These verses may be considered either as a conditional promise or as an absolute prediction.
I. They are chiefly to be considered as a conditional promise, and so they belong to all persons and all people, and not to Israel only; and the design of them is to assure us that the greatest sinners, if they repent and be converted, shall have their sins pardoned, and be restored to God’s favour. This is the purport of the covenant of grace, it leaves room for repentance in case of misdemeanour, and promises pardon upon repentance, which the covenant of innocency did not. Now observe here,
1. How the repentance is described which is the condition of these promises. (1.) It begins in serious consideration, Deut. 30:1. “Thou shalt call to mind that which thou hadst forgotten or not regarded.” Note, Consideration is the first step towards conversion. Isa. 46:8; Bring to mind, O you transgressors. The prodigal son came to himself first, and then to his father. That which they should call to mind is the blessing and the curse. If sinners would but seriously consider the happiness they have lost by sin and the misery they have brought themselves into, and that by repentance they may escape that misery and recover that happiness, they would not delay to return to the Lord their God. The prodigal called to mind the blessing and the curse when he considered his present poverty and the plenty of bread in his father’s house, Luke 15:17. (2.) It consists in sincere conversion. The effect of the consideration cannot but be godly sorrow and shame, Ezek. 6:9; 7:16. But that which is the life and soul of repentance, and without which the most passionate expressions are but a jest, is returning to the Lord our God, Deut. 30:2. If thou turn (Deut. 30:10) with all thy heart and with all thy soul. We must return to our allegiance to God as our Lord and ruler, our dependence upon him as our Father and benefactor, our devotedness to him as our highest end, and our communion with him as our God in covenant. We must return to God from all that which stands in opposition to him or competition with him. In this return to God we must be upright—with the heart and soul, and universal—with all the heart and all the soul. (3.) It is evidenced by a constant obedience to the holy will of God: If thou shalt obey his voice (Deut. 30:2), thou and thy children; for it is not enough that we do our duty ourselves, but we must train up and engage our children to do it. Or this comes in as the condition of the entail of the blessing upon their children, provided their children kept close to their duty. [1.] This obedience must be with an eye to God: Thou shalt obey his voice (Deut. 30:8), and hearken to it, Deut. 30:10. [2.] It must be sincere, and cheerful, and entire: With all thy heart, and with all thy soul, Deut. 30:2. [3.] It must be from a principle of love, and that love must be with all thy heart and with all thy soul, Deut. 30:6. It is the heart and soul that God looks at and requires; he will have these or nothing, and these entire or not at all. [4.] It must be universal: According to all that I command thee, Deut. 30:2; and again Deut. 30:8; to do all his commandments; for he that allows himself in the breach of one commandment involves himself in the guilt of contemning them all, Jas. 2:10. An upright heart has respect to all God’s commandments, Ps. 119:6.
2. What the favour is which is promised upon this repentance. Though they are brought to God by their trouble and distress, in the nations whither they were driven (Deut. 30:1), yet God will graciously accept of them notwithstanding; for on this errand afflictions are sent, to bring us to repentance. Though they are driven out to the utmost parts of heaven, yet thence their penitent prayers shall reach God’s gracious ear, and there his favour shall find them out, Deut. 30:4. Undique ad caelos tantundem est viae—From every place there is the same way to heaven. This promise Nehemiah pleads in his prayer for dispersed Israel, Neh. 1:9. It is here promised, (1.) That God would have compassion upon them, as proper objects of his pity, Deut. 30:3. Against sinners that go on in sin God has indignation (Deut. 29:20), but on those that repent and bemoan themselves he has compassion, Jer. 31:18, 20. True penitents may take great encouragement from the compassions and tender mercies of our God, which never fail, but overflow. (2.) That he would turn their captivity, and gather them from the nations whither they were scattered (Deut. 30:3), though ever so remote, Deut. 30:4. One of the Chaldee paraphrasts applies this to the Messiah, explaining it thus: The word of the Lord shall gather you by the hand of Elias the great priest, and shall bring you by the hand of the king Messiah; for this was God’s covenant with him, that he should restore the preserved of Israel, Isa. 49:6. And this was the design of his death, to gather into one the children of God that were scattered abroad, John 11:51, 52. To him shall the gathering of the people be. (3.) That he would bring them into their land again, Deut. 30:5. Note, Penitent sinners are not only delivered out of their misery, but restored to true happiness in the favour of God. The land they are brought into to possess it is , though not the same, yet in some respects better than that which our first father Adam possessed, and out of which he was expelled. (4.) That he would do them good (Deut. 30:5) and rejoice over them for good, Deut. 30:9. For there is joy in heaven upon the repentance and conversion of sinners: the father of the prodigal rejoiced over him for good. (5.) That he would multiply them (Deut. 30:5), and that, when they grew numerous, every mouth might have meat: he would make them plenteous in every work of their hand, Deut. 30:9. National repentance and reformation bring national plenty, peace, and prosperity. It is promised, The Lord will make thee plenteous in the fruit of thy cattle and land, for good. Many have plenty for hurt; the prosperity of fools destroys them. Then it is for good when with it God gives us grace to use it for his glory. (6.) That he would transfer the curses they had been under to their enemies, Deut. 30:7. When God was gathering them in to re-establish them they would meet with much opposition; but the same curses that had been a burden upon them should become a defence to them, by being turned upon their adversaries. The cup of trembling should be taken out of their hand, and put into the hand of those that afflicted them, Isa. 51:22, 23. (7.) That he would give them his grace to change their hearts, and rule there (Deut. 30:6): The Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, to love the Lord. Note, [1.] The heart must be circumcised to love God. The filth of the flesh must be put away; and the foolishness of the heart, as the Chaldee paraphrase expounds it. See Col. 2:11, 12; Rom. 2:29. Circumcision was a seal of the covenant; the heart is then circumcised to love God when it is strongly engaged and held by that bond to this duty. [2.] It is the work of God’s grace to circumcise the heart, and to shed abroad the love of God there; and this grace is given to all that repent and seek it carefully. Nay, that seems to be rather a promise than a precept (Deut. 30:8): Thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord. He that requires us to return promises grace to enable us to return: and it is our fault if that grace be not effectual. herein the covenant of grace is well ordered, that whatsoever is required in the covenant is promised. Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my Spirit, Prov. 1:23.
3. It is observable how Moses here calls God the Lord thy God twelve times in Deut. 30:1-10, intimating, (1.) That penitents may take direction and encouragement in their return to God from their relation to him. Jer. 3:22; “Behold, we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God; therefore to thee we are bound to come, whither else should we go? And therefore we hope to find favour with thee.” (2.) That those who have revolted from God, if they return to him and do their first works, shall be restored to their former state of honour and happiness. Bring hither the first robe. In the threatenings of the former chapter he is all along called the Lord, a God of power and the Judge of all: but, in the promises of this chapter, the Lord thy God, a God of grace, and in covenant with thee.
II. This may also be considered as a prediction of the repentance and restoration of the Jews: When all these things shall have come upon thee (Deut. 30:1), the blessing first, and after that the curse, then the mercy in reserve shall take place. Though their hearts were wretchedly hardened, yet the grace of God could soften and change them; and then, though their case was deplorably miserable, the providence of God would redress all their grievances. Now, 1. It is certain that this was fulfilled in their return from their captivity in Babylon. It was a wonderful instance of their repentance and reformation that Ephraim, who had been joined to idols, renounced them, and said, What have I to do any more with idols? That captivity effectually cured them of idolatry; and then God planted them again in their own land and did them good. But, 2. Some think that it is yet further to be accomplished in the conversion of the Jews who are now dispersed, their repentance for the sin of their fathers in crucifying Christ, their return to God through him, and their accession to the Christian church. But, alas! who shall live when God doth this?