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)
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.”
As we read through Deuteronomy we arrive at a challenging passage.
But to this very day the Lord has not given you an understanding mind, perceptive eyes, or discerning ears!
Deut 29:4 (NET)
What makes it challenging?
Taking that passage literally, it says that God has not given the Israelites the ability to understand, perceive nor discern something. Further, He has been withholding the ability to understand it, whatever it might be, upto that very day.
Reading this, there are at least three questions that should immediately come to mind.
What is it that God is not giving the Israelites an ability to understand, perceive and discern?
Is this something the Israelites are only able to understand if God gives them an ability to perceive it?
What is the historical context of the day on which this is spoken and what has occurred before the statement is made?
The month of April is national poetry month and also when Easter generally falls. This year I wrote a set of haiku that primarily focused on the final week of Jesus’ life. The haiku is an unrhymed poetic form originating in Japan. In English it typically consists of 17 syllables arranged in a 5-7-5 pattern over three lines. The form generally uses nature as a topic and seeks to suggest ideas through contrast and double meaning.
Thirst sends one walking More than some water is sought From an ancient well
A straight path ahead Branches waving wildly There’s no turning back
A fruitless fig tree Expectations are not met It withers and dies
Lilies dot the field Tranquility is shattered White is colored red
A seed is planted Earth holds what it can’t contain From death comes much fruit
A buried seed sprouts Sown it bursts forth in new life Birds shall rest in shade
Sunlight breaks the dark On a rock a dove alights A new day has dawned