Deuteronomy 30:11-14 – Moses Helps Paul Explain Jesus

Moses continues with the gospel according to Deuteronomy.  In verses 1-10 of this chapter he told the Israelites they will fall away in the future but God will bring them back to the land and restore their place as His chosen people.  He will do for them what they will not be able to do for themselves – cause them to love and obey Him fully.  In verse 6 Moses said, “God will circumcise your heart…in order that you may live.”  They will have fellowship with God because of their new heart.  They will walk with God and enjoy all the associated benefits of a life with Him.  They will LIVE because God ensures they will.

Life with God comes through obedience to the Law – that is the standard for approaching Him.  What is wonderful – and what Moses explains in verses 11-14 – is that the standard is not unreachable or unknown.  God has given them the Law.  They do not have to wonder what they must do to live with Him.  The Law is theirs through Moses and the ability to observe it is theirs because of a circumcised heart.  God has taken care of everything.  They love because of Him and they obey because of Him and they have God’s Law written on their hearts because of Him.  This is the gospel – God does it all.

Not Too Difficult
Verse 11 begins with the word for.  Moses continues the thought of verse 10 that the people will enjoy the fellowship and blessing of God as long as they obey.  He now makes the point that the Law is understandable and obedience is possible.  They must obey and they can obey – God has not set a standard they cannot know or reach.  The Law is not too difficult for you

There appear to be two meanings to Moses’ words.  First – the Law is not too difficult to understand.  God has not left them a mystery as to His will.  The whole Law comes down to two great commands – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (6:5) and love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18).  The Law is the ultimate in simplicity.  The way to fellowship with God is not hidden – it is clearly knowable.

The second meaning is the Law is not too difficult to obey.  What is odd about this is that on its face it is not true.  Moses speaks these words knowing that he himself will not accompany the people into the Promised Land because of his own sin.  He knows the people will sin repeatedly (and have already).  He rehearsed the Ten Commandments for them in his second sermon and knows better than anyone the depth of obedience the Law requires.  The commandment against coveting by itself is impossible to obey continually and perfectly.  The Law actually sets an impossibly high standard for entrance into the presence of God.  How can Moses say it is not too difficult for them?

Two things help us understand what he means.  First, God has instituted the sacrificial system to account for the people’s sinfulness.  He has acknowledged for them that they cannot live perfectly before Him.  They therefore must sacrifice animals throughout their lives as atonement for their sins – both known and unknown.  [It makes sense that the sacrifices were primarily for sins of the heart.  Most of the commandments carried with them specific punishments and oftentimes the punishment was death.  Therefore, the sacrifices were for the overall sinfulness of the person offering them and not to atone for major violations of the Law].  The blood of the sacrifices represents their own blood which should be shed as a result of sin.  This means the Law becomes doable not because they abide by it at all times but because forgiveness is theirs through the blood of animal sacrifice.

Second – and perhaps more important – is what Moses said in verse 6.  God will someday circumcise their hearts and enable them to love and obey Him.  It is because of their circumcised hearts that the Law is doable.  God will someday do for them what they cannot do for themselves – make the Law easy to obey.

Both of these explanations point to Christ.  More on this below.

Nor is It Out of Reach
Moses ends verse 11 with another important characteristic of the Law.  It is available to them.  It is not only simple and doable, it is theirs.  He goes on in verses 12 and 13 to say that no great quest is required to understand the will of God.  They do not need to go up to heaven – like a mystic or great prophet – to bring the words of God down.  They do not need to cross the sea – like a great warrior or adventurer – to bring the words of God back.  God has given His word to them directly.  God came down from heaven at Mount Sinai and gave them the Law Himself.  They heard the Law from God’s mouth personally.

This goes right along with what Moses said in 4:7-8: For what great nation is there that has a god so near to is as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?  Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?  God Himself is present with the Israelites and His Law is easily accessible.  They do not need to DO anything to divine the will of God – He has done it all and they need only receive it.

So both the Law and the ability to obey it are theirs because of God’s acts.  They did not earn their place as God’s people (9:4-6) and they do not need to prove themselves worthy of God’s will.  God will give them new hearts to enable them to obey the words He has already given them.  No great acts are required.  Fellowship with God is received instead of achieved.

In Your Mouth and In Your Heart
To finish the thought that the Law is accessible Moses tells them it is in their mouths and hearts.  They do not need to find it because it is very near you.

Throughout Deuteronomy Moses has admonished the people to teach the Law to their children and talk about it continually and make it part of their lives.  When he says the Law is in your mouth he refers to their conversation and their testimonies.  The people are to talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (6:7).  As they think and meditate on the Law it will embed itself in their hearts.  Their conversation will reflect their hearts – the Law will come out of their mouths because it is what fills their thoughts and affections.

Thus the Law is closer even than the words and writings of Moses.  The Law is IN them.  If they follow the admonitions of Moses the words of God will become part of them.  They do not need to take action or find a prophet or great adventurer – it is who they are.

The result of having it in their heart and mouth is that they will observe it.  His last statement of verse 14 comes back to the original point of verse 11.  When the Law is in their mouths and hearts they abide by it.  The Law is embedded in their circumcised hearts so they obey it.  They please God with their actions because their hearts are set on His words.  Their affections and thoughts are full of the Law – thus it becomes what they instinctively do.  The words of God become their life.

How much truer is this for us today?  We have what the people of Moses’ day could only dream of – we have the full word of God.  His complete will revealed in one book.  And that book is everywhere.  It is the most published book in world history and in the west it is ours in a myriad of translations along with innumerable commentaries.  The word should be in us and should define us and should run through our veins.  We have absolutely no excuse for not continually digesting God’s will.  It should be in our mouths and hearts and dictate our affections and govern our instincts.  But the word is very near you.

Romans 10:6-10
Paul quotes this passage in Romans and it is worthwhile to examine his words to gain a better understanding of it.  He says in Romans 10:6-7, “But the righteousness based on faith speaks thus, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down), or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).’

Paul uses the words of Moses to make the point that righteousness (justification) has always been by faith.  He says Moses ultimately refers to justification through the work of Christ when he talks about going up to heaven or crossing the sea.  [Note that Paul does not quote the verses exactly – he says descend into the abyss instead of cross the sea.  The meaning of the two phrases, however, is likely the same.  In Hebrew literature the sea often represents the chaotic world, from which comes evil and rebellion against God.  That means that both phrases refer to the opposite of going up to heaven.]  Paul adds parenthetical comments to show where Christ fits in Moses’ words.  The believer does not have to go up to heaven because Christ came to us – and no one needs to go into the abyss because Christ already did and then rose again.  Christ came and fulfilled the Law – we do not need to do anything to attain fellowship with God because Christ did it all.  It is only because of Christ that Moses can say, For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.”

Paul quotes Moses’ words again in verses 8-11.  But what does it say?  “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  Paul equates Deut 30:14 with the believer’s confession of faith.  When Moses talks about the Law being near them in their mouth and in their heart he actually refers to the belief and confession that results in salvation.  The heart believes and the mouth confesses – and both are ultimately centered on Christ.

All of this supports what Paul says in Romans 10:4 – For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.  Christ fulfills the Law (Matt 5:17-19) and it points to Him.  He is the only man who perfectly keeps it and thus is the perfect sacrifice.  The Law is not too hard for Christ and His righteousness is credited to us.  Because of Christ’s work we have circumcised hearts that are justified before God.  We do not keep the Law on our own – but we are credited with keeping it and appear before God with Christ’s perfect record.  The Law becomes doable because of Christ.

In other words, Paul sees in this Old Testament text a pointer to the day when Christ would be both our righteousness and our sanctification. First, Moses teaches, we must have a perfect righteousness that is doable – but none do it. Therefore, Paul infers, Christ will come, live, die, rise, and thus do the perfect obedience for us, and credit it to us. And then, because of that great justification – that great step in the fulfillment of the new covenant – we will one day, with a perfectly circumcised heart, obey God perfectly with ease and joy.  – John Piper, The Word of Faith that We Proclaim, Part 1; (Sermon on Romans 10:5-13)

It is somewhat difficult to understand how Paul can translate Moses’ words the way that he does.  It almost seems like he reads into the Deuteronomy passage and takes it out of context.  However, he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and obviously has insights the normal student of scripture does not have.  Also, it is reasonable to assume Moses ultimately points to Christ with his words because without Him they do not entirely make sense.  The only way the Law is easy and accessible is through Christ.  The only way God circumcises the hearts of His people is through Christ.  Christ really is the end of the law for righteousness – no other explanation fits.

Lastly – it pays to remember Christ’s words to the Pharisees in John 5:45-46: “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.  For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me.”  Jesus backs Paul’s explanation – Moses writes about Him throughout the books of the Law.  The Law points to and is fulfilled in Christ and Moses gives the gospel in Deuteronomy 30.

There is no way to know, of course, but Moses – foremost authority on the Law, the covenant with Abraham and the history of Israel (since he records it) – likely knows he speaks of the Messiah.  His sermons in Deuteronomy have all centered on fellowship with God and all point – ultimately – to a time when perfect fellowship will be possible through the work of the only One who will keep the Law.  Moses preaches and writes about the Messiah and will someday be transfigured with Him in front of Peter, James and John.  Thus the only man to be called the friend of God preaches to the people he has led for four decades about the Son of God.

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