Deuteronomy 30: February 19—Be repentant
Feb 12, 2012
By MARK A. RATHEL

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.

Unfortunately, I do not remember many sermons; however, I vividly remember one particular sermon and the influence the sermon has on my life. A church I pastored participated in a Missions Conference. A North American Mission Board missionary preached, “The Bible can be summarized in one word—Repent!” His statement is much more profound that it appears on the surface. 

Indeed, the command of God from Genesis to Revelation is “Repent!” Repentance is not a one-time heart attitude necessary in coming to Christ. As famed Southwestern Seminary professor W. T. Conner wrote, “The greatest repentance of the Christian life occurs after conversion.”

What did God teach through Moses about the nature of repentance?

First, when God’s people disobey, repentance is possible (Deut. 30:1-14). Context is the primary principle in understanding the Bible. Deuteronomy teaches that Moses reminded the people about the necessity of renewing their covenant commitments to God, a practice all God’s people need to observe. When the people of God crossed into the Promised Land,  Moses directed the people of God to divide into two groups. One-half of the twelve would stand on Mt. Gerazim and recite the covenant blessings. The other six tribes would stand on Mt. Ebal and recite the covenant curses (Deut. 27:9-28:68). If Israel obeyed, then blessings would “overtake” them (Deut. 28:1). If, however, Israel disobeyed, then curses would “overtake” them (Deut. 28:45). Defeat by an enemy and exile served as the ultimate curse that would “overtake” the people (Deut. 28:49, 64-68). 

Moses foresaw a time when God would bring to pass this ultimate judgment as the people of God would receive the punishment of exile into foreign lands. Deuteronomy 30:1-4 proclaims a hope in the midst of the tragic judgment. The promise of restoration, however, was conditional, as are most of God’s promises. The people must meet three conditions to once again receive the blessings of God. First, God’s people must come to the realization of their sin. Two English translations powerfully express the nature of this realization of sin. The HCSB states “when you come to your senses”[about the blessings and curses]  and the NIV states, “take them [the blessings and curses] to heart.”  Second, God’s people must “return to the Lord.” The term “return” means, “repent.” Third, God’s people must obey—a believer cannot separate repentance from a heart commitment of obedience. In response, a compassionate God promised “to restore your fortunes.” 

Do you have areas of disobedience in your life? Come to your senses, repent, and obey!

Second, when God’s people return, God works in repentant hearts (Deut. 30:6-8).The key phrase in this section is “circumcise your heart.” The phrase occurs at significant junctures in the biblical text. In Deuteronomy 10:16, Moses commanded the people to take responsibility to circumcise their heart. Again, Jeremiah 4:4 commanded the people to circumcise their hearts. Paul described “circumcision of the heart” as an operation of the Spirit (Rom. 2:28), a picture of regeneration. Deuteronomy 30:6 brings together the twin ideas of God’s regenerative ministry and a believer’s consequent responsibility.  Regeneration is God’s activity in an individual’s life; humans cannot produce regeneration. After regeneration, however, believers are responsible to love God and serve Him with all our heart and soul. In our sanctification and growth in the Lord, we are not passive. God enables Christian growth; believers follow Spirit-prompted activity. Yet, God’s work in our lives will not be complete until our glorification.

Third, God sets before His people a life choice (Deut. 30:15-20). God’s revelation of His expectations of His people is neither incomprehensible nor inaccessible (vv. 11-12). Rather God’s people may repeat the revelation with their lips and think/reflect upon God’s truth with their hearts (minds). Will you love God and obey Him? 

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