Hope in the Future
If the fulfillment of God’s promises depended solely on human ability, then hopelessness would be an appropriate response. But, it doesn’t! God has been the faithful one in this story, and it’s his covenant promises that are carrying the day. God is committed to having a covenant people who will love him, love each other, and who will become the vehicle of his divine blessing for all nations. However, this story is showing us that this will never happen unless God accomplishes a deep level of transformation in the human heart. The laws were given to Israel to point out the way for them to love God and others, but paradoxically they only pointed out how broken and selfish the Israelites actually are. Now, we discover that the consequences of breaking these covenant laws will bring disaster upon Israel. In a twist however, amidst this darkness of the human condition, Moses discovers a glimmer of hope:
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. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you can love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. -Deuteronomy 30:4-6
Israel is going to fail, just like the rest of humanity. But, after their failure, God transforms their hearts so that they can become what God has called them to be. The Old Testament prophets succeeding the exile picked up these promises and developed them. The New Testament apostles believed that this new reality of the transformed heart was taking place through Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The Prophet Ezekiel:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” -Ezekiel 36:26
The Prophet Jeremiah:
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” -Jeremiah 24:7
The Apostle Paul:
“No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.” -Romans 2:29
Read more about Paul’s theology of the Spirit in Romans 8:1-17.
The prophets and apostles present Israel’s Messiah as the one who truly obeyed the law and loved God and neighbor. Jesus was the kind of human, and the kind of Israelite, that God made us to be, but that we perpetually fail to be. He did this on our behalf, so that faithless people might receive life and blessing instead of death. This is ultimately what Moses was hoping for, a day when God transforms the hearts of his people so that they can love God and others.
The conclusion of the Torah is kind of a downer and Moses’ speech is somber and his prediction is grave. However, the whole point of this story is that humans can not achieve the new creation on their own. We are in desperate need of help in the deepest way, which is precisely what Jesus came to offer when he did for us what we could never do for ourselves. The Ten Commandments, all the laws of the Torah, Israel’s failure and rebellion, it all points to the future new covenant of God transforming the hearts of his people. This is the only way that our old humanity and this broken creation will be ushered into a new future.