Deuteronomy Chapters Twenty-Nine and Thirty
You may know the stirring story of the ’40 martyrs of Sebaste’ – Christian soldiers in Rome, who refused to call Caesar ‘Lord’. They were stripped of their protective coats and marched onto ice, guarded by soldiers till they died. While huddled together they sang of being ’40 soldiers for Christ’. Then one gave in and left the ice. Suddenly, one of the guards took off his own coat and joined the 39 – and they began to sing again,’40 soldiers for Christ’.
Decision has always been part of biblical ‘faith’ and in Deuteronomy 29-30, Moses calls on the people of Israel to make a decision and “choose life” (30:19). If you ask why he would ask God’s people to decide like this, it’s because they must personalise what they know – or affirm their own commitment to Yahweh. These ‘decision’ chapters (27-34) reach their climax here and every pastor knows that a call to dedicate or re-dedicate makes sense.
Moses points out an amazing thing – that though they had seen so much of God’s provision and protection in the past, they didn’t really see it at all (29:2-4). “You saw...but to this day the Lord has not given you...eyes that see”. In other words, great things had happened in front of them but they had not really (and still don’t) understand them. Now, as they stand in God’s “presence” (29:10), he wants them to “enter into a covenant with the Lord your God” (29:12).
Literally Moses wants them to ‘pass over into covenant’. As they passed over the Red Sea and would soon pass over the Jordan, he wants them to pass over from detachment to devotion, from nominalism to reality. He warns them against idols (29:16-18) and from playing games with God (29:19 – “I will be safe even if I go my own way”). Moses is quite an evangelist! Because if they don’t choose the Living God there will be disasters and they will become a byword to the nations (29:24ff).
Finally – in a magnificent text – Moses says “the secret things belong to the Lord...but the things revealed belong to us and our children” (29:29). This text is a great help in ministry – to distinguish what we don’t know from what we do. But here it means ‘you may not know everything, but you know enough to save yourselves and your loved ones’. What a text!
Chapter 30 then is full of tenderness. When you “return” to the Lord (says Moses), He will “restore” you (30:2-3). No matter how far you have gone (30:4). And He will change your hearts (30:6) too. Then Moses points out they don’t have to climb to heaven (30:12) or cross the seas (30:13) because the Word is right there (30:14). This is a vital text in the world today because so many religions have ladders to climb or pilgrimages to make in order to find some sort of answer. But God – like the Lord Jesus – has “come to seek and to save” (Luke 19:10). He has come down - and crossed the gulf - for His people.
No wonder Paul quotes these verses (30:11-14) in Romans 10:6-8, because God’s initiative is so great (and costly) we have only to “call on the Name of the Lord” to be saved (10:13).
Heavenly Father, Since you have decided to have a people, and since Jesus has crossed such a gulf, give us grace to respond in true faith and rejoice in your nearness. Amen.