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  • Writer's pictureMyles Hester

Is God’s Will Too Hard?

In Deuteronomy 30, Moses is about to die. As he nears the end of his life, and by extension, the end of his time as the leader of Israel, he talks at great length about the importance of the Israelite’s continued obedience of God’s commandments as they move on to conquest the land of Canaan without him. He has always emphasized obedience of course, but especially as they are finally entering the land after a forty-year delay because of their disobedience and lack of faith, he assures them that as long as they are faithful God will allow them to be successful and prosper in the land. On the other hand, disobedience will bring about severe consequences. After going into great detail about both possible futures—i.e. the horrors of disobedience and the splendor of obedience—Moses makes an interesting point about the commandments he has laid before them.


In Exodus 30:11-14, Moses says: “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 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?’ 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?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”


Unfortunately, sometimes we can mistakenly think that God’s will is either too obscure or too difficult for us. On the one hand, some may think that God has not made His will clear enough, and that the Bible is too difficult to understand. On the other hand, we can tend to act as if God gave us certain qualities that cannot be changed and then demanded more of us than He gave us; as if He made us five feet tall and demands we be over six foot to get to heaven. This way of thinking, however, could not be farther from the truth! As Moses reminds the people in Deuteronomy 30, God’s commands are neither “far off” nor “too hard.” In fact, God has always been extremely clear about His desires and expectations for His people, and the importance of remembering them always. 


Notice what Moses says about the commandments he had given them: “But the word is very near to you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” (vs. 14). This calls to mind Deuteronomy 6:6-9—immediately after the famous commandments referred to as the Shema by Jewish people and quoted by Jesus in Matthew 12:29-30—when Moses tells the people that “these words which I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” The fact of the matter is, God knows that His people are often forgetful and need to surround themselves with His Word in order to both literally and figuratively keep it before them. Moses knew this too, and over the course of his leadership had seen the devastating effects of forgetting God and His commandments. In fact, it was due to one of his own moments of shortsighted disobedience that he was not entering the promised land (Numbers 20, Deuteronomy 32:48-52).


While God has high hopes and high expectations for His people, He is not a God that sets the bar for obedience impossibly out of reach. He is not a God that taunts and demeans, but a God that uplifts and encourages His people. He is a God that provides for repentance and forgiveness when necessary. At the beginning of Deuteronomy 30, even after laying out the potential blessings and curses the Israelites have ahead of them, God reminds them that even if they are cursed, scattered, and taken into captivity, if they are truly repentant and turn back to God, “then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there will he take you…And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your hear and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:3-4, 6).


Upon reading these hopeful and merciful forewarnings from Moses as he nears the end of his life, I cannot help but be reminded of two teachings of Jesus:


In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus famously says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


Then, in Luke 15:11-32, we read the parable of the prodigal son. This young man had “forgotten who he was,” so to speak, and yet despite his disobedience and wastefulness, his father is overjoyed upon his return home, running out to eagerly meet him halfway.


These two moments in Jesus’ ministry, in light of Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 30, show that God has not changed. He is constant in His desire for His people to know Him, serve Him, obey Him, and share in His glory. In the words of Moses, offering his concluding thoughts on the choice between life/obedience and death/disobedience, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”


To put it simply, no, God’s will is not, nor has it ever been too hard. Obedience is difficult, and it takes work, but with the LORD as our God, we are unstoppable. Just like the Israelites, then, let us remember “that there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God…[and] let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intensions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:9-12).


God’s word is clear, His yoke is easy, and His reward is well worth it. May we never forget that.


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