But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see of ears to hear. – Deuteronomy 29:4 ESV
God had made His divine will known and knowable. He had made His rules, regulations and requirements easy to discern and non-debatable. It was all very black and white. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil” (Deuteronomy 30:15 ESV). The people of Israel had no excuse when it came to knowing what God expected of them. Moses told them, “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach” (Deuteronomy 30:11 NLT). The difficulty lie not in knowing God's commands, but in keeping them. The key to life was obvious: “Loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:20 ESV). But the resolve of the Israelites would prove insufficient for the task. Left to their own devices and dependent upon their own strength, they would eventually fail to live up to God's standards – not because they did not know them, but because they lacked the capacity to keep them. The giving of the law produced a stark contrast between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. Paul clarifies the role of the law in the lives of men: “For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me” (Romans 7:8-11 ESV). Without the giving of the law, the people of Israel would have been oblivious to God's holy and righteous expectations. They would have been ignorant of His divine standards. But Moses had made sure that the Israelites were up to speed with and fully aware of all that God expected of them. And His divine requirements would eventually expose their human deficiencies. They lacked the ability to remain faithful. Their hearts and minds would wander from God. They would knowingly disobey Him and prove unfaithful to Him. They were missing one thing – the key ingredient to living in faithfulness to God. “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
The book of Deuteronomy is all about the faithfulness of God, not the failure of man. The history of the people of Israel, as revealed in the book of Joshua and all through the chronicles of the kings, tells of a people who lacked the ability to remain faithful to their God. Their faithfulness is displayed in vivid detail on virtually every page. They are repeatedly referred to as a people with rebellious hearts. God calls them stiff-necked and stubborn. And all the dire warnings God had given them regarding what would happen if they proved disobedient would come true. They would end up driven from the land of promise. God would bring a foreign power to lay siege to their cities and bring destruction to the land. They would end up in captivity worshiping other gods and living in isolation from the one true God. And yet, despite their disobedience, God would once again prove His faithfulness. “Then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And the Lord your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6-11 ESV). The prophet Ezekiel spoke of a day when God would provide for His people the missing ingredient necessary for them to live in obedience and faithfulness to Him. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about man?
Knowing the expectations of God is not enough. Having a firm grasp on the holy requirements of God will never result in a life of holiness. A spiritual life requires the Holy Spirit. Human flesh is incapable of living spiritually, without the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other” (Galatians 5:17 ESV). In fact, “the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these” (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT). These very “works” were evidenced repeatedly in the lives of the Israelites long after they conquered the land of Canaan and settled in it. Their human nature produced fruit that was not in keeping with God's will. These people had been hand-picked by God, given the law of God, and had experienced the presence and power of God. Yet, they proved unable to live in faithfulness to God. And such is the plight of all mankind.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
The Israelites were a living, breathing example of man's inability to live up to God's righteous standards, even though they knew it well. Their own sinful natures were the greatest hindrance to their efforts at living holy lives. Holiness would prove unattainable without the indwelling power of God's Holy Spirit. But when Jesus appeared on the scene thousands of years later, He would come to live a perfectly holy life, in complete obedience to the will of God and made by possible by the Spirit of God. His humanity would be assisted by the Holy Spirit, providing us with an example of godliness made possible by the life of the Son of God, the power of the Spirit of God, and all in keeping with the divine will of God. In his address to the Jews standing in Solomon's Portico, within the Temple complex, Peter called them to repentance. He told them, “turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come again from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20 ESV). Peter was telling them that Jesus was the key to them receiving the one thing they needed to experience a time of refreshing. Jesus was the source for accessing the power they had been lacking all along. The Son of God was the means by which they could receive the Spirit of God and be equipped to live in obedience to God for the first time in their lives. Paul writes of this cooperative effort on the part of the Trinity in his letter to the believers in Rome: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4 ESV). Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Law. He not only lived in complete obedience to the law of God, He paid the penalty required by the law for the sins of mankind. His perfectly sinless life made Him the perfect, sinless sacrifice. And as a result, both Jews and Gentiles can experience the forgiveness of God because of the sacrifice of the Son of God, and experience the life-changing power of the Spirit of God.
Father, You have brought time of refreshing to my life and for that I am grateful. You placed Your Holy Spirit within me, giving me the ability to not only understand Your will for my life, but to live in keeping with it. You have provided me with the power to live righteously that I lacked on my own. You provided righteousness through Your Son that I could have never produced on my own. I have received the missing ingredient required to living a holy life: The Holy Spirit. All because of Your gracious and merciful love. Amen