The LORD had given the law to Israel in Horeb, at Mt. Sinai, but now Moses adds these beautiful words of warning and encouragement to the people as they find themselves in the land of Moab – Israel is now on the brink of the Promised Land.
What would be the key to their success?
To love the LORD by living a life of obedience, by clinging to God and His Word. We read the solemn summary:
Deuteronomy 30:19–20 (NKJV) “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
Imagine that, heaven and earth as witnesses! Life and death set before us! Blessing and cursing! Choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.
It’s one thing to see and hear, but it’s another thing to perceive with our hearts. Israel had seen and heard many things, but it still didn’t sink in. Unfortunately, I see that today, frequently in the church, people sit and hear, but their hearts aren’t there. Jesus explained the reason this happens in:
Matthew 13:13–15 (NKJV) “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’”
Someone might read Deuteronomy 29:4 and blame it on God, but make no mistake about it, God is not holding back, He’s not hiding His will from certain people. God wants everyone to see and hear with their hearts, to perceive with the senses of their soul, but as we read in Mark 13:15, we must beware that our heart doesn’t grow dull, that we don’t close our spiritual eyes and ears, let nothing keep us from turning to Him, for it is there that we are able to perceive.
Moses was a leader to emulate; he cared for the people and wanted them to enjoy their covenant relationship with their Creator (Deuteronomy 29:12-13). Moses was not guilty, in any way of tickling the ears of the people, he told them what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear; he warned them as to what would happen if they chose not to follow the LORD…if they turned to other gods.
God help us to take these warnings to heart!
Deuteronomy 29:29 is a popular passage. We quote it when we come across the things we don’t understand, “The secret things belong to the LORD.” And that’s true, but the primary point of Deuteronomy 29:29 is not necessarily the secrets God keeps, but the revelation He’s given – He’s revealed everything we need to know – it’s all here for us to hear and heed, for us and our children, it’s all in His Word.
Sadly, God knew Israel would stray away; that they’d be scattered throughout the world. So God promised to bring them back to the land, if they returned to Him will all their heart and soul (Deuteronomy 30:2). God is always willing to receive the prodigal back to His heart, and when we return, He meets us there, to embrace us (Luke 15:20) and begin a new work (Deuteronomy 30:5-6).
Deuteronomy 30:11-14 is alluded to by Paul the Apostle in the book of Romans 10:6-8. Sometimes we think this Word from God, or to God, is too mysterious or distant, that it’s over yonder in heaven, far, far away beyond the sea – so to speak, when in all reality it’s near, it’s here, in our hearts. God has written His Word on our hearts and our response should come from the same place. Even as you read these words, it doesn’t matter where you are, you can hear and speak to God from your heart.
The Pharisees were the religious elite among the people during the times of Christ’s earthly ministry. The general public’s perception of them was that they were holy, godly, and right before God. But they weren’t. They got caught up in all the externals of religion and traditions of man, they lost sight of true love for God and His people.
Jesus loved the Pharisees and here we even have an account of His willingness to dine with them, but this certain Pharisee found fault with Jesus (accounting it as sin) because Jesus didn’t wash His hands before He ate (the Pharisee marveled). Now if it were a matter of personal hygiene, he might have a point, but to the Pharisee it was a matter of holiness, the Pharisees had a certain way of washing their hands, from not just the germs, but the sins and uncleanness of others (see also Mark 7:3).
The Lord therefore warns these guys to get their hearts right on the inside, not just the outside – that looking good to others is not what really matters, what matters most is being right in the sight of God. They were meticulous in their tithing which is fine, but they were not meticulous in the weightier matters of the law such as love and justice. They were hypocrites, and sad to say we see many in the “church” visible today, poser-pastors, wolves in sheep’s clothing, greedy, and wicked – one day they will give an account, especially those in prominent positions who loved the special treatment at the expense of the people.
It wasn’t just the Pharisees, it was also the scribes and lawyers who were the teachers and experts in the law. They placed heavy burdens on the people (a ton of rules and regulations can quickly add up) but they themselves didn’t live what they taught. They built the tombs for the martyrs, but didn’t acknowledge their guilt for the past, they would be responsible for the blood of the saints in the future, even the Apostles (Luke 11:49), but God would eventually require it of them. As a matter of fact, this generation would pay the price for the blood of the prophets, from Abel, all the way to Zechariah, and in A.D. 70 the Romans came and leveled Jerusalem.
Bible Knowledge Commentary, “The blood of Abel and the blood of Zechariah refers to the killing of innocent men involved in serving God. Abel was the first innocent victim (Genesis 4:8), and Zechariah the priest (not the writing prophet) was the last martyr in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 24:20–21; Chronicles was last in the OT Hebrew order).”
What a heavy exchange took place that day! They assailed Jesus vehemently!
Jesus warned His apostles to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. God help us to be the real deal, to maintain our heart as well as our witness, to live and speak the same at home as we do when we’re at church.
The Lord knew the day would come when His followers would be persecuted by the religious institution of the day, so He tells them (and us) not to fear. God values us, He never, ever forgets us; if He cares for the sparrow, how much more will He care for His children? He knows every hair we have, yes, He’s involved in all the details of our lives, and if something comes our way, we can be sure, it’s been filtered through His sovereign will – we can trust Him, even to the point of death. We must not fear death – the only valid fear in life, is the fear of God Himself.
This Psalm is an exhortation to every Jewish generation NOT to forget all that God has done for them, especially in redeeming them out of Egypt and the way He sustained them in the wilderness – even in His discipline.
We have the word “children” five times in the first nine verses – a reminder to us, how we parents are responsible to tell our children, that they would tell their children, and so on and so forth.
Psalm 78:6–7 (NKJV) “That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.”
Apparently by now, Israel had been divided and the Northern Kingdom (Ephraim) was already guilty of apostasy (Psalm 78:9-11). In spite of all that God had done, dividing the sea, leading the nation, water from the rocks, forgiving their sin, manna (angel’s food – Psalm 78:25) from heaven, all you can eat meat in the wilderness – all that God did, including His discipline.
Should we not know all this and learn from these things?
V. 19 – If we tell the truth, we’ll go the distance, and that truth will go the distance as well; we won’t just be a shooting star, and neither will our message be a fly by night, but truthful lips and lives will last and build a legacy. I think of Pastor Chuck Smith – decades of teaching and telling the truth – he’s still making that impact in time and eternity.
V. 20 – What’s in our hearts? Deceit to beat? Or peace to pass on, or joy for others to enjoy? May God fill our hearts with truth, peace, and joy.
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.