August 27th, 2017
“Love’s Grace – Pt 2”
Aux Text: Romans 2:25-29
Call to Worship: Psa 146
Service Orientation: Are we so stupid that God has to ask us to fear, imitate, love, serve and obey the One who created us, redeemed us, is Lord over all and loves us? . . . Yes!
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. — Deuteronomy 30:6
- These verses begin the buildup toward the climax of the opening exhortation of the book in chapter 11. Dt 10:12-22 is unquestionably one of the richest texts in the Hebrew Bible, exalted and poetic in its language, comprehensive and challenging in its message. It purposely tries to “boil down” the whole theological and ethical content of the book into memorable phraseology, packed and pregnant, rich and resonant of all the surrounding preaching. Indeed, there are not many dimensions of the “OT theology” that are not directly expressed or indirectly echoed in this mini-symphony of faith and life. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 144)
- The need to fear God is mentioned fourteen times in Deuteronomy. The call to walk in all his ways appears ten times in Deuteronomy. The call to love God appears eight times. And the call to serve the Lord appears six times. The idea of serving God with the heart appears three times (10:12; 11:13; 28:47). And the idea that this is a religion that is practiced with all our heart appears at least twenty-two times. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 341)
- (v. 16) It seems odd that Moses would have introduced this metaphor here, since apparently none of the men standing before Moses had been circumcised (Josh 5:4-7). The picture is ironic: their fathers, who came out of Egypt, apparently had all been circumcised externally (Ex 12:43-51), but by their faithlessness they now were physically uncircumcised, yet by clinging to Yahweh in the face of the apostasy at Baal Peor (Dt 4:4), they apparently proved themselves to be circumcised of heart. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 271)
- (v. 17) The next word, “Awesome,” has become popular today. Unfortunately the way it is used is very different from the way it is used in the Bible. Today it is used to mean something like “wonderful” or “amazing” or “tremendous.” But the Hebrew word translated “awesome” is defined as “to be awesome, be dreadful, be feared.” Most often it is translated in the Bible as “to fear.” A recent encyclopedia of the Bible words comments, “There is no instance in the OT or NT where . . . “awesome” could not be translated “fearsome.” (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 345)
- (v. 17) The thrust of Dt 10:17, then, is that God is mighty and fearsome. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 345)
Background information on Circumcision:
- Among the Jews circumcision was a mark of distinction. The uncircumcised were viewed with contempt. This ethnocentric attitude lay behind the controversy about circumcision in the Early Church. This ethnocentrism also blinded many to the real meaning of the rite. It became a form of external religious practice lacking spiritual content. As such it was condemned by the prophets. Jeremiah attempted to get at its real meaning by introducing the concept “circumcised heart” (Jer 4:4). Jeremiah’s contemporaries believed that God was on their side. Not so, cried Jeremiah. Religion must be internalized. Symbols must not be emptied of their meaning and allowed to stand alone. Circumcision was meant to symbolize a commitment of oneself to God’s will forever. It is an outward sign of a heart, the inner core of one’s personality, dedicated to doing the will of God. (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 1, p. 867)
- Possession of the law and the covenant sign of circumcision were perhaps the two most distinguishing marks of being Jewish. Given to Israel by God himself, they signaled the fact that the Jews were a special people, elevated above all other peoples. In discussing their value in these verses, then, Paul is discussing the ultimate value of being Jewish. (Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans, 91)
- 10:16 Circumcise your hearts: Circumcision was the sign of covenant membership, but it could also be used metaphorically with the ears (Jer 6:10) or the heart to speak of willingness to hear and obey the word of God (cf. Dt 30:6; Lv 26:41; Jer 4:4; 9:26; Ez 44:7-9). The phrase thus indicates an inner commitment to obedience that lives out the meaning of the physical sign in the flesh. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 151)
- Without circumcision of heart, true fear of God and true love of God are both impossible. (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 344)
- Circumcision then signified the mortification of the whole flesh. (John Calvin, Commentary – The Acts of the Apostles, Volume 21, 111)
- Circumcision of the heart is, of course, no new requirement. Moses himself called on the people of Israel to “circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer” (Dt 10:16; see also Jer 4:4). God’s true people have always been marked by faith-filled commitment to God and not merely by external rites. (Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans, 96)
- Likely the circumcision controversy caused Paul to rethink the whole of Jewish legalism and come to his position concerning the primacy of faith (Gal 2:15-21) and the sacrificial death of Christ. In this sense the circumcision controversy was not only the first but also the most important controversy in church history. Paul taught that the symbol must not be confused with its meaning. Faith, not circumcision, was the basis of God’s covenant with Abraham (Rom 4:9-12). Circumcision of the heart, purity and commitment to doing the will of God, is what is desired (Rom 2:29). (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol 1, 868)
- Circumcision was routinely practiced in Israel from that time (Abraham) on. But the crisis during the Maccabean Revolt (166-160 B.C.) elevated it to a new level of significance. There was a growing movement among Jews to adopt Hellenistic ways of thinking and to abandon their Jewish faith. Therefore, says the historian who wrote 1 Maccabees, they “removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil” (1 Macc 1:15). Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid tyrant who sought to eradicated the Jewish religion, was well aware of the immense symbolic value of the rite. He accordingly made circumcision of a child a capital offense (1 Macc 1:48, 58-61). Pious Jews rose up in resistance, “choos[ing] to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant” (1:63). Eventually successful in restoring the Jewish faith, pious Jews naturally accorded to circumcision an even greater importance than before. (Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans, 97)
- To a Jew a passage like this (Rom 2:25-29) must have come as a shattering experience. He was certain that God regarded him with special favor, simply and solely because of his national descent from Abraham and because he bore the badge of circumcision in his flesh. But Paul introduces an idea to which he will return again and again. Jewishness, he insists, is not a matter of race at all; it has nothing to do with circumcision. It is a matter of conduct. If that is so, many a so-called Jew who is a pure descendant of Abraham and who bears the mark of circumcision in his body, is no Jew at all; and equally many a Gentile who never heard of Abraham and who would never dream of being circumcised, is a Jew in the real sense of the term. To a Jew this would sound the wildest heresy and leave him angry and aghast. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Romans, 47)
The questions to be answered are . . . How is God’s grace demonstrated in this passage? What reasons are given why we should be totally devoted to God?
Answer: God is gracious because He is asking us to do what He could have sensibly and reasonably have ordered. We should be totally devoted to God because He tells us how to get the most out of life, created us, is King and Lord over all, loves us and has demonstrated over and over Who He is and how much He loves us.
Only Moses’ intercession has stayed the Lord’s destroying anger (9:19-20; 10:10). Continued rebellion, however, can surely not avoid disaster, and intercession cannot hold off the divine wrath forever (see Amos 7:1-8:3). So–circumcise your hearts and cease your stubborn rebellion. Rather than stiff necks (which is the actual language translated as “stubborn” in RSV) circumcised hearts are what God requires, mind and will purified and devoted totally to the Lord. (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 126)
The injunction to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (v. 16) has not occurred previously in Deuteronomy, but the image is found elsewhere in the OT (Lv 26:41; Jer 4:4; 9:26; Ez 44:9) and is one that Paul develops pointedly in Rom 2:25-29. The meaning is quite clear. While we do not know all that lay behind physical circumcision, it symbolized a vow of dedication, an initiation into the demonstration of the covenant relationship. In addition, circumcision probably represented in some sense a purification rite. All that is taken over in the notion of circumcision the heart. But here the act is not physical or symbolic; the mind and will, consciousness and freedom, are now to be purified and brought into relationship with God. (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 125)
The Word for the Day is . . . Duh!?!
What is God graciously asking us to do that He could order?:
I- Fear Him. (Dt 10:12, 20 see also: Dt 5:27; 6:13-15; 10:20; Heb 12:28-29)
To fear God means to be struck with awe in His all-consuming, holy presence; to stand always and forever in breathless exaltation of who He is and what He has done and how vastly and infinitely His greatness overshadows our brief, vaporous existence. (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 311)
The fear of the Lord, which springs from the knowledge of one’s own unholiness in the presence of the holy God, ought to form the one leading emotion in the heart prompting to walk in all the ways of the Lord, and to maintain morality of conduct in its strictest form. This fear, which first enables us to comprehend the mercy of God, awakens love, the fruit of which is manifested in serving God with all the heart and all the soul (see 6:5). (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 344)
Calvin describes the fear of the Lord as “a bridle to restrain our wickedness.” We must keep asking God to help us always keep his fear before our eyes. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 340)
To fear the LORD your God is to have a basic respect and reverence for the covenant Lord that permeates all other attitudes (cf. 5:29; 6:13; 10:20). To walk in all his ways, as the imitation of God, is perhaps the phrase in the Hebrew Bible that most nearly summarizes what we mean by “OT ethics” (cf. 5:33; 8:6; 11:22). To love him is to have and express covenant loyalty and obedience flowing out of gratitude (cf. 6:5; 11:1, 13, 22). To serve the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul is virtually identical to “loving” God, but with the added metaphor of bonded service to the one who has bought and therefore owns the people (cf. 6:13; 10:20; 11:13). To observe the LORD’s commands is to give careful, conscientious, and constant attention to the terms and stipulations of the covenant relationship (cf. 7:11; 11:1, 8, 13, 22). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 145)
II- Imitate Him. (Dt 10:12, 17-19 see also: Lv 11:44; 19:2, 15; 20:7; Dt 5:33; 8:6; 11:22; Mt 5:43-48; 25:31-46; Jam 1:27; 1 Pt 1:16; 1 Jn 3:17; 4:11, 20ff)
To be faithful to God is to live according to God’s way. There is a distinct lifestyle that marks out a Biblical person. We love our neighbors; we show special consideration for the poor and the helpless; we shun corruption and impure talk. We speak up for justice and oppose the exploitation of vulnerable people; and we are consistent in the practice of devotional exercises and of regular participation in corporate worship. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 340)
The principle of imitatio dei, the imitation of God, represents one of the fundamental pillars of biblical ethics–Old and New Testaments. If elsewhere Yahweh calls on people to be holy as he, Yahweh their God, is holy (Lv 11:44; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Pt 1:16), here Moses calls on Israel to imitate Yahweh’s compassion. Just as he is distinguished for his compassion to the widow, the fatherless, and the alien, so should his people be. Jesus applied this principle to his disciples when he called on them to be covenantally committed to love one another, just as he is covenantally committed to them (Jn 13:34; 15:12). And the apostle builds on this notion when he challenges his readers to love one another, not only because Christ has commanded us to do so (1 Jn 3:23), but because God is covenantally committed to us (1 Jn 4:11), and the love believers demonstrate is the proof that God indwells them (1 Jn 4:7, 12). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 277)
Because Yahweh is proactive in seeking justice and benevolence for needy individuals, Israel must do likewise. There is thus a genuine humanitarian concern in the OT, especially in Deuteronomy (E. Day 1911; Pedersen 1964; 1-2:356-7; de Vaux 1965, 74-76; Weinfeld 1961). This shows itself in Deuteronomic laws that require lending freely to the needy (15:7-11); not sleeping in the pledge of a poor man, or keeping it overnight (24:12-14); giving the poor man his wages daily (24:14-15); and making sure the sojourner, orphan, and widow receive justice in the gate (1:16-17; 24:17), receive the third-year charity tithe (14:28-29; 26:12-13), and have a share in Israel’s bountiful harvests (16:11, 14; 24:19-21). If anyone perverts justice towards the sojourner, orphan, and widow, a curse will fall, to which the people have given their ringing “Amen” (27:19). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 393)
Moses’ point is that once we are saved we need to do all we can to lift up those who are down. It seems that some did not know that it was a terrible sin in God’s sight to allow some to be treated as inferior. We dare not smugly sit on our laurels and ignore the cry of the poor. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 346-7)
Our inward respect for God will reveal itself in our walk with Him. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:6-7). Both Moses and John understood that our talk and our walk must be consistent. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 160)
God is love; so to walk in God’s ways will entail the exercise of practical love, for ethics in the OT as much as in the New involves the imitation of God (cf. 1 Jn 3:17; 4:20f.). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 150)
Justice for the sojourner, orphan, widow, and other needy souls was sung in temple psalms (Ps 82:3-4; 94:6) and preached with passion by the prophets, who reminded Israel without letup about this covenant obligation (Isa 1:17; Jer 7:5-7; 22:3), but discovering to their sorrow that the obligation, all too often, had not been carried out (Amos 4:1; Isa 1:23; 10:2; Jer 5:28; 22:15-16; Ez 22:7; Zech 7:9-11; cf. Job 22:9). In the end, the nation paid a heavy price for its neglect (Lam 5:3). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 393)
Orphans and widows usually fared badly in the ancient Near East, and foreign settlers (sojourners) still tend to be second-class citizens throughout the world. Now we find another demand: the Israelites are to imitate their God in their conduct towards the needy in society (vv. 18ff.). (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 72-3)
The enforcement of Yahweh’s impartiality is, in Deuteronomy, the responsibility of the lawcourts (1:16-17; 16:19; cf. Ex 23:3, 6-8). The command to “love the outsider,” however (19), extends the “royal” responsibility to Israel as such. At the same time it becomes another example of deuteronomic penetration beyond the external act to the heart or attitude (cf. Lv 19:18, where “love” also reaches beyond the law, though there the horizon is other Israelites). The appeal in this text is grounded in gratitude to Yahweh, because he had mercy on Israel while they were “outsiders” in Egypt. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 201)
To follow Jesus, I learned, does not mean to solve every human problem—Christ himself did not attempt that—but rather to respond as he did, against all reason to dispense grace and love who deserve it least. (Philip Yancey; Soul Survivor, 142)
This text reminds us again that walking in the ways of the Lord, accepting our vassal status before him, and obeying his commands are the fruit he seeks as evidence of reverent awe and covenant commitment (love) to him. Mouthing words of devotion ring hollow without the life of devotion. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 278)
We may note that in these six rich verses Israel is required to respond to God’s universal reign and gracious action in only two ways: “Repent!” and “Love the alien!” (vv. 16, 19). It is challenging to sense the way Jesus drank deeply from the wells of Deuteronomy’s spirituality and ethic when teaching about the kingdom of heaven, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand,” and when radically commanding, “Love your enemies.” (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 151)
Unlike these pagan deities, Moses explained, the God of Israel shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He expects righteous behavior, and he has a right to see it among his people. Israel could not hope to please him unless they recognized that he defended the cause of the fatherless and the widow, those who had no other defender. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 137)
Yahweh does not show partiality. Yahweh also cannot be bribed, which Rashi says means that he cannot be appeased with monetary gifts. One might well add sacrifices and other offerings (1 Sm 15:22; Mic 6:6-8; Jer 7:21-23; Ps 40:7). According to Deuteronomy, judges in Israel must act similarly: no partiality and no bribes (1:17; 16:19; cf. Ex 23:8). In the NT, Peter applies this teaching about God showing no partiality to his acceptance of Cornelius (Acts 10:34), and Paul applies it when assessing the relative merits and failings of Jews and Greeks (Gal 2:6; Rom 2:11). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 393)
Yahweh all throughout the OT is seen to have a special concern for the poor, vulnerable, and disadvantaged (Hos 14:4 ; Ps 10:14, 18; 68:6 ; 146:9). If they cry out to him, which they will do if they are without an advocate, he will hear them and will bring their oppressors to judgment (Ex 22:22-23 [23-24]). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 393)
In the NT, the problem of justice toward those who have no advocate is vividly portrayed in Jesus’ parable of the Persistent Widow (Lk 18:1-8). On practicing justice and benevolence, see also Mt 5:42; 23:23-24; 25:31-46. Christians are required to visit orphans and widows in Jam 1:27. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 395)
The poor and needy require food and clothing. Deuteronomic law provides them with the third-year tithe (14:28-29), invites them to share in the yearly feasts (16:11, 14), and gives them gleaning rights (24:19-21). It also mandates giving loans to them, presumably so they can buy food and clothing (15:7-11). Deuteronomic law also precludes a creditor from taking a poor man’s garment overnight (24:12-13) and a widow’s garment under any circumstances (24:17). The NT, too, teaches that food and clothing are to be given to the poor and needy (Mt 5:42; 19:21; 25:35-46; Lk 12:33; 17:19-31; Jam 2:15-16; Heb 13:2). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 396)
God wanted Israel to show love to the weak, the powerless and the stranger as evidence of a heart truly circumcised. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 98)
Sojourners are people who do not have the government machinery working for them because they are outsiders. Refugees and immigrants can be considered as today’s equivalent of sojourners. We know that people often exploit refugees and immigrants by underpaying them for work they do. This is particularly true of illegal immigrants. Christians should never condone people going to another country illegally. Neither should we condone the exploitation of illegal immigrants by underpaying them. Moses is implying that if we are unjust toward the weak in society, we will have to face God’s fearsome justice. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 346)
III- Love Him with all our hearts. (Dt 10:12 see also: Dt 6:5; 11:1, 13,22; Mt 22:37-40; Lk 10:27)
Leo Tolstoy, who battled legalism all his life, understood the weaknesses of a religion based on externals. The title of one of his books says it well: The Kingdom of God Is Within You. According to Tolstoy, all religious systems tend to promote external rules, or moralism. In contrast, Jesus refused to define a set of rules that his followers could then fulfill with a sense of satisfaction. One can never “arrive” in light of such sweeping commands as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 197)
To us love is first an attitude and then a command. But it is not enough to fall in love. After that, love must be nurtured through the exercise of the will. This is why we are commanded to love. We give those we love a special place in our lives. We nurture our love for our spouses by spending time with them, by sharing what is in our hearts, by giving time to meditate on their virtues, and by seeking to know what they like and need and doing all we can to give them what they like and need. We approach our love for God with similar devotion. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 340)
IV- Serve Him with all our hearts. (Dt 10:12 see also: Dt 6:13; 10:20; 11:13; 1 Sm 12:24; Mt 25:40; Col 3:23)
Reverence and love, then, are the attitudes God looks for; they best show themselves in service (ie worship) and obedience. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 72)
Everything we do is done for God, and we must do it with all our heart and soul. We work hard whether people are watching or not and even if all the others are taking it easy. When we care for the needy, not expecting an earthly reward, we do it well as if we are doing it for God, remembering Christ’s statement at the judgment that we did it to him (Mt 25:40). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 340)
V- Obey Him. (Dt 10:13, 16 see also: Dt 7:11; 11:1, 8, 13; 26:16; 1 Sm 15:22)
Christianity must reverse its current image and become dynamic, genuine, and real. If we can prevent the message from being watered down by casual Christians, outsiders will begin to experience believers who have been (and are being) transformed by their faith and who are working in humble and respectful ways to transform the culture. In the Bible Paul puts it this way: “This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded you before. As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live.” (1 Thess 4:11-12). There is nothing more powerful than the Christian life lived out in obedience; there is nothing worse than a flat, self-righteous form of faith that parades around in Christian clothes. (David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 83)
CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: Why should we be totally devoted to God with all our hearts?
A- He tells us how to get the most out of life. (Dt 10:13 see also: Dt 4:6-8; 5:29, 33; 6:24; 30:5-6; Psa 103:1-5; Jn 10:10)
Through obedience, Israel could enter into secure possession of the land, long life, enjoyment of all God’s gifts, etc. (cf. 5:29, 33; 6:24; 30:15-20). It also condenses the important ethical point that the law itself was a gift of God’s grace for the benefit of human beings, not an imposition for arbitrary divine satisfaction. As Moses has already pointed out (4:6-8), observing the law is wisdom–it not only pleases the giver of the law, but it benefits the keeper of the law. “Obedience is good for you,” may not sparkle as an advertising slogan, but it captures the human perspective of OT ethics. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 145)
Note that it is characteristic of Deuteronomy to combine fear and love, and to see the fruit of both in obedient service. Worship and life are inseparable; love without reverence to God is impossible; and close attachment to God is meaningless unless his laws are willingly kept. However, law is not a divine imposition or burden; its gift is the fruit of grace for your good. It provides the order of society without which the society cannot exist. To live means to obey the law, but to obey requires a reverent love for the giver of the law (cf. 11:1-25). (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2. 399)
Do with me whatever it shall please thee. For it can not be anything but good, whatever thou shalt do with me. If it be thy will I should be in darkness, be thou blessed; and if it be thy will I should be in light, be thou again blessed. If thou grant me comfort, be thou blessed; and if thou will have me afflicted, be thou still equally blessed. My son, such as this ought to be thy state, if thou desire to walk with Me. Thou must be as ready to suffer as to rejoice. Thou must cheerfully be as destitute and poor, as full and rich. (Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III:17:1-2)
Just as the ark rested in the center of Israel’s camp, God wants his Word to form the center of the believer’s life. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 139)
In Discipleship Journal author Mack Stiles tells the story of how he led a young man from Sweden named Andreas to Christ. One part of their conversation is especially instructive:
Andreas said, “I’ve been told if I decide to follow Jesus, He will meet my needs and my life will get very good.”
This seemed to Andreas to be a point in Christianity’s favor. But I faced a temptation—to make it sound better than it is.
“No, Andreas, no!” I said.
Andreas blinked his surprise.
“Actually, Andreas, you may accept Jesus and find that life goes very badly for you.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, you may find that your friends reject you, you could lose your job, your family might oppose your decision—there are a lot of bad things that may happen to you if you decide to follow Jesus. Andreas, when Jesus calls you, He calls you to go the way of the cross.”
Andreas stared at me and asked the obvious: “Then why would I want to follow Jesus?”
Sadly, this is the question that stumps many Christians. For some reason we feel that unless we’re meeting people’s needs they won’t follow Christ. Yet this is not the gospel.
I cocked my head and answered, “Andreas, because Jesus is true.”
Those on the side of truth come to Jesus.
B- He created us. (Dt 10:14 see also: Ps 95:46; 148:4-14)
On the one hand, the God of universal ownership exercised his sovereignty in the particular choice of Israel. On the other hand, the God who loved and chose Israel is the God who owns the whole world. Thus, the universality of God must not be separated from the particularity of God’s action in Israel be severed from the universality of God’s cosmic ownership of the world (cf. The same dual truth in Ex 19:4-6). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 146)
C- He is King and Lord over all. (Dt 10:14, 17 see also: Ex 19:4-6; Ps 24; 47:7-9; Rv 1:18; 17:14; 19:16)
Moses says people must circumcise the foreskin of their hearts, i.e., open up their hearts, and also soften their stiff necks. Why? Because Yahweh is God of gods and Lord of lords, a great, mighty, and awesome God, who is not partial to anyone and cannot be bribed. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 397)
Yet why is it that one should love God? It is because of his saving acts; Israel is to love because God first loved her. The mystery and wonder of God’s grace is that, though the whole universe belongs to him, he has chosen Israel to be his own. (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2. 400)
The wonder is that a God of such cosmic, universal ownership should have focused affection on the insignificant ancestors of insignificant Israel. This verse echoes 7:6-8 in expressing the wonder of Israel’s election. There, the surprise was that God should have chosen Israel though they were so small. Here the surprise is because God is so great. In both cases, the message is that Israel’s election was based on nothing in themselves that had evoked God’s favoritism, but solely in the character and action of this amazing God. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 146)
In Dt 10:12-11:1 Moses not only points to the essence of grace-filled religion, but he also provides the basis for the same: knowledge of the absolute sovereignty of God over all and of his particular favor to Israel, which should inspire their own compassion toward the marginalized. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 276)
Setting the stage for this demand, Moses rebuked their spiritual indifference by describing God as the God of gods and Lord of lords. These words do not acknowledge the objective reality of other deities but their subjective reality in the minds and hearts of lost people. God takes the point of view in Scripture that no problem can be addressed adequately until it is first acknowledged. God must on occasion blast before he can rebuild. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 137)
God is so immovable that he cannot be influenced to change his principles of justice based on people’s status or background (he is impartial) or on so-called favors people do for him (he cannot be bribed). Today unscrupulous businesspeople often go to shrines and churches and make generous contributions to try to bribe their way out of the consequences of their dishonesty. But God cannot be bribed. Neither will he act differently according to the background or status of people. God is a just God. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 346)
D- He loves us and has chosen us. (Dt 10:15 see also: 1 Jn 4:19)
The first danger is to conclude that if everything and everybody belongs to God, then all distinctions are dissolved between those who are the people of God and those who are not yet. The second danger is the temptation to infer from God’s love for God’s people that God hates, or at least has no interest in or plans for, the rest of the nations. The balance of these verses protects us from the unbiblical extremes of a monistic universalism that destroys all distinctions, on the one hand, and a narrow exclusivism that denies or restricts the universality of God’s love, on the other. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 147)
The most blessed gift that God can give any person is a knowledge of himself. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 139)
This combination captures in a nutshell the message of this book, especially as it relates to the human response to divine grace. The common denominator is the importance of allegiance to Yahweh as the God of the covenant. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 270)
10:19 Here we have the Deuteronomic equivalent of the “second greatest commandment,” like Lv 19:18 and 34. It is remarkable first of all because it is totally rooted in the character and action of God. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 150)
E- He has demonstrated His love, power, care and wisdom over and over again. (Dt 10:15, 19, 21-22 see also: Ex 22:21; 23:9; Ps 146:5-10; Isa 40)
Moses recalls for Israel a long series of kindnesses that were the result of God’s grace. These were designed to produce a wholehearted love of God and a life of obedience. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 138)
Granted all the redemptive, covenantal uniqueness of Yahweh’s action on Israel’s behalf, it remains true that what Yahweh did for them was, quite simply, typical of him. Yahweh is the God who loves the aliens and feeds and clothes them. When the Israelites were the aliens in Egypt (v. 19b), God provided for them. Once again we find this remarkable balance-in-tension between the particularism of Yahweh’s action for Israel in redemption and covenant and the universality of his character on which that behavior is based. His action for Israel was paradigmatic for them, but it was also paradigmatic of God. Jesus drew the same lessons about the generosity and breadth of God’s love from nature and applied it with a similarly radical ethical thrust to the love of “aliens” (Mt 5:43-48; 6:25-34). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 149-50)
19 This is the second reason why Israel is to love the sojourner: It was once a sojourner in Egypt (Ex 22:20 ; 23:9; Lv 19:34; Honor 1953, 431). Deuteronomy says repeatedly that Israel should practice justice towards the sojourner and have charitable attitudes because of its own experience in Egypt (5:14-15; 15:12-15; 16:10-12; 23:8 ; 24:17-18, 19-22). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 396)
The demand for fear, love, and reverence towards the Lord, is no doubt very hard for the natural man to fulfill, and all the harder the deeper it goes into the heart; but after such manifestations of the love and grace of God, it only follows as a matter of course. “Fear, love, and obedience would naturally have taken root of themselves within the heart, if man had not corrupted his own heart.” (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 343)
R.A. Rorrey: “If loving God with all our heart and soul and might is the greatest commandment, then it follows that not loving him that way is the greatest sin.” (Ken Gire; The Reflective Life, 84)
Worship Point: If I really have to make a worship point after what I’ve shared this far . . . go back to sleep. I’ll try not to disturb you any more.
But in fact for thousands of people and pastors, I fear, the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship. We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; we “worship” to recruit workers; we “worship” to improve church morale. We “worship” to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; we “worship” to teach our children the way of righteousness; we “worship” to help marriages stay together; we “worship” to evangelize the lost among us; we “worship” to motivate people for service projects; we “worship” to give our churches a family feeling, etc.
In all of this we bear witness that we are confused about what true worship is. Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves. I cannot say to my wife, “I feel a strong delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal.” That is not the way delight works. It terminates on her. It does not have a nice meal in view. I cannot say to my son, “I love playing ball with you so that you will cut the grass.” If my heart really delights in playing ball with him, that delight cannot be performed as a means to getting him to do something. (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 240-1)
Moses had appealed to God to forgive the people, not because they had stopped being stiff-necked, but because they still were! (In Ex 34:9, it should be translated “because,” not “although,” as NIV). God’s forgiveness of Israel’s apostasy on that occasion (as ever) was the fruit of God’s own grace and faithfulness coupled with the effective intercession of Moses. The call to repentance and a more obedient, co-operative spirit was thus based on the amazing grace of God. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 147)
Our emotions respond to and reflect our inner thoughts, and it’s only as we center these thoughts on God’s character that we find joyful praises springing up from our heart. Are your emotions ever warmed by thoughts about God’s majesty? If your thoughts and desires are consumed with Him, your emotions will respond. If you never find yourself moved emotionally, then you must ask whether you desire Him passionately. (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Idols of the Heart, 199)
Gospel Application: If for no other reason than what Jesus has done for us on the cross, we should be totally devoted to God with all our hearts. Allow Jesus to make you a new creation so you can love Him totally. (Lv 20:7-8; 21:8, 15, 23; 22:16, 31-33; Dt 10:16; 30:6; Isa 40:1-2; Jer 4:4; 9:25ff; Ez 11:19-20; 36:26ff; 44:9; Mic 7:18; Zech 4:6; Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8-10; 6:23; 12:1-2; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Gal 6:15; Col 3:10)
The profession of religion, even though it be divinely revealed religion, is not enough if the one who professes the religion is not in some sense transformed by it. The reality of possession is ten thousand times more important than the formality of profession. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Man’s Ruin God’s Wrath, Volume 1, 111)
God has always wanted inward circumcision, the circumcision of the heart–something only the Holy Spirit can accomplish (see Dt 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; Ez 36:26-27; Gal 6:15). (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans, 58)
The work of making us holy is the Lord’s (Lv 20:7-8; 21:8, 15, 23; 22:16, 31-33), it is not up to us (Zec 4:6). It is by faith in Christ that we become the righteousness of God (Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9). But we must, by faith, repent, confess and manifest a change in our thinking and behavior to show our salvation is genuine and sincere (Mt 3:8-10; 7:16-20;12:33; Lk 6:43-44; Jn 15:2-5).
This concept is not new with Paul, since it occurs regularly in the OT. In the Pentateuch God complains of his people’s “uncircumcised hearts”, appeals to them to circumcise their hearts, and promises that he will do it to them himself so that they may love him with all their being (Lv 26:41; Dt 10:16; 30:6). Then the prophets use the same imagery. Foreigners are significantly described as “uncircumcised in heart and flesh”; those who are “circumcised only in the flesh” and “uncircumcised in heart” will be punished; Yahweh calls on his people to circumcise their hearts, and promises to give them a “new heart” (Ez 44:9; Jer 9:25f.; 4:4; Ez 36:26f.). (John Stott, Romans – God’s Good News for the World, 93-4)
The Pharisees were greatly admired by the common people; they respected them and praised them. They thought that these Pharisees were perfect men, these great teachers of theirs. But our Lord said to them one day, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” That is Lk 16:15. Underline it! It is a very simple thing to impress men; you can impress men as a preacher and as a teacher and as a moral person. They see only the outside; they see only the mechanics, the performance; they do not see the heart; they do not see the spirit; they know nothing about the inner man. But God sees the heart, for that which is highly esteemed amongst men is abomination in the sight of God. What makes a man a Jew is not that he is born of the nation of Israel, it is his relationship to God. It is not circumcision, it is the heart. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapters 2:1-3:20, 154)
The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life–and, specifically, in the following of Christ–is the transformation of the total state of the soul. It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling, and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all. This is what Paul has in mind when he speaks of putting off the old man and putting on the new, “renewed to resemble in knowledge the one who created us…” (Col 3:10).
The genius of the moral teachings of Jesus and his first students was his insistence that you cannot keep the law by trying not to break the law. That will only make a Pharisee of you and sink you into layers of hypocrisy. Instead, you have to be transformed in the functions of the soul so that the deeds of the law are a natural outflow of who you have become. This is spiritual formation in the Christian way, and it must always be kept in mind when we consider Jesus’s teachings about various behaviors–in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere.
For example, his famous teaching about turning the other cheek. If all you intend is to do that, you will find you can do it with a heart still full of bitterness and vengefulness. If, on the other hand, you become a person who has the interior character of Christ, remaining appropriately vulnerable will be done as a matter of course, and you will not think of it as a big deal. (Dallas Willard; The Great Omission, 152)
To be a true Jew, there must be those inner changes which the outward act signifies. (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Romans, 63)
But nothing Paul has said in this chapter suggests that a faulty understanding of the law is part of the problem. Indeed, vv. 17-24, with their contrast between “knowing God’s will, being instructed through the law,” and “breaking the law,” show that it is not at the level of understanding but at the level of doing that the problem lies. This is typical of Paul’s teaching throughout Romans, where the solution to the problem of sin is not a new or deeper understanding of the law, but faith in Christ, leading to the indwelling of the Spirit and the breaking of sin’s stranglehold over human beings. (Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 173)
Spiritual Challenge: Look long and hard in the mirror and ask yourself, “What is wrong with me that I’m not totally devoted to God with all my heart?” (Jer 4:1-4; 7:1-15; Micah 6:6-8; Amos 5:21-25; Rom 8:1-16; Gal 5:13-26)
Franciscan Richard Rohr writes, “Humility and honesty are really the same thing. A humble person is simply a brutally honest person about the whole truth.” (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 124)
People with such a heart are willing to stand corrected when they do something wrong. Their passionate love for God shudders at the thought of even a moment without the smile of God’s approval. Such will abstain from doing what displeases God even though they may want to do that. And they will eagerly do what God wants them to do even though at first they did not want to do that. This is what it means to not be stubborn or stiff-necked. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 345)
An uncircumcised heart is one which is closed to acceptance of God, just as an uncircumcised ear (Jer 6:10) is one which hears muffled sounds, and uncircumcised lips (Ex 6:12, 30) cannot open fully to speak coherently. If the heart is circumcised, then that which hinders is cut away, and it becomes open and free from obstructions. The result of such a circumcision will be submission to the will of God and the end of stubbornness. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 161)
It is astonishing to me that so many people try to define true Christianity in terms of decisions and not affections. Not that decisions are unessential. The problem is that they require so little transformation to achieve. They are evidence of no true work of grace in the heart. People can make “decisions” about the truth of God while their hearts are far from him. (John Piper; Desiring God, 247)
May I suggest to you humbly that you can only be sure that you have answered them truly and faced them honestly when you look at yourself and say, ‘In me, that is to say, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing’, when you abhor yourself and hate yourself, and get down on your knees quietly, in your own room, not on the street corner, not in a public place, but in your own room with the door shut and the blinds drawn and acknowledge it before God and break your heart before Him, reminded again that if we do confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Oh, may God give us honesty and truth in our inward parts that we may allow the Scriptures to search us. And therefore as we decide to read the Word of God more diligently, let us resolve to allow it to search us to our vitals, to be honest with it, and to be careful, because there are millions outside looking at us and watching us, judging God and His Christ and the glorious gospel of salvation by what they see in us. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapters 2:1-3:20, 158-9)
Our problem is that we fail to feel the weight of the law. We are so hardened in our sin and so accustomed to our corruption that we give our attention not to the law of God but to the social customs of our culture, and we measure ourselves in conformity to those customs rather than against the standard of God’s perfect righteousness. (R.C. Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary – Romans, 68)
What drives you? Fear? Pride? Or a deep abiding love for God. It is only what we do out of love that counts. Everything else we do out of fear or pride is done for ourselves and not for God. Do we love God so much that we want to follow Him and do His will? Or are we following Him because we don’t want to go to hell, we don’t want other people at HFM to point fingers at us or we don’t want others to speak poorly of us? The motivation of our hearts makes all the difference in the world. — Pastor Keith
The first patriarch, Abraham, was asked to practice the rite of circumcision as an external sign of loyalty to the covenant (Gn 17:9-14). Here Moses says that this outward ritual is useless if not backed by an inner change of life. He calls them to “circumcise. . . the foreskin of [their] heart[s].” An uncircumcised ear hears imperfectly because it is covered (Jer 6:10). Similarly, with a circumcised heart, that which hinders obedience is cut away, and the heart is free to be “pliable and amenable to the direction of God” (Thompson). Moses goes on to give the opposite of a circumcised heart when he says, “. . . and be no longer stubborn” (literally, “stiff-necked”).
Moses is asking the people to have soft hearts toward God and his Word–hearts that God can mold into his image like a potter molds a lump of clay. This would be accomplished fully in the era of the new covenant when the Spirit would be more real in the experience of the people. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 344)
The man who does not fear God becomes so proud that he cannot detect his own sinfulness. (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 242)
Content not yourself with confessing your…sins, merely as to the fact, but accuse yourself also of the motive that induced you to commit them. (Francis de Sales, Introduction to a Devout Life, 107)
To the Jews, the Gentiles were “uncircumcised dogs.” The tragedy is that the Jews depended on this physical mark instead of the spiritual reality it represented (Dt 10:16; Jer 9:26; Ez 44:9). A true Jew is one who has had an inward spiritual experience in the heart, and not merely an outward physical operation. People today make this same mistake with reference to baptism or the Lord’s Supper, or even church membership. (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Right, 29)
In view of the grace that Yahweh has lavished on his people, what does he require of Israel? And with this question we realize that we are about to encounter the heart of the covenant–in Jesus’ words, “the more important matters of the law” (Mt 23:23). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 270)
Paul, of course, did not despise the Lord’s Supper any more than he despised circumcision. It was precisely because he valued them that he warned against their misuse (see 1 Cor 10:20-22). When the sacraments dispense with obedience instead of obligate to obedience, they run into the same danger which Paul saw in circumcision. The apostle had an inveterate mistrust that signs and rituals could become substitutes for the will of God rather than signs of it (see 1 Cor 13:3; 14:6; Gal 5:2). (James R. Edwards, New International Biblical Commentary – Romans, 80)
The futility of substituting the symbol for the reality it represents was clear even in the OT. Moses knew that obedience was much more than submitting to the ceremonial law. He wrote, “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer” (Dt 10:16 NIV). Jeremiah echoed the same concern: “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem” (Jer 4:4 NIV). (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans, 58)
Substituting the symbol for the reality it represents is like deliberately writing checks on a bank account with no money in it. The problem really isn’t the ease with which checks can be written, nor the existence of bank accounts. The problem is the deceitfulness of the human heart, willing to be false rather than admit poverty of any kind.
Christians are as guilty in treating the sacraments in this way as the Jews were in substituting the keeping of ceremonial laws for real obedience. Baptismal vows, marriage vows, and membership vows are only as real as the intentions behind them and the actions that are carried out as a result. Professing one life-style but living another; making a promise but not fulfilling it; claiming a symbol but violating its meaning–when we treat God with this kind of dishonor, we deserve his judgment. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans, 58)
If you attempt to apply our text to the historical Jews of the past, or to any branch of Christendom which places undue emphasis on liturgical forms, you will have lost the point of the story. It is God’s message to you. He is telling you that He requires truth in the inward parts (Ps 51:6). You must not have outward forms without inward holiness. You are to rend your heart and not your garments as a sign of repentance for sin (Joel 2:13). (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Man’s Ruin God’s Wrath, Volume 1, 140)
Paul reminds the Christians at Rome that the fact that they are circumcised does not guarantee the blessing. If they would remember Deuteronomy, the second giving of the law (Dt 29-30), they would know that the sign of which they were boasting was the very sign that condemned them and marked them as covenant breakers. (R.C. Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary – Romans, 74)
Theologian Charles Hodge wrote, “Whenever true religion declines, the disposition to lay undo stress on external rites is stressed. The Jews when they lost their spirituality supposed that circumcision had the power to save them.” Apostasy always moves the religious focus from the inward to the outward, from humble obedience to empty formality. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Romans 1-8, 161)
Those who are privileged with religious knowledge, exposure to good teaching, and familiarity with the truth are also those most capable of self-deception. These errors often seem reasonable or unimportant, but they turn out to be poison for the soul. We must be on guard lest we convince ourselves that:
our years of service will outweigh our spiritual downfalls.
God will overlook some sins because we have built up such “spiritual equity” in other areas.
we have given so much, so God is obliged to help us.
our relationship with spiritual giants will rub off on us and make us more acceptable to God.
The self-righteous prove that their judge is easy to convince. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans, 54-5)
The more the Jew boasts of his relation to God, while he at the same time disobeys His will, the more will they who do not know God despise Him. Must not God’s wrath rest on such? (Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans, 132)
An uncircumcised heart was one that was hardened to God’s grace. The prophet Jeremiah later described ears that were “closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it” (6:10). (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 97)
So What?: If you never answer this question you may never know just how lost you are and how much you need a Savior to rebirth, regenerate, renew, restore, rebuild, resurrect, reconcile, redeem and reform you. (Ps 34:18; 51; Isa 66:1-2; Mt 4:17; Lk 13:3; Acts 2:38; Rom 2:25-29)
If you feel the call of the spirit, then be holy with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength. If, however, because of human weakness, you cannot be holy, then be perfect with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength.
But if you cannot be perfect because of the vanity of your life, then be good with all your soul…Yet, if you cannot be good because of the trickery of the Evil One, then be wise with all your soul…
If, in the end, you can neither be holy, nor perfect, nor good, nor wise because of the weight of your sins, then carry this weight before God and surrender your life to his divine mercy.
If you do this, without bitterness, with all humility, and with a joyous spirit due to the tenderness of a God who loves the sinful and ungrateful, then you will begin to feel what it is to be wise, you will learn what it is to be good, you will slowly aspire to be perfect, and finally you will long to be holy. (Quoted in Peter van Breeman, Let All God’s Glory Through, 134)
Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness. -Blaise Pascal
The circumcision of the heart contrasts with being stiff-necked, which means being stubborn and rebellious. Circumcision of the heart connotes being open, responsive, and obedient to the Lord. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 86)
Now many, seeing that Paul brings forward circumcision rather than any other part of the law, suppose that he takes away justification only from ceremonies: but the matter is far otherwise; for it always happens, that those who dare to set up their own merits against the righteousness of God, glory more in outward observances than in real goodness; for no one, who is seriously touched and moved by the fear of God, will ever dare to raise up his eyes to heaven, since the more he strives after true righteousness, the clearer he sees how far he is from it. (John Calvin, Commentary – The Acts of the Apostles, Volume 21, 109-110)