THE TWO CONTRASTING CHOICES ARE CLEAR – CHOOSE LIFE
Daniel Block: Deuteronomy 30 represents the climax of the gospel according to Moses as he has proclaimed it in this book. Employing the second person of direct address, Moses brings his present audience into these future events. Much of the theological freight of this section is carried by key words. The most important of these is the root šûb (“to return, turn back”), which occurs seven times, with some variation in meaning. Since four of the seven involve Israel as the subject (vv. 1, 2, 8, 10) and three involve Yahweh (vv. 3a, 3b, 9), Israel’s future restoration obviously requires a change in the disposition of both parties. These along with other repeated elements function as glue holding this literary unit together.
Eugene Merrill: The previous passage (29:16-29 [15-28]) ended with the proverbial aphorism about the secret things of the Lord (v. 29 ), a secret about to be clarified in the present text. How Israel could be deported from the land and the very earth itself left desiccated and barren, on the one hand, and how the promises of God for Israel’s eternal ongoing could continue in effect, on the other hand, now finds resolution. It lies in Israel’s repentance and restoration. It was in this sense that “the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (29:29 ). What the nations could not understand on the basis of empirical historical evidence Israel could understand on the basis of God’s covenant promises.
Michael Grisanti: In order to emphasize the need for Israel to obey the Lord in the present, Moses looks forward to a future day in which, after having experienced the covenantal curses for their disobedience, the children of Israel will return to the Lord, will be brought back to the Promised Land, and will enjoy the abundant blessings of a proper relationship with the Lord.
Ron Barnes: Loving the Lord is the message to God’s people in Deuteronomy 30.
– It is all or nothing.
– It is the difference between life and death, heaven and hell.
– It is a work of Sovereign grace in the heart.
May the Lord help us to follow Him more closely in a wicked and sinful world.
Cornerstone Bible Commentary: The truth here is precious and profound. The infinite and omniscient God of Israel can reveal and has revealed the mysteries of his saving purposes to a lowly, undeserving, and often hardhearted and unresponsive people. There is no need for any angelic or even human intermediation apart from the inspired prophets, like Moses, through whom the revelation came. The truth is not so obscure or elusive as to require interpretive savants. Israel’s opportunities and responsibilities before Yahweh are not so esoteric that they cannot be apprehended and carried out. Rather, they are transparently clear and personalized. The community and all its members have unfettered access to the very mind and plan of the Almighty….But there must be a response to the proffer of grace. Moses therefore called the assembly to make a decision as to how they would respond to this gracious word of revelation. Using a figure of speech (a metonymy), in which the effect stands for the cause, Moses presented the options of life and good or death and disaster (so the Hebrew text)—that is, he extended choices which, when made, will result in one pair or the other. The choices are either to love the Lord or to reject him.
I. (:1-10) FUTURE RESTORATION AND PROSPERITY SHOULD CAUSE ISRAEL TO REFLECT ON THE NEED FOR COVENANT LOYALTY NOW
Daniel Block: The subthemes interwoven throughout this passage exhibit an exquisite chiastic arrangement (pers. trans.):
This is a gloriously holistic text, announcing the full restoration of the triadic covenantal relationship. Based on syntactical and conceptual markers, the text breaks down into the following segments:
(1) the restoration of the bilateral relationship between Yahweh and Israel (vv. 1–3);
(2) the divine restoration of the trilateral covenant relationship (vv. 4–7);
(3) the human proof of the restoration (v. 8);
(4) the environmental proof of the restoration (vv. 9–10).
A. (:1-5) Promise of Future Restoration and Prosperity
1. (:1-2) Corporate Repentance
a. (:1) Reflecting on the Blessing and Cursing
“So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you,
the blessing and the curse which I have set before you,
and you call them to mind in all nations
where the LORD your God has banished you,”
b. (:2) Returning Wholeheartedly to the Lord
“and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him
with all your heart and soul
according to all that I command you today, you and your sons,”
Michael Grisanti: The ultimate restoration of God’s servant-nation is predicated on their returning to a genuine faith relationship with him (v.2). Here again we encounter the interesting interplay between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. God expects his chosen people to return to him. Nevertheless, various OT texts speak of God’s bringing about a spirit of repentance and obedience among them (cf. Lev 26:40–45; Jer 30:3, 18–22; 31:23–24, 31–34; Eze 34:11–16; 36:22–36).
Duane Christensen: The terrifying list of curses that reaches its climax in the horrors of siege warfare and exile to a foreign land are followed by an affirmation that the door remains open for the return of the prodigal son. Moreover, when the people choose to return to the covenant agreement, God will make them more prosperous and numerous than they were before, provided of course that their obedience to the covenant is sincere and wholehearted.
2. (:3-5) Corporate Restoration and Possession of the Land and Prosperity
a. (:3) Compassionate Regathering and Restoration
“then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity,
and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.”
Daniel Block: Additional echoes of 4:29–31 occur in verse 3 as Moses shifts his attention to Yahweh’s new disposition and actions.
(1) Yahweh’s intentions concerning Israel will change; he will restore their fortunes. Here the reversal involves lifting the judgment and restoring the relationship between the people of Israel and their land.
(2) Yahweh’s disposition toward Israel will change; he will show compassion to them (cf. 4:31). As in 13:17, the change seems contingent on Israel’s listening to his voice and doing what is right in his sight.
(3) Yahweh’s orientation regarding Israel will change; he will “turn around.” The verb here expresses Yahweh’s fundamental reorientation. Instead of turning from Israel and operating as their enemy, he will turn toward them and act on their behalf.
(4) Yahweh’s treatment of Israel will change. Whereas previously he had scattered them among the nations, now he will gather them (cf. 4:27; 28:64). While we hear nothing yet of the restoration of the people to the land, this divine action represents a necessary first step in reversing their uprooting (29:28).
Harrison: After full conversion the Jews will never again turn from God, they or their descendants. This view of the conversion of Israel is supported by other evidences. Christ will not return to the Jews until they say Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, (Matthew 23:39). It is when Christ returns and they see Him that they shall know that the crucified Jesus is their long expected Messiah (Zech. 12:9-14+; Ezek. 39:21-22+). It is in the day of His power that they will be willing (Ps. 110:3). This psalm surely points to the glorious advent of the Son of Man in power and glory (Luke 21:27+; 1 Tim. 6:14-16).
b. (:4) Comprehensive Return
“If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth,
from there the LORD your God will gather you,
and from there He will bring you back.”
MacArthur: The gathering of Jews out of all the countries of the earth will follow Israel’s final redemption. Restoration to the Land will be in fulfillment of the promise of the covenant given to Abraham (see Ge 12:7; 13:15; 15:18-21, 17:8) and so often reiterated by Moses and the prophets.
c. (:5a) Confident and Secure Possession of the Land
“And the LORD your God will bring you into the land
which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it;”
d. (:5b) Compounded Prosperity
“and He will prosper you and multiply you
more than your fathers.”
Keene: He will restore Israel’s fortunes, a theme frequent in the prophets (cf., e.g., Jer. 30:18; 32:44; 33:11, 26; Joel 3:1). The prophets made it clear that this great restoration to the land would not take place until the Second Advent of the Messiah just before the beginning of His millennial reign on the earth (e.g., Isa. 59:20–62:12; cf. Jesus’ teaching of the regathering in Matt. 24:31; Mark 13:27). This will be a time of spiritual and material prosperity greater than the nation has ever known (Deut. 30:5).
B. (:6-10) Process of Appropriating God’s Promised Blessings
1. (:6-8) Divine Initiative to Secure Covenant Loyalty
a. (:6) Circumscribed Heart to Love and to Live
“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.”
Daniel Block: The metaphor refers to removing all psychological, moral, and spiritual barriers to true devotion to Yahweh, resulting in undivided love and obedience. . .
Moses declares that Yahweh will secure permanent and total devotion through circumcising the hearts of those whom he brings back from the exile and of their descendants. He expresses the goal of this surgery with a simple infinitive phrase: “to love the LORD your God.” As elsewhere, “love” denotes commitment demonstrated in actions that serve the interests and pleasure of one’s covenant partner. This could not be achieved by legislation; it required a radical new act, the surgical removal of the symbols of the old affections. With this act, the goal of life and the ideal expressed by the Shema (6:4–5) will be realized.
Michael Grisanti: vv. 4-7 — these verses delineate the blessings Yahweh will bestow on his repentant people. Regardless of their location of exile, the Lord will regather them (v.4) to the land of his promise and will bless them even more abundantly than their ancestors (v.5). Once the Lord reinstates them in the land, he will reconstitute Israel and give them the ability to obey him and to enjoy his continued blessings. By an act of God alone, these returned Israelites and their descendants will be given the ability to love the Lord (“circumcise your hearts”) and consequently experience the abundant blessings of the covenant (v.6). In addition to this great blessing, he will transfer the curses endured by the children of Israel to the nations that brought about Israel’s exile (v.7). . .
The OT teaches that Israel rebels against God for a large segment of her history. As a whole, Israel remains unregenerate until the last part of redemptive history (Jer 31:31–34; Eze 36:22–28; 37:14). . .
Moses makes use of past experience and the notion of the potential future to drive home Israel’s need to obey Yahweh in the present.
MacArthur: Cf. 10:16. This work of God in the innermost being of the individual is the true salvation that grants a new will to obey Him in place of the former spiritual insensitivity and stubbornness (cf. Jer 4:4; 9:25; Ro 2:28, 29). This new heart will allow the Israelite to love the Lord wholeheartedly, and is the essential feature of the New Covenant (see 29:4, 18; 30:10, 17; Jer 31:31-34; 32:37-42; Eze 11:19; 36:26).
b. (:7) Curses Deflected onto Your Enemes
“And the LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.”
c. (:8) Covenant Loyalty Renewed
“And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today.”
Daniel Block: Yahweh’s people will exhibit a new orientation, a new receptiveness, and a new obedience in compliance with Moses’ teaching. Moses’ optimism regarding Israel as a nation presupposes a divine act of heart circumcision. He expresses no confidence in the human will to maintain the course.
Duane Christensen: The power to change comes from God. There is an old saying that “God does not make us to go ’gainst our will, he just makes us willing to go!”
2. (:9-10) Delight of the Lord in Responding to Obedience with Blessing
a. (:9) Renewed Prosperity (in response to)
“Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers;”
b. (:10) Renewed Covenant Loyalty
“if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.”
Eugene Merrill: The question here is not when Israel would obey and turn to the Lord but if. That is, the issue here (as opposed to vv. 1-6) is not the eternality of the covenant relationship itself—a matter never denied in Scripture—but the benefits and blessings attached to covenant obedience in the present. If Israel historically did all that the Lord required by way of covenant observance (v. 10), they could expect all the results listed earlier (vv. 7-9). When Israel did eschatologically all that the Lord made possible by way of covenant observance (vv. 1-2), they could expect all the results that followed (vv. 3-6).
II. (:11-14) REVELATION MAKES GOD’S WORD ACCESSIBLE, UNDERSTANDABLE AND DOABLE
A. (:11) Accessibility of God’s Requirements
“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.”
Duane Christensen: The content and demands of the covenant are not too difficult to understand and achieve. The covenant is something that can and should be acted on now—“I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; . . . I the Lord speak the truth, I declare what is right” (Isa 45:19). It is not a matter of erudition. As Saint Bonaventura put it long ago, “Any old woman can love God better than a doctor of theology can!”
The apostle Paul found inspiration in the text of Deut 30:11–14 to argue his case that salvation is not for the privileged few, based on some elaborate system of works. Salvation is for all who choose to believe “the word of faith.” In short, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (Rom 10:6–9). Paul, and Jesus before him, understood the message of Deuteronomy, which declares that the heart of the matter is found in two commandments: to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. God’s word is not esoteric, hidden away in heaven or beyond the sea, to be apprehended only at great cost and human effort.
Eugene Merrill: Contrary to the inscrutable and enigmatic ways of the pagan gods, the Lord’s purposes and will for his people are crystal clear. They are not “too difficult” (l ‘ nipl ‘t, lit., “not too wonderful,” i.e., beyond comprehension) or beyond reach (v. 11). That is, they can be understood by the human mind despite its limitations.
B. (:12-13) Nearness of God’s Requirements
1. (:12) Not in Heaven
“It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven
for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’”
Peter Craigie: metaphorically the commandment is not inaccessible because of its height or loftiness, so that some especially qualified person would be needed to make it all clear.
2. (:13) Not beyond the Sea
“Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea
for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’”
Peter Craigie: the verse indicates in another way that the commandment was practical and realistic. The objective of the commandment, and obedience to it, was life (cf. vv. 15–20); and the emphasis on the immediacy and the practical nature of the commandment is in striking contrast to Near Eastern literature and religion at this point. The Mesopotamian hero Gilgamesh, following the death of his intimate friend Enkidu, set out on a quest for life, a quest that was in many ways fruitless. In the course of his quest, he had to cross the sea, searching for Utnapishtim, the survivor of the flood, whom Gilgamesh hoped might provide him with an answer to his quest. In contrast to this heroic yet tragic quest, life was to be found by the Hebrews in the law of the covenant which Moses set before them: it is in your mouth and in your mind (lit. “heart”), so that you may do it.
C. (:14) Accessibility Should Lead to Performance
“But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart,
that you may observe it.”
Gerald Gerbrandt: Now the focus is the accessibility of Israel’s law as preached in Deuteronomy, and as affirmed in the covenant ceremony (in your mouth, 30:14).
“The argument is that the law is not beyond human capacity to understand nor is it undisclosed and remote. This is a user-friendly law, easy to grasp and freely available. The essential point is simply to ‘do it’ (the last words of vv. 12, 13, 14)” (Nelson 2002:349). The law is neither too complex or complicated for people to understand nor too demanding or ideal that obedience is not possible. Obedience is realistic (30:1-10), and choosing life is not some unachievable pipe-dream (30:15-20). Here is a word of encouragement.
MacArthur: After remembering the failures of the past and the prospects for the future, Moses earnestly admonished the people to make the right choice. . . All the truth necessary for choosing to love and obey God and thus avoid disobedience and cursing, they had heard and known (v. 15).
III. (:15-20) CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES
Michael Grisanti: With clarity and urgency the first and third sections of this pericope (vv. 15–16, 19–20) present Israel with the choice they are facing (obedience or treachery), with a focus on the potential blessings. The middle section (vv. 17–18) spells out the negative side, the curses that God will send against his people if they rebel against him.
Peter Craigie: The options in the choice set before the people are the most important that any man—whether in the plains of Moab or in the modern world—has to face: life and good on the one hand, or death and evil on the other. The choice had been set down in the clearest terms: the law had been stated and expanded; the history of God’s dealing with his people had been called to mind; the basic operating principle of love had been enunciated; the potentialities of the future, with both blessing and cursing, had been declared. But in the last resort, the matter came down to a decision that had to be made. God and his ability were not for one moment in question; the responsibility now rested on the people themselves.
The making of a decision, however, involved more than simple affirmation; it involved a whole way of life based upon that decision.
A. (:15-16) Two Clear and Contrasting Choices
1. (:15) Presentation of the Two Choices
“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity,
and death and adversity;”
2. (:16a) The Essence of the Right Choice
“in that I command you today to love the LORD your God,
to walk in His ways
and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments,”
3. (:16b) The Consequences of Making the Right Choice
“that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.”
B. (:17-18) Warning against Choosing Disobedience and Idolatry
1. (:17) The Essence of the Wrong Choice
“But if your heart turns away and you will not obey,
but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them,”
2. (:18) The Consequences of Making the Wrong Choice
“I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You shall not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.”
C. (:19-20) Advocating for the Right Choice
1. (:19a) Two Clear and Contrasting Choices
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.”
2. (:19b) The Only Choice that Makes Sense
“So CHOOSE LIFE”
3. (:19c-20) The Consequences of Making the Right Choice
“in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20 by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
Gerald Gerbrandt: The passage and speech thus closes with a final reference to the gift of land and the promises to the ancestors. Despite the emphases on curses in these final chapters, and despite the fact that the choice before Israel is between life and death, the closing words speak of life and promise.
Duane Christensen: When I was first asked to write this commentary on Deuteronomy, a friend said she wanted to share something with me that she thought might be useful at some point. It was a personal experience with this text, one that she had shared with no one, not even her husband. It seems that she was struggling with great depression to the point that she finally decided to end her life by suicide. As a final attempt to find some kind of direction or meaning in her life, she opened a Bible at random and placed her finger on the text of Deut 30:19—“life and death I set before you, the blessing and the curse, so choose life.” She said, “That’s what I did. If it were not for the book of Deuteronomy, I wouldn’t be here today.” I am sure that this is not a model of how we are to make use of Scripture in seeking guidance and direction in our lives; but I am also sure that God chose to use the biblical text in that particular way on that specific occasion.
Michael Grisanti: Israel’s choice to obey or disobey Yahweh will have far-reaching implications: life or death, blessings or curses (cf. ch. 28). Choosing life (for them and their descendants) is equated with wholehearted commitment to a genuine covenantal relationship with Yahweh. Verse 20 delineates that commitment by employing stock “covenantal” verbs: “love,” “listen,” “hold fast”. Moses concludes this section by affirming that Yahweh, Israel’s covenantal Lord, will give them long tenure in the land if they live as loyal citizens. Just prior to that statement he declares a powerful reality: “For the LORD is your life.” True life is only to be found in God, i.e., in an intimate relationship with him.