Chapter 30 records the conclusion of Moses’ final sermon to Israel. He knows he is very near to the day of his death and so wants to leave the people with the most important things for them to remember. To do so he gives them a glimpse of the future. He shows them that even with all the warnings and promises of God they will forsake the covenant and fall away. They ultimately will not obey and God knows it. There will come a time, however, when God will take over and ensure they love Him and obey His laws. What the people cannot do God will someday do for them. In his final words Moses leaves the people with an amazing promise – the gospel.
Much as he did in Chapter 4, Moses tells the people that in the future they will disobey and suffer the promised curses of the covenant. He begins this section by saying, “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you…” He does not mention any contingencies or make it sound like there is any possibility that they will continually obey. He knows and God knows that in the future they will forsake the covenant and serve other gods.
The end of verse 1 shows the result of their unfaithfulness. They will call to mind the blessings and the curses of the covenant in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you. They will fall away and lose their place in the land. God will scatter them throughout other nations.
When they remember the covenant they will return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul. As a result of their turning and obedience God will bring them back to the land. He will restore them and have compassion on them and gather them from all the nations to which He scattered them – even from the ends of the earth.
We have noted this before, but it cannot be stressed enough what this says about God. God tells the Israelites, “You are going to be unfaithful to me, I will punish you, you will turn back and I will treat you compassionately and restore you fully to your place as My people.” What an amazingly loving God! He KNOWS they will be unfaithful to the point that He tells them about it matter-of-factly and yet also promises that He will ultimately forgive them and restore them. This is like an engaged woman telling her fiancé that she knows he will be unfaithful to her but she will marry him anyway and when he comes back she will forgive him and accept him fully. Omniscient compassion is one of the many transcendent characteristics of God’s nature.
In verse 5 Moses makes the promises even more incredible. He says God will not only restore them, He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. He will pour out MORE blessings on them than He did for the people who originally settled the land (the people He addresses now). He will take them back, have compassion on them, and bless them more than any of the chosen people who came before them.
These are amazing statements. The people will realize they are in a foreign land because of their own sin. They will then remember the promises of the covenant and turn back to God. God will compassionately bring them back from the ends of the earth and give them the Promised Land. And once there He will prosper and multiply them more than any people who came before them. It sounds almost too good to be true.
It sounds too good to be true and from one angle almost not right. Why does God decide to bless the people MORE? They turn from their sin and come back – but why treat them better than the people He originally moved into the land? What is it about their repentance that makes them worthy of more blessing? The clue is in verse 6.
In verse 6 Moses makes a statement that is somewhat hard to understand. He tells the people the Lord your God will circumcise your heart. He uses a very physical act as a metaphor for something God will do. This is actually the second time he has used this terminology. In 10:16 Moses commanded the people to circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more. In both cases what he seems to mean is that the people must commit to God completely. They are not simply to obey externally, they are to commit to Him with every part of their being (in the Hebrew mind the heart is the seat of both thoughts and emotions). They are to fulfill the Shema – love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (6:5).
He uses circumcision because it is the sign of the covenant. It physically marks every Israelite male as belonging to God and living under the covenant God made with Abraham. A circumcised heart, then, is a heart that belongs to God. It is marked by God as His.
This is what Moses says God will do for them. The responsibility to circumcise their hearts is no longer theirs. God will do it. This sheds light on the preceding verses. God will do what the people cannot. He will change their hearts such that they obey. The people will fail and not obey the Law so God will give them a new heart that enables them to do it. He will bring them back and bless them more than their forefathers because they love Him and obey Him fully with a heart He gives them.
God will do this not only for the generation that comes back but also for their descendants (…and the heart of your descendants). This goes along with the blessing of the first two commandments – God will show lovingkindness to thousands (or to the thousandth generation, 7:9) of those who love Him and keep His commands (5:10).
God sheds more light as to why He does this in Ezekiel 36:22-32:
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. 24 For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. 29 Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you. 30 And I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, so that you will not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 I am not doing this for your sake,” declares the Lord GOD, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel!”
This gives us more understanding. God loves Israel and wants the people to be His own. But His ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself. The people dishonor Him by their disobedience and their dispersal to the ends of the earth profanes His name among the nations where they live. Therefore He restores them to restore His name. He gives them a new heart because their obedience will show Him to be holy in the sight of the world. It is not for Israel’s sake that He gives a new spirit to the people and not for Israel’s sake that He gives them a heart of flesh. It is to restore His name among the nations and show that He is holy. This is about God – not them.
[Yet another example where man benefits when God glorifies Himself. Far from being a selfish act, God glorifying Himself always benefits His people. He created the world to glorify Himself, He redeemed the world to glorify Himself, He works mighty acts through His people to glorify Himself. The people of God not only fulfill their created purpose when they bring glory to God, they also personally gain from the activity.]
The end of verse 6 shows us the effects of the circumcised heart. The people will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul – the people will commit to God with every part of their being. A new heart means obedience out of love – not duty. The result of this love is that the people will live. They will again enjoy life with God and the attendant blessings. This is more than a reward for obedience – they will enjoy the fruits and benefits of communion with Yahweh. Living in fellowship with Him provides protection from the ramifications of sin and provides the joy of fulfilling their created purpose. Fellowship with God means life in the truest sense. The people will live when they have a circumcised heart.
This goes to the meaning of the whole book. The message of Deuteronomy comes down to a choice – serve God and live or serve other gods and perish (Moses is about to restate this very clearly at the end of this chapter). It is not, however, simply a choice between living and dying. It is a choice between living as God intended in fellowship with Him and living in the vanity of man-centered existence. Death is the ultimate end of disobedience, but missing out on true life along the way is a form of death while still physically alive.
In verse 7 Moses tells them that after He restores them God will pour out His wrath on the enemies of Israel rather than on Israel itself. The curses that God inflicted on them will be put on those who persecuted them. Israel will again enjoy peace in the land.
In the last three verses Moses restates the blessings of the covenant. Obedience – presumably the obedience that comes from a circumcised heart – will bring security and prosperity. God will again rejoice over them for their good – just as He rejoiced over your fathers. He will multiply them and cause them and their crops and livestock to be fruitful. The restoration will be complete.
There is no way to read this passage without seeing the gospel all through it. The ultimate example of a circumcised heart is what God gives the believer redeemed by His Son, and what Moses refers to here will only fully come to pass as a result of Christ’s work. Later in the chapter – in verses 11-14 – he makes a statement that cannot be explained apart from Christ. Paul will even quote it in Romans 10 to make a point about faith and the gospel. So as Moses ends his sermon he really saturates his final words with the gospel.
The gospel message is that man cannot provide for his own salvation so God does it for him. This is the same message of Deuteronomy 30. We cannot change our heart so God gives us a new one. We cannot obey Him out of our own heart so God replaces it. And the result of that new heart is that the believer LIVES. We live in communion with God in a way not possible apart from a circumcised heart. He gives us His Son’s righteousness and enables us to come into His presence and live with Him – with all the attendant blessings and benefits.
But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. Romans 2:29
He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. I John 5:12