Chapter 30

DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 30

Returning to the Lord

          • In the last chapter, I noted Fruchtenbaum’s explanation that there are eight provisions in this covenant between God and Israel, the first of which is seen in chapter 29:2 though chapter 30:1 (Moses speaking prophetically “of Israel’s coming disobedience to the Mosaic Law and subsequent scattering all over the world.”) In 30:1-10, we will see the remaining 7 provisions which “speak of various facets of Israel’s final restoration.”

        • In the future, when you have experienced all of these blessings and curses I have listed for you, and you remember all these instructions while you are living among all the nations where the Lord has dispersed you, and you and your children then return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to everything I commanded you today, then He will end your captivity, have mercy on you, and gather you back together from all the nations where He scattered you. He will even gather the ones who have been exiled to the lands furthest away. The Lord your God will bring you back to the land that your ancestors possessed, and you will take possession of it. Then He will make you even more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.”

          • Fruchtenbaum lists the second through the fifth provisions of this covenant present in the passage above:

          • Second, Israel will repent (30:2). Third, Messiah will return (30:3). Fourth, Israel will be regathered (30:3-4). Fifth, Israel will possess the Promised Land (30:5).”

        • Has this promise already been fulfilled? Many who adhere to one of the various Covenant Theological perspectives argue that it has been, citing (for example) Joshua 11:23 as corroboration or perhaps the return from Babylonian captivity in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. However Fruchtenbaum counters with the following argument:

          • …this verse, like all verses of Scripture, must be kept in context and must be viewed within the book of Joshua as a whole…the verse simply states a fact which is then followed by exceptions to the fact…”

        • Fruchtenbaum continues by listing these exceptions. I’ll list a few below:

          • Joshua 13:1-6 shows that a great deal of territory did not fall into the hands of the Israelites and is a sizeable exception to the statement of Joshua 11:23.”

          • While David and Solomon extended Jewish control close to the borders of the Promised Land, it was not total since Phoenicia (Lebanon) retained its independence until the very end. Even if Phoenicia had fallen, it would not have fulfilled the covenant promises for even under David and Solomon most of the non-Jewish territory, such as Syria, Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, etc., was merely under military control and they had to pay tribute (1 Kings 4:21). This is hardly a fulfillment of a promise which concerned actual possession and settlement in the land and not merely military control.”

            • He further notes the prophesy of Isaiah found in Isaiah 27:12-13, “ for, one by one, every Jew will be brought back into the land of Israel…Isaiah 27:12 brings out the first aspect of the possession of the Land, its total borders. The northern boundary , the Euphrates River, and the southern boundary, the Brook of Egypt, are possessed for the first time in all of Israel’s history. Israel will be able to settle in all of the Promised Land…”

        • Frankly, in my view, it was much easier to maintain a Covenant Theological position prior to the late 40’s when it appeared that Israel would never be regathered as a nation in their land. However, it became very difficult to support this view as it became apparent that God was not finished with His land promise to Israel. Fruchtenbaum reminds us of the incredible historical event that took place in 1948:

          • The first time an independent government was set up in the land (Israel) since A.D. 70 was in 1948 with the State of Israel. The history of the land also shows that the Abrahamic Covenant continues to be fulfilled with the people of Israel.”

        • Then the Lord your God will circumcise your heart as well as the hearts of your descendants so that you will love Him with all of your heart and soul, so that you may live.”

        • This passage lists the sixth provision. Fruchtenbaum writes, “Sixth, Israel will be regenerated (30:6).”

          • This element certainly has not yet been fulfilled. As Guzik notes, “Today Israel is a largely secular nation. There is respect for the Bible as a book of history and national identity, but there is not, and has not been, a true turning to the LORD God, particularly as a nation… But God’s promise still stands. As the…aspect of the promise to restore Israel, God will restore them spiritually. He promises to circumcise your heart. This is an idea repeated in the promises of the New Covenant, in passages like Ezekiel 36:26-27: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Indeed, Paul promised that all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26). Jesus said that He would not return until Israel embraced Him as Messiah: For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” (Matthew 23:39)”

        • The Lord your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you.”

        • This passage lists the seventh provision. Fruchtenbaum writes, “Seventh, the enemies of Israel will be judged (30:7).”

        • Then you will obey Him and follow His commands that I am giving to you today and the Lord your God will make you prosperous in all the work that you do. He’ll give you many children, your livestock will be multiplied, and your crops will produce abundantly. When you obey the Lord your God by keeping His commands and statutes written in this book of the Law and turn back to Him with all of your heart and soul, the Lord will once again delight in making your prosper, just as He did with your ancestors.”

        • This passage lists the eighth provision. Fruchtenbaum writes, “Eighth, Israel will receive full blessing, specifically the blessing of the Messianic Kingdom (30:8-10).”

        • The gotquestions article on the Palestinan Covenant (Land Covenant) includes the following, “These same promises are repeated in Jeremiah 32:36-44 and Ezekiel 36:22-38 and are part of the blessings and promises of the New Covenant. Also, it seems that the final or ultimate restoration of Israel to the land and to an everlasting relationship with God is what Paul is looking forward to in Romans 11:25-26 when he says that “a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in and thus all Israel will be saved.”

        • Why is it so important to make a distinction between the Land Covenant as an expansion of an element of the Abrahamic Covenant (promise of seed, land, and blessings) versus an expansion of the Mosaic Covenant (the law)? The answer lies in the conditional nature of the Mosaic Covenant versus the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic. Matthew Ervin articulates this well in his article The Promised Land Covenant:

          • Although they are related, Moses makes it clear that the Promised Land Covenant is distinct from the Mosaic Covenant (Deut. 29:1). This distinction underscores that none should perceive the Promised Land Covenant as being conditional due to wrongly grouping it with the Mosaic. All of the blessings stemming from the Mosaic Covenant depended on the Hebrews obeying God’s voice and keeping His Covenant (Ex. 19:5). This is not the case with the Promised Land Covenant…”

          • Revisiting our notes from Genesis chapter 15 (the initiation of the Abrahamic covenant) we can see the imperative difference between the affirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant versus the Mosaic:

            • God showed this was a unilateral covenant. Abram never signed the covenant, but passively watched while God signed it for both of them in the ritual. Therefore, the certainty of the covenant God made with Abram is based on who God is, not on who Abram is or what Abram would do. This covenant could not fail, because God cannot fail.” (Guzik)

          • This is vastly different from the ratification of the Mosaic covenant described in Exodus 24, in which Israel was required to agree to its terms and fulfillment is based on their actions:

            • Guzik explains this covenant affirmation process, “In the previous verse (Exodus 24:3), Israel verbally agreed to a covenant-relationship with God; but there is a sense in which this is simply not good enough. They must do specific things to confirm their covenant with God. First, the word of God must be written…Second, covenant was only made in the context of sacrifice. Sacrifice admits our own sin and failing before God, and it addresses that need through the death of a substitute…Third, covenant was made when God’s word is heard and responded to. Our covenant with God is based on His words and His terms, not our own words and terms…Fourth, covenant was made with the application of blood. As the nation received the blood of the covenant, the covenant was sealed.”

          • Ervin continues, “The parable of the adulterous bride in Ezekiel 16 illustrates a key factor in how the Promised Land Covenant operates. The Jew’s actual use of the Promised Land was based on their obedience to God. Thus the Promised Land Covenant does include conditions. However, the covenant as a whole is fundamentally unconditional because the Jew’s ownership of the Promised Land was based solely on God’s promise. The time is coming when the Hebrews will enjoy the use of the Promised Land forever because they will be eternally obedient to God. Specifically, this obedience will be made possible by the Jew’s en masse recognition of Jesus as the Messiah (Zech. 12:10)…This directly relates to the reconfirmation of the Promised Land Covenant in Ezekiel 16:60-63...As a result of the LORD remembering the Promised Land Covenant that He made with the Hebrew people, another everlasting covenant is to be established: the New Covenant. The blessings are not to be understood as a result of the Hebrews keeping their side of the covenant (v. 61). The restoration is only done by the power and good will of God. He will maintain His Word and keep His promises.

The Choice of Life or Death

        • This command that I am giving you today is not too difficult or too far away for you. It’s not up in heaven so that you would have to ask, ‘Who will go up into heaven, get it for us, then bring it down and tell us so we can follow it?’ Neither is it on the other side of the sea so that you would have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, then bring it back and tell us so we can follow it?’ Instead, the message is very close to you- in your mouth and in your heart, so you can follow it.”

        • Some see this passage as a declaration that the Mosaic Law “wasn’t beyond Israel’s capability to keep.” This assertion is proven false by Scripture, misses the entire point of the passage, and in worst cases leads to dangerously harmful legalism. One example of the latter would be groups that teach that the Mosaic Law applies to believers today rather than New Covenant Law (or that there are no differences between the two covenants- the false teaching that the New Covenant is more accurately called the “Renewed Covenant.”).

          • Michael Isaacs sums it up nicely in his sermon which can be found at Faithlife Sermons:

            • Everything about the Jewish religion pointed to the coming Messiah—their sacrifices, priesthood, temple services, religious festivals, and covenants. Their Law told them they were sinners in need of a Saviour. But instead of letting the Law bring them to Christ (Gal. 3:24), they worshiped their Law and rejected their Saviour. The Law was a signpost, pointing the way. But it could never take them to their destination. The Law cannot give righteousness; it only leads the sinner to the Saviour who can give righteousness…In fact, Moses urged them to receive the Word in their hearts (see Deut. 5:29; 6:5–12; 13:3; 30:6). The emphasis in Deuteronomy is on the heart, the inner spiritual condition and not mere outward acts of obedience.

          • The point of the passage, which can be clearly discerned by reading verses 12-14, is that the Israelites don’t have to go searching for these God given revelations in inaccessible places. In fact, Paul cites these very passages in Romans 10:6-10 in the context of salvation by faith alone. The ESV translation reads:

            • 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

            • Isaacs writes, “He told us that God’s way of salvation was not difficult and complicated. We do not have to go to heaven to find Christ, or into the world of the dead. He is near to us. In other words, the Gospel of Christ—the Word of faith—is available and accessible.***The sinner need not perform difficult works in order to be saved. All he has to do is trust Christ. The very Word on the lips of the religious Jews was the Word of faith. The very Law that they read and recited pointed to Christ.”

              • Just to be crystal clear on Paul’s meaning here, I’ll add the HCSB commentary for this passage: “Merely mouthing ‘Jesus is Lord’ and proclaiming that Jesus rose from the dead cannot secure salvation. Presumably the devil (see James 2:19) and many people (Matthew 7:21-23) could meet these requirements and not be true followers of Christ. A heartfelt confession of Jesus’ lordship designates a lifelong commitment that issues from the center of a person’s being, the heart. What matters is not saying Jesus is Lord but making Him Lord at the core of one’s existence…”

        • Today I have set before you two choices: life and prosperity or death and disaster. If you obey the Lord your God’s commandments that I am giving to you today by loving Him, walking in His ways, and obeying His commands, statutes, and ordinances, then you will live and multiply, and He will bless you in the land you are about to enter and possess. However, if your heart turns away from God, you don’t listen, and you are led away to bow down to and worship other gods, I am warning you today that you will certainly be destroyed and you won’t live in the land across the Jordan River that you are about to enter and possess for very long.”

          • To reiterate, with respect to the Land Covenant, Fruchtenbaum writes, “The Abrahamic Covenant teaches that ownership for the Land is unconditional while the Land Covenant teaches that the enjoyment of the Land is conditioned on obedience (to the Mosaic Covenant).”

        • Today I have set before you two choices: life and blessing or death and curse. Now I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey Him, and hold your commitment to Him because He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land He swore to give your fathers- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

          • Guzik writes, “At the same time, though the choice belonged to Israel, God cared about what they chose. When Moses pled with Israel, crying out choose life, we know he reflected the heart of God toward Israel. How God glorified Himself through Israel was up to them, but it was obviously God’s preference that He glorify Himself through an obedient, blessed Israel. So He pled, choose life!

        • Additionally, Guzik notes, “To love God this way, to really trust Him, is explained well in Deuteronomy 30:20. To love and trust God means to obey His voice, for a child who really loves and trusts their father will obey him. It means to cling to Him, for if we really love and trust Him, we will be attached to Him. It means to regard Him as our life and the length of your days, because if we love and trust Him, He is not part of our life, He is our life.”