The Lord Has Not Given You a Heart to Know (Part 2)

I recommend starting with part 1 if you have not read that already…

The intent of the exhortation in Deuteronomy 29 looks to remind the Israelites that there current track record in knowing and trusting the Lord isn’t very good. Any reasonable Israelite at the gathering would know this to be true.

Here is a cursory and non-exhaustive look at their recent history of the people Moses has been leading since the Exodus.

  • Complained that they would be die at the hands of the Egyptian army (Exodus 14:10-12)
  • Complained that they would die of starvation (Exodus 16:1-3)
  • Complained that they would die of thirst (Exodus 17:1-3)
  • Asked for the golden calf because 40 days was to long to wait for Moses (Exodus 32:1-6)
  • Complained about the food they received (Numbers 11:1-9)
  • Complained that they would be die at the hands of the armies in Canaan (Numbers 14:1-3)
  • Complained about the food they received (Numbers 21:4-5)

A worthwhile application is to ask ourselves, do we tend to ignore what God has promised and what He has done and focus on what can go wrong?

The complaints and fears highlighted in these passages highlight the fact that this group of people has shown limited to no trust that God was going to watch over them as they made their way out of Egypt and towards Canaan.

The Israelites are a rebellious people

Prior to gathering at Moab, the Lord assessed the people of Israel and concluded that they are an obstinate and stiff-necked people. The evaluation that was made after the people asked Aaron to make the Golden Calf was particularly severe. As the people reject God’s provision, the Lord is described as being ready to give up on the people that have left Egypt. He tells Moses that He is going to destroy them all and start over forming the nation through Moses.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people. Look what a stiff-necked people they are! So now, leave me alone so that my anger can burn against them and I can destroy them, and I will make from you a great nation.”

Exodus 32:9-10 (NET)

The NET Bible note for this passage reads:

This is a bold anthropomorphism; it is as if God has now had a chance to get to know these people and has discovered how rebellious they are. The point of the figure is that there has been discernible evidence of their nature. …  The figure describes them as refusing to submit, but resisting in pride.

Whether God was testing Moses here through these statements or not, it is clear that God is telling us that He is frustrated and angry with the Israelites. He is clearly expecting a different response from them. God’s exasperation and expressed desire to destroy them is a curious reaction if He is also the One withholding an understanding mind.

This and other passages (Ex 33:3,5;34:9; Isaiah 48:4; Ezek 2:4;3:7) show us that the Israelites have not been a very understanding, perceptive or discerning people.

Earlier in Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the people that God has been watching over them to see how they would react. This passage reminds the Israelites of God’s provision during the wilderness wandering and is very similar to what is stated in 29:2-6. The purpose stated here is to test and teach the Israelites that they must be dependent of the Lord. A set of tests that they failed miserably.

Remember the whole way by which he has brought you these forty years through the wilderness so that he might, by humbling you, test you to see if you have it within you to keep his commandments or not. So he humbled you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach you that humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the Lord’s mouth. Your clothing did not wear out nor did your feet swell all these forty years. Be keenly aware that just as a parent disciplines his child, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

Deut 8:2-6 (NET)

Moses later reminds the people that they are to stop being so stubborn. The people need to wake up and recognize that God loves them and has chosen them to be His people.

 The heavens—indeed the highest heavens—belong to the Lord your God, as does the earth and everything in it.  However, only to your ancestors did he show his loving favor, and he chose you, their descendants, from all peoples—as is apparent today. Therefore, cleanse (circumcise) your hearts and stop being so stubborn!

DEUT 10:14-16 (NET)

It seems God is going to a lot of trouble to choose a people, show His loving favor to them, to test them and teach them about Himself while also withholding an ability to understand all of these things. If his intention was to have a spiritually dull people wandering out of Egypt, it is hard to understand the anger and frustration when the people act like rebellious idolaters.

The Command is not too difficult for the Israelites

Perhaps what God expected from the Israelites was beyond what anyone could be expected to do. We don’t have to read to far ahead to find an answer to this line of thinking.

Chapters 29 and 30 are the conclusion of the presentation of the Law to the Israelites that are gathered at Moab. The rest of the chapters serve as an epilogue to the life and ministry of Moses.

Outlining these two chapters we have the following:

  • A call to all in attendance to keep the covenant that has been presented (Deut 29:9-15)
  • A warning not to turn away from the covenant (Deut 29:16-29)
  • A foretelling that both blessing and curses will be experienced, but restoration will be offered to those that are dispersed if they turn back to the Lord (Deut 30:1-10)
  • This commandment given is not too difficult (Deut 30:11-14)
  • Life and death are set before you. Choose wisely (Deut 30:15-20)

Moses, on behalf of the Lord, concludes his representation of the Law and the recent history of the people with an offer to the group. What is being set before them is a choice between life and death. The choice is theirs. He then urges them to choose life.

Right before that, he tells them that this choice is not to difficult for them because everything they need has been given to them.

This commandment I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it too remote. It is not in heaven, as though one must say, ‘Who will go up to heaven to get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ And it is not across the sea, as though one must say, ‘Who will cross over to the other side of the sea and get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ For the thing is very near you—it is in your mouth and in your mind so that you can do it.

Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other. … Today I invoke heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set life and death, blessing and curse, before you. Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live! 

Deut 30:11-15,19 (NET)

Though one were to go to the ends of the earth or even beyond earth to the heavens there is nothing more that needs to be given to the people. The choice has been clearly proclaimed to them and they have the ability to choose between life and death. There seems to be bundled in this choice an aspect of being able to remain in the land as well as a faith in the Lord, like Abraham, that would bring forgiveness and salvation. These words will be used by the apostle Paul to describe salvation by faith in Christ (Romans 10:5-13).

If the command was not too hard, then what? Read part 3

What do you think?

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