Paul gives two answers to this question when he quotes this passage in the book of Romans.
First, we must see that Jesus earns the blessing of the law for everyone who believes in him (Romans 10:4). This is where Paul quotes Deuteronomy. It is not for us to climb our way up to heaven - Jesus has come down from heaven to us (Romans 10:6). It is not for us to earn our way out of death - Jesus has already beaten the grave for us (Romans 10:7).
So how do we keep the law today? By putting our faith in the merits of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Romans 10:6, 9). This is the Gospel - we are justified not by works, but by faith.
Second, we must see that Jesus gives us the new heart Moses said we needed. Paul has already talked about this in Romans before we even get to his quote of Deuteronomy. We obey the law because we walk by the Spirit (Romans 8:4-5). Jesus brings us the new heart we need to obey by dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit.
Now it is not the law that is near us so that we can choose to obey it. Instead, the Holy Spirit is even nearer, and he causes us to obey it.
See For Yourself
I pray that the Holy Spirit would open your eyes to see the God who gives us commands that are not impossible, even though we ignore them anyway. And that you would see Jesus as the one who obeys the law for us, but then gives us new hearts so we can obey it too.