Honestly, for me Deuteronomy 29 through 31 has to be one of the most depressing and troublesome parts of Scripture. On the outskirts of the promised land. A new leader in place. A new rallying cry to gather unto: “Be strong and courageous!” (31:6, 7, 23). A new promise to cling to: “He will not leave you or forsake you.” (31:6, 8) Blessing beyond measure to anticipate. The world literally given to them and at their fingertips to possess. And all the people needed to bring to the table? Obedience. To choose the way of life, “loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him” (30:20).
And it’s not like the commands were beyond their reach. Not like they had to play some cosmic guessing game as to how to obey and realize the promise.
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. . . . But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
(Deuteronomy 30:11, 14 ESV)
Yet, given their sin corrupted spiritual DNA, failure was certain.
Even as they prepared to enter the land, God knew what they were inclined to do (31:21). That the people would rise “and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant that I have made with them” (31:16). Heavy sigh!
So much potential. Yet even more certainty that they would come up way short. Heavy sigh, again!
So why bother? Why does God allow it to play out? Why let them take the land if the land will become a snare and trap for them? Why let them posses it if eventually they will be driven from it? Something from my readings in Romans comes to mind . . .
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Romans 5:20-21 ESV)
While this part of Deuteronomy is hard to read, it serves to remind me of the brokenness created by sin. The commandments themselves aren’t too hard, but though the spirit might be willing, the flesh is weak. While the seeds of eternity might have been planted in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11) so that we should desire the kingdom of heaven, the pleasures of this world sweep the seed away, luring us with a siren’s call to embrace them. While we know that our Creator should be our king, we find our affections drawn to the creation so that we’re inclined to worship it instead (Rom. 1:25).
But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
God will allow this promised land disaster to play out so that He might set the stage for the better promise. A promise founded not on a new land but on a new life. A promise not contingent on obedience as a requirement, but a promise which evokes obedience as a response. A promise sourced not in the will of man but in the will, and power, and grace of God.
. . . then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, and He will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. . . . 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.
(Deuteronomy 30:3, 6 ESV)
God would call them out of their sin-broken lives. He would restore their fortunes and show great compassion to them. He would gather them. And He would circumcise their hearts.
The flesh crucified and the Spirit given.
Enmity with God replaced with love for the LORD.
Death defeated . . . “that you may live.” Full and complete provision made through the finished work of the cross. Eternal life secured through Jesus Christ our Lord.
A righteousness from God revealed, “from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith'” (Rom. 1:17).
As dark as this portion of Deuteronomy is, it only sets the stage for the Light of the World to be revealed.
And the heavy sigh of failure gives way to the hope founded on His faithfulness.
For grace abounded all the more.
To God be the glory.