“No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” Deuteronomy 30: 14(NIV Bible)
Moses is speaking to the Israelites in this verse –reiterating a message he was commanded by God to deliver. In Deuteronomy 29 and the first part of 30 the terms of the covenant God made with the Israelites are laid out in the clearest language possible. Then, in order to emphasize that they are fully capable of understanding it, he adds this:
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deuteronomy 30: 11-14 (NIV Bible)
I love the imagery here of the lengths to which people might go to obtain something of great value. God is making the point that His priceless truth is easily accessible –easy for even the simple minded to grasp. A good paraphrase of this section of Moses’ speech might be, “It’s not rocket science, people!” God wanted to make it clear that there were no excuses when it came to recognizing and obeying Him, at least in a general sense, and with knowledge comes accountablility.
Of course this message was specifically for the Israelites, who were taught about God from childhood on, and who witnessed God’s intervention on their behalf on many occasions. But I am reminded of some similar verses in Romans that make me believe this principle can be more broadly applied:
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20 (NIV Bible)
This time God is speaking to and about the general population, or at least that part of the general population that has rejected him. So it would seem that everyone is capable of grasping a basic understanding of who God is and what constitutes good and evil, regardless of whether they have heard or accepted the specifics of the Gospel.
Several years ago during a psychology class at a secular college, my professor (a self-proclaimed non-believer in Christ) began discussing abortion. “I support abortion as a necessary evil in our society,” he said. “If we are honest with ourselves, I think everyone knows that abortion is morally wrong. However, when it comes down to individual circumstances –if it is my sister who is raped, or my teenage daughter who becomes pregnant- I can’t say that I would choose for them what I know is the most moral choice.”
While the professor’s position is sad, I have to admire his honesty. His statement is also an apt illustration of God’s word being obvious and easy to grasp, even for non-believers.
But God’s truth is even more obvious to those of us who have become His sons and daughters through the grace of Jesus Christ. Aren’t I even more accountable before God, then, when it comes to obeying His commandments, just as the Israelites were in their time and culture?
It is my sinful nature that causes me to point out perceived discrepancies in Scripture, to seek out exceptions to the rules, to justify what I know in my heart is sin. In truth, if I am honest with myself, God’s word is simple. I read it often, it is written on my heart, I speak of it to others with my lips, and even now my fingertips proclaim it as I type. When it comes to obeying it, I am fully accountable –without excuse. It’s not Rocket Science!
Vonnie at My Back Door is hosting Monday Manna today.