Deuteronomy 30:6 (CSB)
6 The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live.
This pericope flows directly from the preceding, closing verse of chapter 29. As if in response to the mystery of the “hidden things” of God, this passage provides at least a glimpse of what is hinted at.
The passage opens with Moses basically telling the Israelites that they will be disobedient. The “when” here in Deut. 30:1-2, according to multiple commentaries, is not so much of a conditional, but more of a certainty. In other words, Moses says to the Israelites, “You will rebel against God, turn from him, after you’ve experienced the blessings of this covenant, and then you will suffer the curses of the covenant, and then you will snap out of it, and come back to God.”
It is a beautiful picture of God’s grace! If we stop and think about this, we realize there is no “requirement” for God to take the Israelites back after they rebel, even if they do repent and desire to be obedient again: once the covenant is broken, that’s it. But instead, God is merciful and says right here, through Moses, that he will take back his people upon their repentance. In fact, we can see by the phrasing in Deut. 30:8, the reference to the commands being given “today”, present day, before the falling away of Israel that is to come, that it is not some new covenant that is established when Israel repents and returns, but the same one is renewed and in effect.
The pericope closes with what appears, in the CSB at least, to be an almost identical conditional as Deut. 30:1, with the use of the word “when”. But, again according to multiple commentaries, the word “when” here truly is a conditional, not a certainty. The NIV and NET (and probably others) render the Greek here as “if” instead, which probably captures the meaning of the word better. The point being: there is a human responsibility to repent and return. We as people must make a choice to turn to God. And when we do, God is loving and gracious enough to restore us and bless us.
Finally, I find what I selected as the key verse to be a very interesting one. At face value it is a wonderful promise, and no interpretation of it should diminish that aspect. To know that when we repent and return to God, and are obedient to him, our hearts undergo a spiritual circumcision, similar to the symbolic physical circumcision, and we then will love God fully, and live fully, is nothing trivial, and is the great hope of the believer.
But the interesting part of this verse is how one might interpret it. Does it mean that God must circumcise our hearts first, and then we will then be able to fully love him? Or does it mean once we make that choice to repent, take that step towards God, he then, in response, circumcises our hearts and enables true life? In the end, it doesn’t matter if it’s our free will or purely the will of God. But it is interesting, as long as we don’t lose sight of our loving God.
Lord, thank you for your grace and mercy! Despite my sin, you take me back. Repeatedly. Your love is greater than my sin, and I can only say, “Thank you!” I pray for a repentant heart, to truly turn from my sin, and return to obedience as your child. Amen.