“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today.”
(Deuteronomy 30:6, 8 ESV)
The Israelites problem was their hard, unbelieving hearts. This is a major focus of Deuteronomy – God is not after mere dutiful obedience, He is after our joyful submission overflowing from grateful hearts. The people did not have these kinds of hearts because God had not given them believing hearts. But God, being rich in mercy, promises to give them hearts that obey – new hearts, hearts of flesh rather than hearts of stone. Only with new hearts are we able to enjoy a covenant relationship with the Creator.
This involves God writing His laws on our hearts which produces relational intimacy (Jeremiah 31:33), and hearts of flesh that allow us to walk in true obedience (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Those that are truly His are not based on external heritage & race – it is those who have circumcised hearts wrought by the Spirit (Romans 2:25-29 & Colossians 2:11). Circumcision was an external sign of the covenant, but this was merely an outward picture of the inward reality of our need for circumcised hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). Circumcision symbolizes the removal of our stubbornness that prevents us from loving God rightly (which is the first & greatest commandment – see Deuteronomy 6:5). This is the same as uncircumcised lips that do not speak well (Exodus 6:12) or uncircumcised ears that do not hear well (Jeremiah 6:10). We are a stiff-necked, rebellious & stubborn people apart from the regenerating, faith depositing grace of God (here).
The book of Deuteronomy readily points out that the people need new hearts – hearts that obey, but this is not something that they can produce on their own – they need God to do it in them (Deuteronomy 30:6, 29:4). Only those whose hearts have been made new are truly His – external rituals, signs & obedience are not enough; new hearts are required (Jeremiah 4:4 & 9:25-26 & Romans 2:25-29). Faith springs forth from a regenerated heart.
If you are a Christian, it is not because you prayed a prayer or walked an aisle. If you are Christian, it is because God graciously determined before He made anything (Ephesians 1:4-6) that He would make your dead heart alive (Ephesians 2:4-6, Colossians 2:3, 1 Peter 3:18). It is because of His sovereign choosing, not because of you being spiritually attuned to God or seeking after Him. We don’t seek God (Romans 3:11, 10:3), He seeks us (Luke 15:4-10, 19:10). When we realize that our best efforts are but filthy rags before a perfectly holy Creator (Isaiah 64:6), we are moved to cry out for mercy. When we realize that our faith is the result of God’s regenerating work in our hearts, then our hearts begin to overflow with gratitude & appreciation and we worship. Be thankful today that He chose to regenerate your heart not because of anything that you did, but solely because of His goodness & grace.