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No Heart: Deuteronomy 29

In Summary:

Deuteronomy 29 turns from a general retelling of the covenant (note the similarity of Deuteronomy 29:1 and Deuteronomy 1:1) to the last words of Moses before his death. Prior to this point, Moses has presented the covenant between Israel and God according to the typical treaties between sovereigns and subjects of the time.

These next chapters take more of a personal turn, as Moses reminds the people what has happened under his leadership. We see, as final words should be, reminders of critical moments and very direct warnings about the future.

For example, Deuteronomy 29:5 reminds us of Deuteronomy 8:4, that the shoes and clothes of the Israelites did not wear out during their wanderings. The next verse, 29:6, highlights that the Israelites have not eaten bread for the last 40 years. This connects back to chapter 8 as well, and we see again the importance of context. “Man does not live by bread alone” was not merely a thought. It was the life of the Israelites. They lived by the Word of God, given in as manna in the desert.

In Focus:

Moses gives us a tragic statement in Deuteronomy 29:4, and it pairs with Deuteronomy 29:19 as a warning about the hearts of the people. As you read through this section, recognize the problem at stake. The people have not developed their own love for God or His ways at this point.

All of God’s work in their lives, and yet their hearts are closed. Their eyes do not see, their ears do not hear the truth of who God is. Now, there are a couple of ways to read this. Some will see this as the fact that without the Holy Spirit quickening the hearts of people, they have no hope of understanding and worshiping the One True God. Others will see it as evidence of the hardness of the people, that even with every action of God around them, they chose not to see.

I’ll not resolve that here, except that I think this is a both/and, not an either/or. The power of God is necessary to see the work of God, yet people still choose to ignore what should be clear. That comes out plainly in Romans 1. How, exactly, the sovereignty of God is true while human free responsibility is also true is the work of books, not a blog post.

What we see here is the Israelites as responsible for their failure to worship, even while acknowledging that it takes a heart from God to develop a heart for God.

In Practice:

We should, then, lay back and do nothing, hoping God fixes us?

Nonsense!

We should: 1. Look at the world around us. Start with the explanation that an all-powerful, all-loving God is involved in life.

2: Center our worship on Him for who He is. We see who He is by His actions, just like our actions reveal our character, but we need to put our focus on the right place. We love God for who He is. We see that by what He does. Don’t worship God that God feeds you. Worship God for His compassion that He shows by feeding you.

3. Pass on the covenant. This chapter resounds with the concern that future generations will abandon the Lord God, thinking that they had it all together. Pass on the covenant by demonstrating, daily, your own dependence on God. Too many of us want the veneer of self-sufficiency to show more than the framework of faith—peel it back, let your needs and the One who supplies them be evident.

In Nerdiness:

Let’s get nerdy: 1: Take a look at the parallel passages, including how Deuteronomy 29:2 parallels with Deuteronomy 5:1. Oh, and note that the Hebrew texts tend to put our 29:1 as the last verse in 28, and start this chapter at 29:2. And call it 29:1.

Moses gives another rehash of history here, including the recent defeats of Sihon and Og.

No bread, no wine, no “fermented drink” (possibly the fortified beer of the labor forces of Ancient Egypt). Does this mean that the Israelites had no yeast? If you look at the Passover, they were to get all of the leaven out of the house to celebrate it. Now we see that, for nearly 4 decades, they have had no yeast-based products. Since yeast is a living thing, is it possible that the conditions of the Exodus and Wanderings kept them from having any useful yeast?

And then the symbolism of yeast/leaven for impurity makes this theologically curious…

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