11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Dt. 30:11-14)
As harsh and horrifying as yesterday’s reading was, today’s reading was just as tender and reassuring. In 30:11, God tells His people through Moses, “Look— these are not hard things. This commandment is not some secret knowledge or some impossible quest. You don’t have to be Nicolas Cage deciphering a secret treasure map, and you don’t have to be Indiana Jones traveling the world to discover what has been lost. No:
The word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
Michael Card, a gifted theologian/songwriter, captured the simple beauty of Deuteronomy 30:14 with this song:
So far, the law has seemed incredibly complex. Random. Harsh. Incomprehensible in places. But actually, has it? Even before there was a law to tell him so, Cain knew killing his brother was wrong (Genesis 4:9-10). Shellfish and mixed fibers aside, much of the law has just been common sense. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might, and things will go well for you (Deut. 6:3-8).
Through Moses, God reassures Israel that “the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and on your heart, so that you can do it.
Leave it to man to muddy it up. Leave it to the Pharisees to take the word out of the mouths of men and make it all about external observances. Leave it to the rabbis to get consumed with gematria, seeing numbers and codes and “deeper meanings” in every character of the plain text.
Leave it to the premillenialists to pile charts and timelines and bestselling books on top of Revelation; obscuring its encouragement and hope, so that the glory of every tribe and tongue and nation gathered before the throne and singing “Worthy is the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9-11) gets Left Behind.
God tells His people on the edge of the Promised Land that the word is near them. It is in their heart and on their lips, that they may obey it.
Centuries later, the apostle John would tell us that the word has been with us from the beginning. It was with God. It was God. The word was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him (John 1:1-2).
And then, as if the word couldn’t be made any nearer, suddenly, it was: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
And even so, yet nearer still: Christ—the Word—in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27) Oh, praise Jesus that we didn’t have to ascend to heaven to get the Word. The Word descended from Heaven and came to us. And lives in us still.
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