18Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.19When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. 21The LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.
          Deuteronomy 29:18-21

Whew! I read this passage and my first thought was “I need to write a blog about this.” My second thought was…”what in the world would I say?”

You see my first thought came from a place of understanding that many slide backwards in their faith from time to time and the condemnation they feel as they try to come back to the Lord can be great. Let me say here as at the begining, as strongly as I can: If you are on your way back to the Lord, any condemnation you feel is not from the Lord and is totally inappropriate. The Lord is not the author of condemnation, Satan is. The Lord is the author of conviction – that is, bringing about a heartfelt sorrow for our sins that is accompanied by a desire to turn away from those sins and by taking steps to do so. That’s from the Lord. Condemnation, on the other hand, tends to immobilize us in guilt and keep us from taking steps toward reconciliation with God and others. Conviction motivates us to change. Condemnation immobilizes us, keeping us from change.

Yet we read here in Deuteronomy 29 that God will bring disaster on those who have turned away from Him and go their own way to the extent that “the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven.” Where is there room for repentence and reconciliation with God? Where is there room for a renewal in our relationship with God if we have fallen away?

That was my dilemma as I considered blogging about this passage. My goal for ApprehendingGrace.com is to help each of us apprehend – grab hold of – what God has done for us and what He wants to do in us and for us. Where is that message in this chapter? To use King Solomon’s phrase from Ecclesiastes, is my whole purpose just “a chasing after the wind?”

It can’t be. I know that God accepts the prodigal. I know that He watches for the prodigal’s return. Yet somehow it’s not satisfying enough for me to simply explain away this Deuteronomy 29 passage with the often used phrase of “we’re under the New Covenant, the covenant of grace.” Yes, we are under the New Covenant, in which God promises salvation to all who would come to Him in humility and sincerity and ask for His forgiveness of their sins and Lordship in their lives. Still, God’s Word remains true and this passage sure doesn’t seem to provide much wiggle room for anyone who has backslidden.

So you understand my conundrum. My approach was to set all that aside and keep reading. (When in doubt, keep reading. Pause to pray, but keep reading.) Am I glad I did! You see, Deuteronomy 30 is a continuation of Deuteronomy 29. Our chapter divisions weren’t in the original writing and they don’t always seem to make sense. They make it possible to refer to specific portions of Scripture, but we shouldn’t allow verse or chapter divisions interrupt the train of thought of the original writers. Read with me portions of Deuteronomy 30:

1When 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, 2and 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, 3then 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. 4Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back… 6The 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….9…The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, 10if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
          Deuteronomy 30:1-10

If we turn from God, as described in Deuteronomy 29, God will surely bring those disasters upon us. But when we return to the Lord, He will restore us. It really is as simple as that…and yet it’s not just that simple. It’s really much better than that!

I love so many verses in this passage: “Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.” No matter how far we have strayed from God, now matter how badly we have been conquered by our enemies, God will meet us in that place and will gather us in His arms and bring us back. Wow! He will bring us back. I play a role, of course – I have to determine in my heart to love God and obey Him. But having done that, He will bring me back. He will do the heavy lifting. He will conquer the foes who have conquered me during my time of disobedience. Hallelujah! What a gracious God we serve.

Not only will He bring me back, He will circumcise my heart so that I am able to love Him all the more. Further, He will take delight in me. The word translated “take delight” is literally “rejoice over” or “take great joy because of.” It totally blows me away that the Creator of all things we see (and don’t see) around us and of every distant galaxy and star, the King above all kings, the One who holds the universe together, will be delighted in me. He will take great joy because of my love for Him. If we could truly grab hold of just this last point, our lives would be revolutionized. Why should I care what opinions others hold of me? Why should I become discouraged because I can’t do all that I’d like to do? Why should I…? I shouldn’t. The King of Glory delights in me simply because I love Him.

Oh, Lord, may all who read this know that they know that they know how much you love them. And may You circumcise our hearts that we may love You more.

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