“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither 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?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”(Deuteronomy 30:11–20 ESV)
If you have been in the church for a while, then you have likely heard this passage used as a charge for you to walk in obedience. It certainly is that! It certainly is a call to obey the Lord’s commands, but what is in view is not some white knuckled, hard fought self reliant form of sanctification. NO! Obedience is only possible with new hearts. It is only by trusting in God’s grace that you will find the fuel to obey His commands. It is not too hard if the heart has been regenerated. This text looks forward to a day when the word is in their hearts & mouths so that they would obey (14). The circumcised heart enables obedience (30:6). Paul quotes this passage in Romans 10:6-8 to distinguish between a righteousness that comes by faith versus dutiful obedience to the law. God’s requirement is not superhero like works, but faith in the gospel. Dependence is all you need; need is all that you need. Joyful obedience flows from hearts that have been made new.
The options before them were clear and the consequences of their actions were clear, but they didn’t obey – they couldn’t obey rightly. They did not have believing hearts. God is not after just any type of obedience, He is after a certain kind of obedience. God is after loving hearts that overflow in joyful obedience (v16). Obedience without love is not real obedience – it is external compliance, which does not glorify God. Moses gives them a choice at the summit of His preaching – it really is about trusting in the goodness, sovereignty & grace of God and walking in glad submission to the Lord of the universe (15-16).
If, however, your heart turns away & your ears become hard of hearing and you worship other gods then you will perish (17-18). Love, affection & desire are at the heart of man; the very essence of a man is what he decides is worthy of his worship. We become like that which we worship (Psalm 63:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Moses says that life & death was before them and he implored them to choose life (19-20)! Life consists of loving God, trusting God & obeying God. Life comes from Christ and Christ alone (John 10:10). Jesus is the One that perfectly obeyed the law as a result of His perfect love for God. He then gave us His perfect obedience and took our sinful rebellion upon Himself in what has been called the “Great Exchange.” If you are a Christian, then striving to please God is done – God is pleased with you because of the perfect obedience that Jesus gave to you. You can stop striving and begin walking in joyful submission to the commands of God because you no longer have to earn or prove anything because Jesus victoriously proclaimed, “It is Finished!” (John 19:30)
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