A People Blessed ForeverDeuteronomy 28
P.G. Mathew | Sunday, May 30, 2004
Copyright © 2004, P.G. Mathew
Deuteronomy is the third most often quoted book in the New Testament, next only to the Psalms and the prophecy of Isaiah. It is a covenant document which discloses to us the Lord’s desire to bless his chosen people as they live in relationship with him. At the heart of this covenant of grace is God’s great declaration: “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” There is no greater blessing than that-God being our God, and we being his people.
Our God is a God who blesses us, and as true believers in Jesus Christ, the Lord of the new covenant, we are forever blessed. God’s blessing is not temporary; it is forever, and no one is able to change it. This truth was revealed by God in the Old Testament when he told the prophet Balaam, “You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed” (Numbers 22:12). If we are blessed by God, we cannot be cursed. Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord; thus, we are blessed forever.
The Structure of the Covenant
Professor Meredith Kline, formerly of Westminster Seminary, has described the covenant structure of Deuteronomy as being similar to the suzerainty treaties of the mid-second millennium B.C.
The first five verses of chapter 1 compose a preamble. It speaks of the covenant mediator, which in Deuteronomy is Moses, the earthly representative of the heavenly Lord of the covenant.
The remainder of chapter 1 through the end of chapter 4 constitutes the historical prologue. This portion speaks about the history of the covenant with his people-the previous relationship the Lord had with us, his vassals. Another example of this can be found in Exodus 20:2. First, the covenant mediator is identified in the preamble: “I am the Lord your God,” then the historical prologue tells what the Lord did to his vassals in history: “who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” In other words, the Ten Commandments were given to a people who had been redeemed by their covenant Lord.
The main body of Deuteronomy, chapters 5 through 26, consists of stipulations. This section describes the nature of the covenant life-what type of life we are to live in relationship to the covenant Lord. It demands from us, the Lord’s vassals, absolute loyalty and obedience to our great Sovereign, that we may live under his blessing.
The fourth section, chapters 27 through 30, is comprised of sanctions-blessing and curses. When we love our Sovereign Lord and exhibit that love by obeying his commands, he blesses us. But when we disobey our covenant Lord, he curses us.
Finally, chapters 31 through 34 speaks about the dynastic dispositions, or continuity, of the covenant. The covenant is binding for generations of vassals to come, one generation after another. The mediator of the covenant also changes, from Moses to Joshua and so on, until finally we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
1. Based on grace, not merit.
At no time are the blessings of the covenant based on any legal merit on the part of the vassals; rather, they are based solely on God’s grace to us. Some people believe that in the Old Testament people had to obey God to be blessed, but in the New Testament we will be blessed without obedience. Such thinking, however, is false. What is the truth about God blessing us? Is it something that we earned because of our good works? Absolutely not! God blessed us before time began, from all eternity, before we existed, and long before we ever loved him.
There are numerous scriptures that prove this point. Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Verse 4 then identifies one of the blessings that God has given us: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world. . . .” God did not bless us because we merited it; God blessed us in Jesus Christ in eternity before the creation of the world. Paul also speaks about this in 2 Timothy 1:9-10: “[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”
In time, God gave us existence; yet, because of Adam’s sin, we were born as rebels and enemies of God. But the Lord loved us even when we hated him. So the idea that somehow God looks down on us, sees that we are doing a good job at obeying him, and therefore chooses us and blesses us, is false. God must and does take the initiative in our salvation, a truth that Paul proclaims in Romans 5. In verse 6 he writes, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” We were ungodly, powerless to save ourselves. But Christ loved us and died for us. Paul continues, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (7-8). In verse 10 he concludes: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” So there it is. We were nothing but rebels-born sinners, practitioners of sin, haters of God-yet God loved us and cared for us.
Deuteronomy 7 also tells us that God did not bless us because of any inherent merit of ours: “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples” (v. 7). On what basis, then, did God bless us? “But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery” (v. 8). God delivered his people from their bondage in Egypt out of faithfulness to the covenant he made with Abraham, revealed to us in Genesis 15 and 17, and he delivers us also.
2. A work of God, not man.
Furthermore, this idea that we must obey God in order to receive his blessing is false because in our own strength we cannot obey God. We are rebels to the core; thus, God has to do something within us. He must change us, fundamentally and radically, and that is what he did. It was a monergistic, supernatural, miraculous work. So we love God only because he enabled us to do so; the credit goes to him alone. We love God because he first loved us; it cannot happen any other way.
In Deuteronomy 30:6 we read, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts.” Our problem is fundamentally a problem of the heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV). That is why we must never believe the assertion of modern man that he is by nature good. Man is not good; by nature, man is wicked, wretched, and sinful. Naí¯ve pacifists will say we do not have to go to war, for they do not understand human nature, but because we are fallen human beings, war is inevitable. In fact, in the Second World War, it was the most educated and cultured people-the sophisticated, scientifically minded people-who killed each other. Why does this happen? Because all people are born sinners who practice sin; thus, we not only hate God, but we hate each other as well.
Therefore, God himself must do something within us to enable us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And God promises in Deuteronomy 30:6 that he will take such action: “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants.” This is speaking about making a covenant, not only with one person or one group of people, but with our children and children’s children, until the Lord comes. When the Philippian jailer fell trembling at Paul’s feet and cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
Yes, God does something, and this monergistic, miraculous, supernatural, radical act is called “circumcision of the heart.” In other words, he gives us a clean heart, a new heart, a willing heart-one that wills to do the will of God. This is the Lord’s doing, so that we may love him with all our heart and soul so that we may live. Deuteronomy 23:5 says, “However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you.” We were a cursed people, but the Lord turned our curse into a blessing. How did this happen? When God regenerated us, he gave us a new heart, a new nature, and a new understanding, such that we now delight in the law of God. Psalm 1:2 declares this glorious truth: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Now we are filled with wisdom, we understand the will of God, and we do the will of God from our heart.
Regeneration is the most important experience we can have. Without regeneration, there will be no authentic repentance. Without regeneration, there will be no saving faith. Without regeneration, we shall not love God and obey his law. Without regeneration, we shall never believe in Jesus Christ or follow him. Without regeneration, we shall never confess our covenant oath consisting in two words: “Iêsous Kurios, Jesus Lord.”
But if we do love God and pray to him and keep his commandments, it is because God has given us a new nature through the miracle of regeneration. If we do any good works, however imperfectly, it is because God is causing us to do them, and to him belongs all praise.
3. Blessing results in obedience; obedience results in blessing.
We want to say again that the idea that in the Old Testament people had to obey in order to be blessed but in the New Testament we will be blessed without obedience is a total misunderstanding of the Scriptures. If God has saved us, then we will obey him, and that obedience results in material and spiritual blessing. God blesses us now as we obey him. Not only do we need material blessing for our physical body, but we also need spiritual blessing for our soul. And the greatest blessing is everlasting fellowship with God, which is eternal life.
The Longing Heart of the Covenant Lord
The book of Deuteronomy repeatedly expresses God’s great yearning and intense longing to bless his people and their descendants for generations to come. Deuteronomy 4:40 says, “Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today”-and notice the purpose of it-“so that it may go well with you. . . .” That is the yearning of the heart of God. He longs to bless us more than we are eager to receive his blessing. Never think God is reluctant to bless you.
God is interested not only in us, but also in our children, and he wants to bless them, too. Father and mother, you will die. But this God lives forever to take care of your children, their children, and their children’s children. Thus we are exhorted, “Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.” The blessing of God is a gift; it is for our entire family, and it is for all eternity.
This desire of God is expressed throughout the book of Deuteronomy. In 5:29 the Lord declares, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” Chapter 6 begins: “These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” Verse 18 of chapter 6 says, “Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers,” on a covenant basis. And verse 24 says, “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.”
What is the point of all these verses? That the God of heaven wants us to be blessed. He tells us in Deuteronomy 30:19: “I set before you life and death, blessings and curses.” Then he implores us, “Choose life!” Choose life! Choose life! That is the longing of God’s heart for us.
When we think about these things, it is a wonder that people run after other gods, for such “gods” can do nothing. Read Psalms 115 and 135, or chapters 40, 41 and 42 of Isaiah, where we see God mocking idols as nothing. But while idols are nothing, behind idols are demons, as we are told in Deuteronomy 32:16-17: “They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God-gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear.”
Idolatry is demon worship. So we must ask the questions: Do Satan and his demons do anything good? Do they create? Do they produce? Do they maintain? No, they can do none of these things! They can only steal, kill, and destroy. Do not be deceived. If you are allured and tempted by the world, do not think that it will save you. Demons are vandalistic. Their purpose is to destroy all that is beautiful. That is all they can do. They will see you when you are in church, and say, “Hey, wait a minute. Let’s get this person to leave the church so that we can destroy him.” In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters we find a dramatic description of demons striving to seduce people.
But if the purpose of demons is only to destroy, why are people so enchanted by the world? What do they see in demons and in Satan? Let us be very honest: it is the deceitfulness and pleasures of sin. The world permits us to sin and enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. But that is all it will do for us. Idolatry is always destructive, not only to the individual, but also to the family and the nation.
Only Jesus saves. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). The triune God is the source of all blessing. The food we eat, and every other good thing we have, comes from the very hand of God. Even wicked idolaters are sustained by God, because it is his rain that comes down and causes bread to be on our table. God creates, maintains, and redeems. Idols are nothing. Demons do not create. Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Every person, even every wicked person, is provided for by the God of the Scriptures.
The Bible declares, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). There is a story in 2 Samuel 6 that illustrates how every blessing comes from our God. King David wanted to bring the ark, which symbolized God’s presence, to the city of David. But this transporting was not done in accordance with the Scriptures, so God became angry and killed Uzzah. David arranged to have the ark brought to the house of a man named Obed-Edom, and in verse 12 we read, “Now King David was told, ‘The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.'” God blessed Obed-Edom.
This story tells us something about a family that worships God in the home. Where God is worshiped, where God’s word is read and obeyed, and where decisions are made in accordance with God’s word, the blessings of God will be felt. God blessed Obed-Edom and all he had. God’s presence is the source of every blessing; thus, where God is pleased to dwell, there shall be a blessing.
The creation itself is a divine blessing. There was no necessity for God to create the world; it is a blessing given for us to enjoy. Likewise, God did not have to create or maintain you or me. But our God wants to bless all his creation. Additionally, he bestows upon his covenant people a special grace, giving them the highest blessing of redemption and adoption into his family as sons. They and they alone are blessed with eternal fellowship with God.
We, the people of God, are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ because we are brought into his home to have eternal fellowship with him. Nothing can destroy that. As his chosen people, we are blessed every day in every way. There is no time when we are not being blessed. We are blessed when we sleep and when we wake, when we go and when we come. And because we are a blessed people, no one can destroy us. Like Joseph of old, we are blessed when we are thrown into a pit, when we are sold as a slave to Potiphar, and when we are thrown into prison for committing no crime. We are blessed when people whom we blessed forget us, like the cupbearer forgot Joseph, even though Joseph interpreted his dream. We are blessed when called up by Pharaoh and appointed prime minister of Egypt. We are blessed because God is with us always-in our pit, in our persecution, and when we are slandered. We must always keep this in mind. It is Jesus Christ the covenant Lord who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He is with us, he is in us, and we are in him.
In Matthew 5:11-12 Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be [exceedingly] glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” In my pastoral life, I have never been persecuted by unbelievers. Persecution always comes from people who pretend to be people of God. It was true of Jesus Christ, and it was true of the apostles. They lie about you, slander you, and persecute you. What should you do? Rejoice, for you are blessed! No one can do anything against you. You are blessed by God forever-irreversibly and eternally. Therefore, rejoice and be exceedingly glad!
The Sanctions: Blessings
The twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy belongs to the section called “sanctions” in the covenant structure. There we see that covenant obedience is blessed, while covenant disobedience is cursed. The first fourteen verses speak of blessings while the remaining fifty-four verses speak of curses; thus, the section on curses is four times longer than the section on blessings. This is similar to the treaty of Esarhaddon, the Assyrian king of the seventh century, in which, out of six hundred and seventy-four lines of sanctions, two hundred and fifty spoke of blessing and four hundred and twenty-four lines spoke of curses. Why do you think the section on curses is longer? It is to provide a stronger stimulus for obedient behavior.
1. Words of life.
The first verse of chapter 28 speaks about the fundamental importance of God’s word in the Christian philosophy of life: “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today. . .” God’s words are spirit and life; therefore we must read God’s word, meditate on it, and delight in it. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” we are told in Colossians 3:16. In Deuteronomy 11:18-19 we are commanded, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” These verses emphasize the fundamental importance of the word of God to guide us in our daily life. Each step we take, we need direction from the divine word.
Deuteronomy 32:45-47 says, “When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them, ‘Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you-they are your life.'” You can hear idle words twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, if you watch television. It is all repetitious garbage, empty words and chatter, and human philosophy. (PGM) Not so the word of God! Rather, we are told, “‘They are not just idle words for you-they are your life. By them you will live long'”-that is, you will be blessed-“‘in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.'”
To neglect God’s word is to neglect life and blessing, and to court disaster. Our response to God’s word reflects our philosophy of life. Everyone thinks in a certain way; then they act out in that way. The Bible says, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV). So we are instructed here, as in Psalm 1, to delight ourselves in the word of God because it is life and the key to all blessings.
2. Blessings will accompany us.
We are told in verse 2, “All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you.” From where are these blessings coming? God himself sends them. Just as he sends his angels to minister, he sends blessings to his dear children, and these blessings will accompany us all the days of our life. David understood this, so he said in the last verse of Psalm 23, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
God’s blessings come to us at all times and in innumerable ways. We are surrounded by them. Verse 3 says, “You will be blessed in the city.” Are you living and working in the city? Don’t worry-the blessing from God will come into the city and be with you. Do you live in the country? Well, the blessing of God will find you in the country and bless you. It is the decree and will of God that you and I be blessed forever and daily.
Verse 4 that our children, “the fruit of your womb,” will be blessed. We must believe this promise. The covenant of God is with you and with your children and your children’s children. Go to God with that promise: “O God, bless my children.” Pray for the salvation of your children, and for their children’s children even now, because God has promised to bless them.
Not only that, verses 4 and 5 say God will bless whatever business we are in. It says God will bless our crops, our basket, and our kneading trough, which means he will provide us with everything that we need on a daily basis. The Lord Jesus taught us to pray in faith, “Give us this day our daily bread,” for it will come to us. The Bible says bread is for God’s children. In other words, we are the recipients not only of God’s common grace but also of his special grace. God’s blessing has come to us all these years, it will come to us today, and it will continue to come to us tomorrow, because we are a people forever blessed.
Verse 6 tells us we will be blessed in everything we do: “You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.” The idea of coming and going points to the comprehensiveness of God’s blessing. God will bless us in all our activities. Psalm 1 says of the child of God, “Whatever he does prospers.” What is the reason? Because he delights in the law of the Lord.
We are told in verse 7 that enemies will come at us, but will flee from us in seven directions. God is not saying that we will have no enemies, but he promises to defeat them. As we said, our greatest enemies are not the unbelievers of the world, but so-called Bible-believing Christians. They are the ones who crucified the Lord Jesus Christ and hounded the apostle Paul to his death. We will have enemies if you stand for truth. But the Bible says our enemies will be defeated.
Further blessing is found in verse 12, where we are told God will send rain from heaven. The Bible promises God will send both the spring and autumn rains to his obedient covenant people, that they may be provided for. What would happen if God refused to send rain from heaven? We could try praying to Baal, who is supposed to be the god of fertility, the god who causes rain to come. But Baal is a lie and can do nothing. God alone is sovereign. He controls the rain. And, praise be to God, he sends sufficient rain so the earth can produce crops and so animals and man can be fed. We have sufficiency of food because God sends down rain. Notice, he sends rain not only to his people, but to the wicked as well. His sun shines on all people; therefore, he sustains us all.
Verse 13 says, “The Lord will make you the head, not the tail.” God’s people will be the head. They will be at the top, not at the bottom. They will be first and not the last.
In verse 12 we read, “You will lend to many . . . but will borrow from none.” This is my life story. This does not refer to taking a loan on a house, which may be a shrewd move in this country where it can be written off. But in this church, we have never taken out a loan, and God has provided more than we need. We have been blessed, because our philosophy is the word of God-we delight in it and we operate on the basis of it.
The Basis of Blessing: God’s Covenant
Verses 9 and 10 gives us the key to the blessing promised here. Verse 9 says, “The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in his ways.” Notice, the basis of all blessing is God’s oath and the covenant which he initiated and established with us. Through that covenant, blessings flow to those who are obedient to him.
Verse 10 continues, “Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord.” That is an important idea-“called by the name of the Lord.” We see it many other times in the Scripture: “If my people, who are called by my name. . .” (2 Chronicles 7:14); “Why are you like a man taken by surprise, like a warrior powerless to save? You are among us, O Lord, and we bear your name; do not forsake us!” (Jeremiah 14:9); “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty” (Jeremiah 15:16).
What does it mean to bear God’s name or to be called by the name of the Lord? It means God owns us. We are his possession; we belong to him. The name of God is like a badge worn by his people. We bear his name because God in his infinite mercy called us by his name.
Several verses in the New Testament also speak of God’s ownership of us, for it is the heart of the covenant idea: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9); “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
God has redeemed us by paying the high price of the blood of Christ. If we are covenant people of God, he owns us and we are his. Western people do not like this idea. They want a God who will save them, but they also want complete autonomy and hate the idea of being a servant of the covenant Lord. This is nothing new. Samuel Bolton, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University in the seventeenth century, spoke against the antinomianism and libertinism of his day in a classic work calledThe True Bounds of Christian Freedom, published by Banner of Truth press.
When we said, “Iêsous Kurios, Jesus Lord,” we meant that he is our God and our Sovereign King. And this King has laws by which he governs his people. Oh, what a blessing it is to be possessed, not by demons, not by Satan, but by the triune God! That is what baptism symbolizes. When we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it means we belong to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And as the possession of the triune God, we come under his provision and his protection all of our life.
So we are a people called by God’s name, a holy people, loved by God from all eternity. He called us and brought us into his covenant of grace. If you belong to that covenant, everything will be all right, for the heart of the covenant is, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
That is the idea of being called by his name. God called us by his name and enabled us to call out to him in his name. And he recognizes us as his people. He would not say, “I never knew you; depart from me!” Having taken us for himself, he gave us the right to approach him and call upon him, and every time we call on him, he answers our prayers. The Bible says God answers prayers. It is he who told us to pray, and when we pray, he will hear us.
The Sanctions: Curses
But Deuteronomy 28 does not only speak about blessings; the last fifty-four verses of chapter 28 describe the curses for those who are disobedient and unfaithful to the covenant.
If people become unfaithful to this covenant Lord, they shall suffer consequences. We find these serious consequences not only in Deuteronomy, but also in the book of Leviticus. The first consequence is confusion. People may ask you, “How are you doing, brother?” “Well, I don’t know.” “How is everything going?” “Well, I don’t know.” “Where are you going in life?” “I don’t know.” “What are you going to do?” “I don’t know.” But how can someone follow Jesus Christ and say, “I don’t know”? God leads his children in his way. So confusion is a result of being unfaithful to God.
What are some other consequences? Sudden destruction. Wasting diseases. Famine. Defeat. Terror. We are experiencing terror now, isn’t that true? The Western countries, and this country especially, turned their backs on the Lord Jesus Christ. The Western nations exist because of God’s mercy to them, because their great-great forefathers sought the Lord. But now they have turned their backs on God. They hate Christianity and anyone who believes in the Bible. But God has a way of terrorizing us, and it is not going to go away.
Another consequence is restlessness. If you are restless, then maybe God is speaking to you about an area of disobedience. We cannot find rest in anything other than in Jesus Christ. He tells us, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” So if you are restless, perhaps you have abandoned God and have backslidden into autonomy.
God also warns that those who are unfaithful to his covenant will be enslaved, besieged in their cities, and will practice cannibalism, eating their own children. And, in fact, all these tragic things happened in history, as recorded in the book of Lamentations. We marvel that God would do things like that to his own people!
Finally, God says he will send his people into exile-he will throw them out from his own land. As we saw earlier, the secret of blessing is having God with us, for he is the source of all blessing. Thus, exile means being sent out from God’s presence and away from all blessing.
There Is Hope
What happens to God’s people who acted autonomously and experienced confusion, fear, restlessness, defeat, and exile. Is there any hope for people who have wandered away from God?
Yes, there is hope! It is revealed in chapter 30. God is faithful to his covenant, and he will have for himself a people who will love him and serve him. The Bible says not all Israel is Israel, but God will have a people who serve him in every generation.
I hope we will all pay close attention to this. Maybe God is speaking to you. Maybe you have sinned terribly. If so, let me present to you a God of hope, a God of compassion, one who is gracious and abounding in pardon, who forgives sins freely.
Deuteronomy 30:1-4 tells us, “When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God . . .” Right there we find hope. “Return” here means repent. It means to return from the far country of sin and misery, and to return to the land of God’s presence. It does not matter how much we have sinned; here God is saying we can repent and return. “When you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens” – the consequence for the worst possible sin we can commit – “from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.”
In the Bible we read, “Turn us again, O Lord . . . and we shall be saved” (Psalm 80:19 KJV). You see, we will not turn and return and repent unless God causes us to do so. We are told that the prodigal son “came to himself.” Well, it was God who made him come to his senses and caused the prodigal to say, “I will arise and I will go.” It is God who draws us and causes us to come. He takes the initiative. And when he draws us, we come. Such is the irresistible grace of God.
So, notice, even if you are in the farthest place from God in your sin, “from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers” (v. 5).
How does he do it? The answer is given in verse 6: “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts.” That is what we need. Sinners need a heart that is circumcised-a regenerated heart, a clean heart, a heart that is willing to will the will of God.
Look at Saul of Tarsus, the murderous exterminator of the Christian faith, who was breathing out slaughter and threatenings. After God arrested and changed him, he told Ananias, “Behold, he prayeth.” God is able to change us because he circumcises our hearts. He regenerates us and causes us to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. And when this happens, we will arise and go and meet with our God who is eager to receive us and forgive all our sins. There is celebration and festivity-music and dancing and singing and worshiping God. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” If God can save John Newton, he can save us.
Why do we return from the far country? Because God has worked in us. He recreates us, changing our mind, our philosophy, our interest. He gives us the desire to love him, so we get up and move toward him. So we read in verse 6, “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” (v. 6). And look at verse 9: “Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous.” This is amazing. Though we are terrible sinners, yet God brings us back by the mighty pull of the Holy Spirit, and makes us most prosperous. We are indeed a blessed people-a people forever blessed.
Are You Blessed?
What about you? Are you blessed? Do you have an interest in this covenant of grace? If not, call upon the name of the Lord. The Bible says if you confess with your mouth, “Iêsous Kurios, Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. God has made salvation so easy. The Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven to save us. You can come into this covenant blessing today, for God blesses through a covenant, and he is the Lord of the covenant.
If you have not confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord, do so today, and he will save you instantly. Connect yourself with the source of all blessings. Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your whole family. No one or no thing can make you happy. No money, position, or power can make anybody happy. It is a delusion to think that anything in this world can make a human being happy. The one who can make us happy is the Lord Jesus Christ, because he is able to bring us into relationship with the everlasting God.
To those who are already saved, I say: Rejoice! You are blessed. You have nothing to worry about. You are his and he is yours. “I am my beloved’s and he is mine, and his banner over me is love.” We do not need to be anxious about anything, because we are God’s responsibility, and he provides for us and protects us. We say with David, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall lack nothing.” We are a blessed people, blessed forever. We can never be cursed and destroyed. We are in God and he is in us, and he has given us the greatest of blessings, which is eternal life and eternal fellowship with him. In his presence there is fullness of joy, and on his right hand, pleasures forevermore. Amen.
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