In Deuteronomy 9 Moses imparts a critical teaching to the people of Israel. Do not go into the land that God is giving you and think that you are there because of your own righteousness. They are inheriting the land because of the wickedness of the people in Canaan and because of God’s faithfulness to his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses then continued to explain why the people should never think that it is their own righteousness. Moses recounts how the people have been stubborn and rebellious from the day Moses came to them in Egypt and they still are to this day. In fact, the only reason the people are still alive and remain as God’s people is because of Moses’ constant intercession on their behalf. The Lord listened to Moses and did not destroy the people. We noted in the last lesson that this should have caused humility in their hearts, knowing that they were entering into the promised land and enjoying the presence of God only by God’s grace and Moses’ intercession and nothing of their own works or righteousness. Now Moses will explain what is expected of the people based on the lovingkindness of God. What is to be the human response to divine grace?
Complete Devotion (10:12-13)
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12–13 ESV)
God calls for a wholehearted commitment to him. What the Lord asks for is complete allegiance. Fear the Lord, walk in all his ways, love him, serve him with all your being, and keep his commands. For all that God has done for us, you will notice that the message is not complicated. God simply says that he wants the hearts of the people which will be seen in service, obedience, and devotion. Yet notice what Moses says about what God is asking of the people. Doing these things is for the people’s good. What God requires of his people is for their good. God is not asking us to do anything that would be bad for us. This life is for our own good. It never pays to sin because God only wants what is good for us. Anything contrary to God’s will is not for our good. We have to let this message ground our hearts. No sin is good for us. Every disobedience is damaging to us. Therefore it is not a sacrifice to follow the Lord because it is the best path we can take. Those obedient to the Lord are the only ones who are truly having the best of both worlds. God’s way is best for us.
Chosen By God (10:14-22)
Look at what Moses teaches the people in verse 14. Everything belongs to the Lord. He owns everything. The Lord lacks absolutely nothing. Think about this truth for a moment. What does God need? God does not need anything or anyone. Now look at verse 15. In spite of the fact that the Lord needs nothing or no one, he set his affection on your ancestors and loved them. Not only this, he chose you above all other peoples. God did not need you nor were you performing righteous acts that would endear you to God. In fact, you were stubborn and continue to be stubborn. But God chose you. God set his affection on you. What an amazing message! God desires us and has affection for us that is not tied to our righteousness. The self-sufficient Almighty God desires these people even though they are disobedient and stubborn. Gracious election requires total devotion.
So what is the message? Look at verse 16. “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” Essentially, you need to be different. You need to change because God chose you and set his affection on you. Look at the point Moses makes in verses 17-19. You are to change and no longer be stubborn because of who God is. God is a great God who shows no partiality, does not accept bribes, defends the widows and fatherless, and loves foreigners. The point is that is what you should do because that is who God is.
We are supposed to have a heart that God can easily penetrate with his message. God wants hearts that are cut and not covered over. This is a consistent picture God uses in the scriptures. For example, God prophesied through Ezekiel that regarding his renewed people:
And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:18–20 ESV)
You will notice that Ezekiel describes the stubborn heart as a heart of stone and describes the circumcised heart as a heart of flesh. The heart is accessible to God. It is a heart that can be cut for the Lord. In fact, you may remember in Acts 2 that those who listened to Peter’s sermon were “cut to the heart.” By contrast, Stephen calls the Sanhedrin “stubborn” and “uncircumcised in heart and ears” in Acts 7:51.
Notice that Moses is proclaiming that the gracious salvation act of the Lord in the lives of these people to choose them and set his affection on them was to cause them to no longer have a stubborn heart but a cut, accessible heart. One of the key qualities of a heart that is not stubborn is that it is a repentant heart. We must be willing to be corrected. Israel failed because they did not listen to God’s prophets and message when they told the people that they needed to change. This is so our human nature. We want to be right no matter what. We will surround ourselves with people who will tell us that we are right. But this is not a godly heart. This is a heart that is stubborn and does not want to listen to what others have to say. We want to be told that we are right and that others are wrong. But that is not how God operates nor is it the heart God wants.
But there is another picture of the heart God wants in verse 21. “He is your praise. He is your God.” God is your joy. God is your glory. He is not just a God. He is not just the God. He is your God. Our thoughts about God trigger our praise all day. God wants to be your God. God wants you to praise him for who he is and what he has done. God wants himself to be your joy and praise. In verse 22 we see another reason for God’s praise is because of his faithfulness. God has kept his promises and made Israel a great nation at this point. Moses keeps reminding the people of the great things God has done. Because God is so great and has been so good to us, let us cut our hearts and be completely devoted to him. This is the picture in Deuteronomy 7.
Strong In The Lord (11:1-25)
Moses says that your eyes have seen what the Lord has done. You saw the great miracles the Lord worked in Egypt. You saw what he did to the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. You saw the earth open up during Korah’s rebellion. Your eyes have seen the great works of God. Therefore, keep all the commands. Why? Look at verse 8. “So that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants.”
Notice that obedience is the basis for the strength we need to conquer. Why would obedience be the means for victory? Certainly we can say that through obedience God would overthrow the nation and in disobedience God would not be with them. In fact, the book of Joshua shows that truth. But consider why obedience is critical. Through obedience we are declaring our confidence in God’s ability to see us through the difficulties. Obedience is not simply that we act so that God will act. Obedience is faith, trusting in the Lord and not in ourselves. We often do not think of obedience to the Lord in these terms. But this is why faith and obedience are inseparable. Faith in God is observed by obeying because disobeying is a lack of trust in the power of God. We are believing that God will provide and give what we need.
You will notice that this is what Moses expresses next. God is giving you a beautiful land and his eyes will always be on it. In essence, God is going to take care of you on this land all year long (11:12). So faithfully obey the Lord, loving him and serving him, and God will provide for you (11:13-15). Trust in the Lord and he will take care of you. By contrast, if you turn to idolatry the outcome will be different. If our hearts are deceived we will turn to idolatry, which is simply not trusting in God but in something else. This is all idolatry is: lacking trust in the Lord. Notice God says that if the people turn to idols rather than to him, he will shut up the sky so that it will not rain and they will experience famine in the land. This is so important to read because you will read of many times in Israel’s history when they are experiencing drought and famine. This was a message about the spiritual condition of the nation. They are not trusting God. The most notable time we might remember is during the days of Elijah when it is not raining during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. They, in fact, are the troublers of Israel. Deuteronomy was to be a message to the people that their lack of blessings was an indicator of their lack of obedience. Therefore, teach these messages to your children (11:18-21). Talk about this when you are at home and when you travel. Write them on the doorframe of the house and on the gates. Know that God will care for you and that no one will stand against you if you put your trust in the Lord (11:24-25).
Blessing or Curse (11:26-32)
Now it is important for us to frame what Moses has done to understand the ending of this section. The question was put before the audience: what does the Lord ask of you? Since God has loved you, rescued you, and chosen you, what does the Lord expect? The answer has been to cut your heart, to not be stubborn toward him and his message. Be repentant. Accept wrongdoing. Trust in the Lord and put your life in his hands. Do not turn to idols and put your trust in anything or anyone that is not the Lord your God. Let God be your praise. Let God be your strength. Now look at verses 26-28.
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. (Deuteronomy 11:26–28 NIV)
The choice is yours. This is a summary of this chapter and a summary of chapters 5-10. What does the Lord require? The Lord wants you to choose, fully aware of the outcome of either choice. If you choose the blessing then you are choosing obedience. You are choosing to trust God to care for your life. If you choose the curse then you are choosing disobedience. You are choosing to turn away from the way that has been commanded and turning to idols. Further, the mountains in Israel were to be a perpetual reminder to them. The promises of God are as stable as these two mountains. Each one represented choosing a blessing and choosing a curse. If you disobey you are choosing the curse of God. If you obey you are choosing the blessing of God.
Think about all the visuals God had given these people. It is written on their doorposts and gates. It was pictured when they looked at these two mountains in the land of Israel. Life is for obedience and a curse is for disobedience. Make your choice and understand what is entailed with each choice. Moses and Joshua conclude their lives with the same message. God wants you to choose what you are going to do with your life and with God. The point is that you cannot simply choose God because choosing God requires more than just saying that we choose him. Choosing God means that we cut our hearts, stop following our desires, be repentant, change our life course, and no longer stubbornly do what we want. Our lives are to match the character of God. God wants serve and love him with our mind, with our emotions, with our whole inner being, with our bodies, and with our resources. This is how we choose God. Anything less is choosing idols. But it is worth choosing him because he rescued you in the past and he will care for you in the future. Give your life to him and trust him. Choose the blessing and obey his voice and enjoy life.