Scripture: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ESV
Observation: Moses, having challenged his people to remember the “whole way of the Lord” and his commands (chapter 8), now cautions Israel not to assume their future success in taking possession of the Promised Land reflects in any way on their righteousness, for they are a stubborn and rebellious people (v.7). Rather, their conquest is solely about God, about his character, for he is:
- Just: God will exact judgment on the wicked nations who long ago turned their backs on him (above verse).
- Faithful: The Lord will fulfill his promises to Israel’s patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v.5).
- Merciful: Recounting the story of the previous generation’s egregious idolatrous worship at Mt Sinai, Moses implies that Yahweh showed mercy by listening to Moses’ intercession for the nation and thus provided stone-engraved tablets of his laws (9:13-10:11).
Compared to these divine attributes, Israel has a long way to go in demonstrating true justice, faithfulness, and mercy. Thus, Moses upholds a plan of action:
- Mission: Circumcise your heart (10:16) by loving and serving your God with all your heart, keeping all his commandments (above verses).
- Vision: Show no partiality; seek justice for the orphaned and widow, and love the sojourner (10:17-19).
Moses expands on the details of how Yahweh exemplifies this mission and vision in chapter 11.
Takeaway: The biblical understanding of the “mission” of circumcision of the heart connotes imprinting the law in our minds and emotions in a manner that leads to willful, loving adherence. This level of wholehearted obedience would prove an impossible task for Israel. Thus, seven centuries later, Jeremiah prophesies the coming of a new covenant, where God will inscribe (circumcise) his laws on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33a ESV). Like the permanence of our Ten Commandments’ stone tablets, the Lord will indelibly score his laws on our hearts because he is our God, and we are his people (Jeremiah 31:33b ESV).
Regarding the “vision,” Paul addresses this intimate, relational dynamic of loving and serving God with all our hearts by pointing to the second greatest commandment: loving our neighbor as ourselves. Writing to the Galatians, Paul states, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6 ESV). And James, the half-brother of Jesus, borrowing from Moses, puts flesh on what this means by challenging us to demonstrate authentic faith through caring for widows and orphans, controlling our tongues, and abstaining from worldly, godless behavior (James 1:26-27).
Thus, we, the adopted children of God and siblings of Jesus, are called to circumcise our hearts by loving and serving our Triune God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul and our neighbors as ourselves.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who ushered in the New Covenant era by perfectly loving and serving you and us. We confess that, like ancient Israel, we fall way short of the mark and need supernatural help. So would you please help us submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and renew our minds so that we may know and do your good, perfect, and pleasing will in executing your Great Commandment? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling