“Love: I Do?” – Deuteronomy 29:1-29

April 15th, 2018

Dt. 29:1-29

“Love:  I Do?”

Aux text: John 14:15-21

Call to Worship: Psalm 111


Service Orientation: If you love and say “I do” it is good to periodically remember what you did do; so you can really do what you said you’d do when you said, “I do”.   Otherwise, you might end up in doo-doo.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week: If you love me, you will obey what I command. —  John 14:15


Background Information:

  • Within the overall flow of Deuteronomy, chapters 29-30 represent Moses’ third and final sermon before he dies (34:1-12). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 671)
  • Although the people had already engaged in some sort of covenant renewal ritual on the Plains of Moab (26:16-19), Moses seems to have deemed it necessary to supervise a ratification ritual one more time. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 679)
  • A solemn declaration to all Israel that it is about to enter a covenant made on this day of assembly. The ceremony may have included a ritual such as the one described in Gn 15:9-21 and Jer 34:18-20, where a calf was cut in two and people passed between its severed parts.  As they passed through, they would have sworn an oath consenting to like treatment if they violated the terms of the covenant.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 805)
  • Throughout Israelite history, large assemblies representing the entire population gathered for public readings of the law and covenant ratification (Ex 34:3-11; Josh 8:30-35; 24:1-18; 2 Kgs 23:2-3; Neh 8:1-3; 10:29-30[28-29]; 2 Chr 15:12-15). A public reading of the Deuteronomic law every seven years at the Feast of Booths is called for in Dt 31:1-13, and there, too, everyone is required to be there.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 806)
  • (v. 1) Dt 29:1 [28:69] expressly declares that these utterances were delivered in the context of a covenantal renewal ceremony; concluding the address on covenant relationship with blessings and curses brings it into line with the conclusion to the covenant revelation at Sinai (Lv 26). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 646)
  • (v. 2) There is a sad and ironic play on words here. Verse 2 says, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes. . .”  Verse 2 talks of “the great trials that your eyes saw.”  But their response is not seeing.  Moses says, “. . . the LORD has not given you a heart to understand, or eyes to see or ears to hear” (v. 4).  This should be interpreted as God’s verdict on their rejection of his ways.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 603)
  • (v. 2) You, you have seen. The added pronoun is for emphasis.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 801)
  • (v. 4) The words also express a deeper truth, namely, that hearts understand, eyes see, and ears hear only through the gift of God. Knowledge of God, trust, and obedience are themselves gifts of grace, at the same time as they are matters of human choice and response.  In some sense, therefore, however mysterious, the persistent and wholly culpable failure of Israel to make the right response to God and to live accordingly was indeed because the gift was not yet fully given.  Thus, the words of Moses on the boundary of the promised land gather eschatological force as they echo through later generations, until they are eventually taken up into more explicit prophetic visions of the day when God would indeed “give” the people hearts to know and obey, in the context of not merely a renewed covenant, but a new covenant altogether (cf. Jer 24:6f.; 31:33; Ezek 11:19f.; 36:26-28).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 286)
  • (v. 10) As the leaders entered into the covenant, the people would follow. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 293)
  • (vss. 10-11) The social inclusiveness of the covenant is spelled out in remarkable detail by listing a whole variety of people in the community, all of whom are included in the covenant relationship, from national leaders to the most menial laborers, women, children, and men, aliens and native born (vv. 10f.; cf. 31:12). No caste system in Israel excludes the lowest social groups from participation and blessing.  The woodchopper is no less a member of the covenant community than the king.  No matter who stands before whom in daily life, all find themselves standing in the presence of the LORD, a radically leveling posture.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 287)
  • (v. 11)The reference to outsiders as those “who chop your wood and carry your water” involves a stereotypical pair, which is shorthand for aliens engaged in all kinds of menial labor. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 678)
  • (v. 11) He, too, was invited to enter into this covenant (31:12; cf. Josh 8:35). He was, after all, protected by its laws (1:16; 24:14, 17; 27:19), granted a Sabbath rest like everyone else (5:14), and a recipient of Deuteronomy’s mandated benevolences (10:18-19; 14:29; 16:11, 14; 24:19-20; 26:11-13).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 806)
  • (v. 12) Hebrew is lit. “for your passing over into the covenant,” where reference is probably to people passing between the severed parts of the animal (Jer 34:18). Covenant-making is a rite of passage.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 807)
  • (v. 18) A proverb meaning “everyone” or “everything,” here taking in the innocent with the guilty or the good with the bad. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 810)
  • (v. 21) Again Yahweh promises judgment on the guilty person, who must not imagine he will escape if the rest of the community is innocent.  If the guilty one is unknown, the process of separating him out first by tribe, then by family, then by household, and then by individual will likely be carried out by lot, as appears to have been used later in identifying Achan as the culprit who violated the holy war ban (Joshua 7).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 811)
  • (v. 22) In modern times, children in Germany have asked their parents and others of the older generation why their country came to ruin as a result of World War II. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 811)
  • (v. 22) God delights in the earth’s fertility. He finds pleasure in fruits and flowers.  But His delight in the fruit of the soul is much greater.

Therefore, He blasts all the beauty and fertility of the Promised Land in order to produce fruits of holiness within His people.  People will see this land that once flowed with milk and honey and ask, “what happened?”  And the response will be “they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD” (v. 25).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 296)

  • (v. 24) Israel could become the means of the nations coming to know God because of the blessing that would accompany their obedience (28:10), or they could become “an object of scorn and ridicule to all the nations” because of the judgments that would befall them in their disobedience (28:37). This missiological understanding of the role of Israel in relation to God and the nations is also expressed in the powerful challenge of 4:5-8.  An obedient Israel will raise questions among the nations, questions about Israel’s God and the quality of Israel’s society.  In chapter 29 there is a kind of photographic negative of that picture in 4:5-8.  All the nations will still be asking questions, but the questions will now be triggered by disaster (v. 24).  Far from being a model of righteousness, Israel will join Sodom and Gomorrah as a model of deserved wrath and destruction (v. 23).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 288)


The question to be answered is . . . What is the purpose of God inspiring Moses to renew the covenant God had with Israel?


Answer: God wants Israel (as His bride) to be willing to renew their vows with Him.  He is hoping the reminder of their covenant with Him might cause them to realize just how blessed they are by being His bride.


The Word for the Day is . . . Renew


What is the purpose of this covenant renewal ceremony?:

I-  I DO recall all God has done for me.  (Dt 29:1-8; see also: Dt 5:15; 7:18; 8:2; 15:15; 16:12; 24:18, 22; Ps 78; 103; 105; 106; 107; Mk 8:18; Jude 1:17)


In Transjordan they had been given victory over two powerful attackers who might easily have overwhelmed them.  Verse 4 suggests that the Israelites tended to take pride in these achievements instead of crediting them to God.  The proper lesson to learn was that unless God kept covenant with them, they were doomed to weakness and loss and defeat; but this covenant depended on them (v. 9).  It is a feature of human nature to take the past for granted; things seen as miraculous at the time, soon seem commonplace in retrospect.  Besides which, prosperity easily promotes complacency.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 159)


Israel wore on their backs and feet proof of Yahweh’s faithfulness:  clothes and sandals that did not wear out.  Also, Israel had managed to survive without eating bread or drinking wine, since God had supplied the nation’s food and drink through miraculous means.  The Lord took such extraordinary measures so Israel might know that he was their God, yet they seemed not to grasp this fundamental issue.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 330)


They had enough evidence to show them that God was with them and for them.  They should have rejoiced over being God’s people.  Yet they behaved as if God had rejected them.  They continued with their grumblings.  Why?  They were not in an ideal situation yet.  They were in the wilderness; they did not have homes of their own and many of the things that people would have associated with prosperity.  They focused on the things they did not have and adopted an attitude of murmuring.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 603)


The hearts that learned the message from these events, namely, that Yahweh alone is God (cf. 4:35, 39; 7:9; 29:6b), are still capable of turning away and worshiping other gods (cf. vv. 18f.).  It is this perennial fickleness of human nature, even among the redeemed people of God, that generates the apparent contradiction between verses 2f. (your eyes have seen. . . with your own eyes you saw) and verse 4 (the LORD has not given you. . . eyes that see).  People can see the very works of God, hear the very voice of God, and yet still neither trust nor obey God.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 285)


The children of Israel had physically witnessed the direct blessings of God; yet they had not fully understood the implications of God’s saving acts.  Their natural eyes were not enough!  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 292)


29:2-4.  Moses constructed a clever word play that built on the relationship between physical and spiritual sight.  He first reminded Israel that their eyes had seen the wonders of God’s work in Egypt, work that had touched Pharaoh, all his officials, and all his land.  Their own eyes had viewed the spectacular and miraculous signs of Yahweh.

In spite of these visual feats, however, in a deeper sense Israel still lacked eyes that saw or ears that heard the personal meaning and application of God’s wonders.  The nation still needed the Lord to give the people a mind that understood.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 330)


The Israelites neither ate bread nor drank wine, the staple elements of sustenance, while homeless and wandering in the desert; but the Lord supplied their needs, nevertheless.  He provided them with manna and water–often in miraculous ways.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 180)


One of the great mistakes we’ve made in modern Christianity is approaching God deductively as an object of knowledge instead of approaching Him inductively as the cause of wonder.  So apologists try to prove that God is factual.  And He is.  But facts don’t awe us.  In my humble opinion, it takes far more faith to believe in macroevolution by random chance than creation by intelligent design.  But it’s about more than just arguing the evidence.  God is more than factual.  He is wonderful.  The mind is educated with facts, but the soul is educated with beauty and mystery.  And the curriculum is creation.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 53)


Verse 4 is difficult, but retaining the word order of the Hebrew may help:  “But the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear, until this day.”  Following the reference to the understanding “mind,” “eyes” and “ears” denote mental capacities of perception and understanding.  Whereas the exodus generation as a whole did not grasp the revelatory, redemptive, and covenantal significance of Yahweh’s pastoral addresses Yahweh has given Israel a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear.  The covenant renewal ceremony that follows and Moses’ statements in 30:11-14 assume this knowledge.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 676)


Whereas Moses had previously highlighted the deprivation of food and the provision of manna as a test, now he declares that the test served a revelatory purpose as well.  Like the great acts of the exodus (4:32-40), it proved that he is Yahweh, their God.  Instead of bread, wine, and other alcoholic beverages (staple products of agricultural effort), Yahweh had sustained them with manna and water.  Apparently the desert deprivations were to accomplish in the exodus generation what Yahweh’s miraculous saving actions had failed to achieve.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 676)


Many of those in front of Moses had not been in Egypt; they were born in the desert.  However, many of them were under the age of twenty at Kadesh, two years after leaving Egypt, and were eighteen years of age or younger at the time of the Exodus (they were now thirty-nine to fifty-six years old).  These had seen the “miraculous signs and great wonders” (v. 3; 4:34; 7:19) that the Lord had loosed on the Egyptians during the plagues, though the youngest of them would have no memory of what happened when they were infants.  Moses’ message, however, was directed to the nation.  The community had been in Egypt and had seen the wonderful things that the Lord had done for them.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 179)


The Lord’s covenant with his people wasn’t a religious “hand-me-down,” something the next generation inherited automatically, without thinking.  God is faithful to his promise and extends his blessing to each new generation, but each generation needs to accept the Savior’s blessings in faith for itself.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was no doubt talking about something else, but what he said would apply to Israel and to Christianity:  “What from your fathers’ heritage is lent, earn it anew, to really possess it!”  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 278)


“When you reached this place” refers to the area immediately north of the Arnon, an area controlled by Sihon the Amorite king (2:24-37) who had won it in warfare with Moab (Nm 21:26); so the plains of Moab were in Amorite hands until Moses conquered that area.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 180)


II-  I DO renew my commitment to God for more revelation.  (Dt 29:9-15; see also: Prv 3:5-6; Jn 9; Acts 5:32; 26:17-18)


We do not need to see greater miracles to trust and obey God; we need to trust and obey God to see greater miracles.  A person with a disobedient heart draws the curtains of his soul until he sees no light; an obedient-hearted person opens up the windows of his soul and is awed by the greatness of God.  Light is appropriated as we obey and apply God’s truth in our lives.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 293)


For Israel to truly “hear” with their whole being they needed to keep the covenant, but they had not done so.  Only faithful obedience to the Lord and his covenant could open an epistemological channel leading to God’s giving them an understanding mind (cf. 6:4).  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 512)


Renewing our covenant with God is an excellent aid to coming back to the path of obedience, of reaffirming that we are going to be serious about being careful to follow God’s will in all we do.  However, a simple prayer or rededication may not have the desired effect, because wrong habits may be ingrained into our behavior patterns.  So the Bible describes a more elaborate ritual of commitment to burn into our hearts the full implications of the recommitment we are making.  When this is done as a community, there is the added incentive of community solidarity to help us stick to the commitments we made.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 602)


The best situation possible for the people was their commitment to the Lord as God.  No higher and more satisfactory state was conceivable than that of obedient Israel under the covenant-treaty with the Lord.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 180)


Yes, it is difficult to love your spouse.  But if you truly want to love God, look right now at the ring on your left hand, commit yourself to exploring anew what that ring represents, and love passionately, crazily, enduringly the fleshly person who put it there.

It just may be one of the most spiritual things you can do.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 51)


Sacrificial love has transforming power. Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional.  The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love.  This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present. It if is, so much the better; but if it isn’t, the commitment to love, the will to love, still stands and is still exercised.  Conversely, it is not only possible but necessary for a loving person to avoid acting on feelings of love.  I may meet a woman who strongly attracts me, whom I feel like loving, but because it would be destructive to my marriage to have an affair, I will say vocally or in the silence of my heart, “I feel like loving you, but I am not going to.”  My feelings of love may be unbounded, but my capacity to be loving is limited.  I therefore must choose the person on whom to focus my capacity to love, toward whom to direct my will to love.  True love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed.  It is a committed, thoughtful decision.  —Dr. M. Scott Peck.


When Moses said that the Lord had not given the Israelites the realization of his intervention in the experiences of their history, he did not deny that they had knowledge of his part in the action; rather, he was asserting that the ultimate directive and operative power in all their national life–including immediate needs–was the Lord himself.  This, he said, they had not yet fully realized.  Only by a total commitment to the Lord in the covenant-treaty and by a grasp of all that meant in every aspect of their life and in their relationships with the rest of the nations of the world would that understanding be produced.  Consequently, Moses gave a review of some of God’s providences as a basis for his final exhortation to induce their total commitment.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 179-80)


Notice the urgency with which Moses appeals to them.  Three times the word “today” is used to encourage them to make an immediate response (vv. 10, 12, 13), “that He may establish you today as a people for Himself” (v. 13).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 293)


Someone said “Claiming God’s promises is the heart of our prayer life.  We simply take back to God His Word (promise)–what He said He would do.”  In other words, we don’t have to try to twist His arm and persuade Him to do something He’s not inclined to do.  We don’t have to feel like God probably doesn’t want to do “this or that” for me, but I will ask Him anyway.  GOD SAYS HIS PROMISES ARE YEA AND AMEN!  It brings great joy to His heart when His children come to Him and say “Please fulfill this promise in my life” and then persist and persevere in claiming it UNTIL it is fulfilled.  How many times have we wasted a promise and not seen it fulfilled because our faith wavers or we become apathetic in our prayer life.  (Sharon Titus, “Spiritual Warfare 101″ study)


When God is left out of it, life can become incredibly dull.  By contrast, new horizons and possibilities present themselves to those who can see spiritually.  Jesus told his disciples, “Open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest” (Jn 4:35).  Once spiritually dull eyes have been made to see, the world becomes a stage upon which God’s purposes are acted out.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 334)


There was no elitism about the covenant.  Verses 14-15 even draw attention to those who could not attend; by this, the writer means later generations.  So nobody was to escape from the obligations of the covenant.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 159)


14-15 [13-14].  The extension of the validity of the covenant to “those who are not here with us today” (15[14]) presumably draws in the generations yet to come (cf. 29:11[10], 30:2, 6, 19), in keeping with the concept that covenants are in principle re-realizable in perpetuity, established in 5:2-3.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 416)


The motivation has a lot to do with the level of commitment. — Curtis Turner 6/8/11


III-  I DO revisit my war against rival affections (other gods) – especially my pride; for they keep me from God’s mercies. (Dt 29:16-28; see also: Dt 13:1-19; Jer 7:8-10;  Mt 6:23-24; Lk 16:13; 1 Tm 6:6-19; Heb 6:4-8; 2 Pt 2:1; 3:9, 16-17)


The most dangerous enemy you and I have, fighting against our relationship with Jesus Christ, may not be a godless world or Satan and his evil angels.  Our greatest spiritual enemy is our own sinful nature–the unconverted rebel whose heart still beats inside me!  As one of the characters in Al Capp’s famous comic strip Pogo put it, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 280)


That “the LORD will never be willing to forgive” (v. 20) the apostate does not properly contrast with the NT statement of 2 Pt 3:9, that God does not want “anyone to perish”; so some suppose a difference between the God of the OT and the God of the NT.  Moses’ declaration is reaffirmed in Heb 6:4-8 and in 2 Pt 2 and 3:16-17 as well as elsewhere.  The Petrine Epistles indicate that there are grounds on which God’s forgiveness rests.  He is not willing to forgive anyone in rebellion against him, whether under the OT or the NT.  His love reaches out to all, but those who reject that love have recourse to no other means to save themselves from the dire consequences of apostasy.  Such apostasy includes the severance of the apostate from the source of forgiveness.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 183)


The people saw the idols of Egypt, and they were in evidence in all places where they have been since.  One bitter entanglement came in the romp with daughters of Moab at Beth-peor.   A single covenant violater–man or woman–is enough to poison the whole community, and such a one must not think he can bless himself while persisting in idolatrous worship, for this would result in a sweeping away of the good with the bad.  The same goes for single families or single tribes.  Yahweh will not pardon the offenders, and the curses written in the present book wait to fall upon them, with dire consequences.  The worst scenario would be if the larger community does not act to rid itself of ruin.  The fate of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim is recalled.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 814)


Sinners still possess the frightening ability to say “No!” to the grace of God; we’re capable of forfeiting our Savior’s blessings by willful rejection or by creeping indifference.  Peter warned about false teachers who would “secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (2 Pt 2:1).  Stephen lamented that generation after generation of Israel “always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51).  On the Tuesday before he died Jesus wept over the city that would crucify him, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Mt 23:37).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 279)


This transgressor imagines that although all others may be detected, he will escape.  Because human magistrates and witnesses may not discover his crime, he concludes that God will not either.  In fact, he leaves God out of his calculation; he lays his plans and carries them out as if there were no God.  He expects to receive blessings in spite of his wicked course.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 295)


This person is claiming that it is not necessary to obey the laws of the covenant and that no harm will come because of this.  Such people can have a huge impact because of the attractiveness of sin and a relaxed attitude toward rules.  Why carry out this huge battle against temptation when there is no harm done by giving in to it?  The statement “blesses himself in his heart” is an expression of pride.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 608)


When people insist on righteousness in morality, some protest, saying that this is incompatible with the value of inclusiveness.  In such an environment those who peddle the attractiveness of disobedience to God’s Law may seem very powerful.  We must not be rattled by the falsely confident moral high ground that advocates of moral relativism are projecting today.  Their power and confidence are fleeting, and they are headed for a terrible downfall.  The smiles and the attractive mirage of wholesomeness that they project in the media hide the sordid confusion their lifestyles create.  We must not be fooled.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 610)


The paradigmatic sin is, as always, idolatry (26[25]).  The idea that Yahweh had not “allotted” the other gods to Israel recalls 4:19, where the idea made a rhetorical contrast with Yahweh’s election of Israel for himself (see discussion there).  It also reminds the reader of 28:64, where the serving of other gods was part of the punishment of exile.  There, too, the gods were gods “they had not known.”  The thought is that they have abandoned their relationship with Yahweh, and the life and well-being that came with it, for the futile gods that have brought them only death and deprivation.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 418)


18[19].  The problem is with people who hear the curse but continue thinking they are blessed despite idolatrous behavior (cf. Jer 7:8-10).  Such individuals can infect the whole, and if they are not dealt with, the good will end up being swept away with the bad (Dt 13:2-19[1-18]).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 809)


The trouble is, of course, that idolatry only tempts people because its enticements initially outweigh its wretchedness and cost, a lesson always learned too late.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 287)


In pursuing the guilty it is said that the LORD will not “forgive” them (20[19]).  The word “forgive” appears only here in Deuteronomy.  It occurs a number of times in Kings and Jeremiah, and applies to the whole people in relation to their sins of idolatry.  The LORD “refused to forgive” (same phrase as here) Manasseh (2 Kgs 24:4) and so brought the punishment of exile on Judah; but he promised forgiveness for his people in the end (Jer 31:34; cf. 1 Kgs 8:30, 34, 36, 39 and esp. v. 50).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 417)


During the assault–we must persevere in “thought capturing.”  God will not let it go on for any longer than HE HAS DESIGNED.  HE IS IN CONTROL HERE AND NOT THE ENEMY.  While we STAND we continue to take EVERY THOUGHT captive.  The enemy will continue to hurl everything at us to break through our wall of resistance.  If one should get by us–and we begin to feel a downward pull in our spirit, we at once find the thought, grab it the minute we recognize it and say “NO!”  “I WON’T HAVE THIS.”  And we replace it–refuse to think on it, with PRAISE AND A PROMISE.  (Sharon Titus, “Spiritual Warfare 101″ study)


If a bridegroom on his wedding night sat down to negotiate terms of infidelity—“OK, you’ve guaranteed the future by promising to stick with me regardless.  Just how far can I go with other women?  Can I hug them?  Kiss them?  Go to bed with them?  How often?  How many?—we would call such a husband a fraud, a pathologically sick man.  If he approaches marriage that way, he will never learn the meaning of true love.  And if a Christian approaches forgiveness the same way—“Let’s see, God has promised forgiveness in advance.  What can I get away with?  How far can I push it?” —that Christian will end up equally impoverished.  Paul’s response says it all: “God forbid!” (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, p. 186)


IV-  I DO reaffirm that God gives me all the light I need to show my love and trust for Him by my obedience.  (Dt 29:29; see also: Isa 55:8-9; Mt 6:23; Jn 20:30-31; Acts 5:32; Rom 10:17)


Demanding and seeking understanding before obedience is wanting a relationship with God on our terms, not the other way around.  (Rosaria Butterfield message “Repentance and Renewal” – Ligonier Ministries)


The purpose of God’s revelation is not to gratify our curiosity but to secure our obedience.  It is not speculative, but practical. Moses expects obedience to God from the people and reminds them that the law was given not only that the Israelites might know what is right, but that they might also do what is right.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 296)


Seeing is not believing, but believing is seeing.  What you believe determines the meaning of what you see.  The disciples saw a resurrected body when Christ rose from the dead, but they believed they saw a ghost because they believed in ghosts, but not in the resurrection.  (Stuart Briscoll.; 11/20/97 broadcast on WBCL)


To the one with faith, no explanation is necessary.  To the one with no faith, no explanation is possible.  —Thomas Aquinas


Some matters are always “secret things.”  The first lesson in this is humility, and the frank recognition of our limitations.  Another lesson is reassurance, because the hidden future belongs to the Lord, who is not some impersonal fate but our God.  The man with a serene faith in God does not need to know what tomorrow will bring; tomorrow is in the hands of a loving Father.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 162)


The “secret things” of God were never meant to be a goal to pursue or a fact to discover.   Instead, I believe, they were meant to humble us and rebuke us and remind us how small, stupid, ignorant, and limited we are compared to God.  Therefore we are encouraged to follow, trust and love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength; not based upon the “secret things” of God that we don’t understand; but based upon the clear teaching of God that is sometimes rebukingly all too clear.   — Pastor Keith


God hasn’t told us everything we might like to know, but he has revealed everything we need to know.  Even in Scripture he hasn’t answered every question we might ask, or satisfied our every curiosity.  The Apostle John remarked near the end of his gospel, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:30, 31).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 282-3)


A few years ago I read something rather random, but I’ve never forgotten it:  “Dynamic properties are not revealed in the static state.”  Too many of us try to understand truth in the static state.  We want to understand it without doing anything about it, but it doesn’t work that way.  You want to understand it?  Then obey it.  Obedience will open the eyes of your understanding far more than any commentary or concordance could.  I think many of us doubt Scripture simply because we haven’t done it.  The way you master a text isn’t by studying it.  The way you master a text is by submitting to it.  You have to let it master you.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 80-1)


Yet by saying, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God,” Moses is saying there are some things we do not know, things that God has chosen not to reveal to us, as they are not necessary for the main purpose of God’s revelation–to lead us to know and obey God.  Among those things are the details of what God is going to do in the future.  Much has been said about the end times in the Bible, but the purpose of that revelation is to help us to be obedient to God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 611)


Commentators have interpreted the “secret things” reserved by/for Yahweh variously as hidden sins, the oral Torah, wisdom, or the mystery of divine providence.  The last suggestion offers the most promise.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 693)


The door of life is a door of mystery. It becomes slightly shorter than the one who wishes to enter it. And thus only he who bows in humility can cross its threshold.


God alone knows what will happen in the future history of God’s people.  The future is not a matter of blind fate, nor of inevitability.  The threats of the previous verses still function as a warning that may yet be avoided.  So leave the unknown future to God and concentrate on the things revealed, namely, God’s known law that can be obeyed.  If, on the other hand, the verse is linked to what follows, and especially to 30:11-14, then it is part of the affirmation that God’s law is clear and accessible.  There may be much that remains hidden from our understanding (a characteristic Wisdom viewpoint), but God has revealed all that is needed for us to know and obey God.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 293)


So God knows all things, and human knowledge in comparison is severely limited.  But people do have the revelation of God in his Word, and to that they should give obedient attention.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 185)


We see what we’re looking for.  Or to put it another way, if we aren’t looking for it, we won’t see it.  That is why naturalists miss the miracles that are all around them all the time.  They don’t have a cognitive category for the supernatural, so they explain away what they cannot explain.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 64)


Adam was faced with mystery, “secret things” (Dt 29:29) which he could not know.  Even the perfect man was unable to put every aspect of his knowledge together in a neatly closed package; there were necessarily loose ends in his thinking, humanly unsolvable difficulties and paradoxes.  As great as these mysteries may have been, man’s knowledge was not thereby disqualified nor was certainty ruled out.  Adam’s certainty rested on the revelation of God, not on his own ability to know apart from God.  (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 22)

Faith is not knowledge of what the mystery of the universe is, but the conviction that there is a mystery, and that it is greater than us. (Rabbi David Wolpe, Making Loss Matter)


If people ask, “Why did God make evil?” the proper reply is that everything God made is good.  Only unmaking can produce evil.  If the further question is asked, “Why had goodness to be of such a kind that it could be parodied by evil?” the only reply is that it is a mystery.  That is the kind of world we live in.  Just as ours is a world where three-legged men with eyes in their shoulder-blades are inconceivable, so a world where goodness is unpervertable is inconceivable.

The Christian must always be ready to accept that there are unfathomable mysteries.  There are bound to be where there is an unfathomably omnipotent and mysterious God.  St. Augustine tells of a questioner who asked, “What was God about before he made the world?” and was answered, “He was making hell for those who pry into his mysteries.”  (Harry Blamires; On Christian Truth, 77-80)


The quest for the lost soul of Christianity always leads us back to the Bible.  But rediscovering the wonders of Scripture requires more than reading.  That’s where the quest begins, but that’s not where it ends.  Not if you want to get it into your soul.  You have to meditate on it.  Then you have to live it out.  Meditating on it turns one-dimensional knowledge into two-dimensional understanding.  Living it out turns two-dimensional understanding into three-dimensional obedience.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 72)


According to Dt 29:29, the purpose of God’s revelation is “that we may do all the words of this law.”  God has given us enough knowledge to help us live an obedient life.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 611)


They are not conducting an investigation, they are mounting an opposition.” (Alister Begg, “The Authority of Jesus”)


The revealed Word of God is what spurs us on to obedience.  We must be careful to avoid delving too much into areas about which God has chosen not to inform us.  A renewal of prophetic frenzy is not the same as the renewal of the church.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 613)


Our knowledge is not complete, but it is sufficient for obedience.  That knowledge comes from revelation, and it is for us “forever.”  The Word of God will never change; it will always be relevant.  The eternity of the Word is a theme that appears several times in the Bible.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 611)


God of course kept many things secret from ancient Israel, but his will was expressed perfectly clearly and plainly, embodied in the many laws set out in Deuteronomy.  God’s will was no secret.  So the Israelites’ eyes were directed not towards tomorrow’s surprises, but towards today’s responsibilities.  The Christian is not subject to the law code of Deuteronomy, but he too finds God’s will fully laid out, in the pages of the NT.  The psalmist rightly acknowledged that “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105): the future may be dark and hidden, but we carry a torch as we move forward into it.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 162-3)


How could God’s severe discipline be brought into line with his promise of future blessings and his oaths to the patriarchs?  This was not a question that Yahweh was choosing to answer for the present.  Such matters would remain a secret.  All Israel needed to know at the moment was that the terms of the covenant, the things revealed, belonged to them and their children.  God was urging them to follow all the words of the law.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 333)


Mystery is created when key facts are hidden from the viewer.  What the writer/director/creator does at the end is pull back the curtain and show us the things that had previously been hidden.  So the mystery gets solved and our questions get answered.  But the Bible has an entirely different understanding of mystery.  True mystery, the kind of mystery rooted in the infinite nature of God, gives us answers that actually plunge us into even more…questions.  (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis Repainting the Christian Faith, 32)


One of the greatest “theologians” of our time, Sean Penn, put it this way:  “When everything gets answered, it’s fake.  The mystery is the truth.”  (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis Repainting the Christian Faith, 33)


George Washington Carver, the scientist who achieved wonders with the humble peanut, used to tell this story:  “When I was young I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’  But God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for me alone.’ So I said, ‘Then God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’  And God said, ‘George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And so He told me.”



Worship Point: Your ability to truly worship will be in direct proportion to your keeping your promise with God and your willingness to accept that God is mysterious and far above your ability to comprehend.


If there is no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile.  There will be no worship without the Spirit.

If God can be understood and comprehended by any of our human means, then I cannot worship Him.  One thing is sure.  I will never bend my knees and say “Holy, holy, holy” to that which I have been able to decipher and figure out in my own mind!  That which I can explain will never bring me to the place of awe.  It can never fill me with astonishment or wonder or admiration.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 85)


Therefore we ought to be so disposed in mind and speech that we neither think nor say anything concerning God and his mysteries, without reverence and much soberness.  (John Calvin; Institutes, 2.8.22)


Spiritual blindness dulls a person in every area of life.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 333)


Gospel Application:  We’re all in deep doo-doo.  We are all guilty of breaking our covenant with God.  Daily renewal vows or ceremonies will never be enough to remove our need for a Savior.  Only Jesus can save us from our sinful selves.  (Jn 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom 3:23; 6:23; 11:33-36; 16:25-27)


Actually God is so great and holy that the closer we get to him, the more we see our own unholiness.  As we join in rituals of renewal, we all confess our need for more of God.  The moment we stop having this sense of being needy, we stop growing.  The former chaplain to the United States Senate, Richard C. Halverson, once said that the growing edge of the Christian life is need.  When we come to renew our covenant with God, we all come as people needing desperately to live faithful lives.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 606)


Before God we are all needy people, always needing renewal.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 606)


In every instance in which Yahweh’s anger is in view, the theme is fundamental breach of the covenant.  This explains the heightening of the topic at the point at which Israel solemnly agrees to accept the consequences of entering the covenant.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 418)


There is, however, a limit and term to his anger.  We shall see this in the next chapter (ch. 30).  It is also in 1 Kgs 8, which makes implicit allusions to the present text, while shifting the focus to salvation.  In Hos 11:9, one of the profoundest sayings in the OT, Yahweh declares that he will no longer act in anger against Ephraim (Israel), or come again in wrath–because he is God and not man.”  And in Jeremiah, the so-called Book of Consolation (Jer 30-33) brings wrath sayings into stark juxtaposition with salvation sayings (30:24; 31:1-6).  There are pointers in these paradoxes to the cross, where God’s wrath and mercy meet, with the triumph, at last, of mercy.  The story of his anger, however, with all the emotive quality of the language, is meant to say that the triumph of mercy is no light thing.  God’s hostility to evil is constant.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 420)


The fact is, I need God to help me love God.  And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans.  Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)


Spiritual Challenge:  The covenant renewal ceremony was intended to remind Israel of how much they have failed to keep their end of the covenant with God and to allow them to once again realize their desperate need of God’s grace.  Allow this message to do the same.


So What?:  By virtue of being created by God we are all in covenant with God.  And as covenant breakers we all deserve being destroyed.  But, God in His grace and mercy is willing to forgive our act of cosmic treason against Him if we simply say we are sorry, repent and love Him.


A person in the condition described in verse 19 is not seeking forgiveness, nor is he entitled to it.  Later in the same chapter of 2 Peter, the apostle describes those who twist Paul’s letters: “[Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters.  His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pt 3:16).  In both testaments, the repentant and contrite person will always find mercy before the Lord (Ps 34:18; 51:17).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 335)




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