Moses here concludes with a very bright light, and a very strong fire, that, if possible, what he had been preaching of might find entrance into the understanding and affections of this unthinking people. What could be said more moving, and more likely to make deep and lasting impressions? The manner of his treating with them is so rational, so prudent, so affectionate, and every way so apt to gain the point, that it abundantly shows him to be in earnest, and leaves them inexcusable in their disobedience.
I. He states the case very fairly. He appeals to themselves concerning it whether he had not laid the matter as plainly as they could wish before them. 1. Every man covets to obtain life and good, and to escape death and evil, desires happiness and dreads misery. “Well,” says he, “I have shown you the way to obtain all the happiness you can desire and to avoid all misery. Be obedient, and all shall be well, and nothing amiss.” Our first parents ate the forbidden fruit, in hopes of getting thereby the knowledge of good and evil; but it was a miserable knowledge they got, of good by the loss of it, and of evil by the sense of it; yet such is the compassion of God towards man that, instead of giving him to his own delusion, he has favoured him by his word with such a knowledge of good and evil as will make him for ever happy if it be not his own fault. 2. Every man is moved and governed in his actions by hope and fear, hope of good and fear of evil, real of apparent. “Now,” says Moses, “I have tried both ways; if you will be either drawn to obedience by the certain prospect of advantage by it, or driven to obedience by the no less certain prospect of ruin in case you be disobedient—if you will be wrought upon either way, you will be kept close to God and your duty; but, if you will not, you are utterly inexcusable.” Let us, then, hear the conclusion of the whole matter. (1.) If they and theirs would love God and serve him, they should live and be happy, Deut. 30:16. If they would love God, and evidence the sincerity of their love by keeping his commandments—if they would make conscience of keeping his commandments, and do it from a principle of love—then God would do them good, and they should be as happy as his love and blessing could make them. (2.) If they or theirs should at any time turn from God, desert his service, and worship other gods this would certainly be their ruin, Deut. 30:17, 18. Observe, It is not for every failure in the particulars of their duty that ruin is threatened, but for apostasy and idolatry: though every violation of the command deserved the curse, yet the nation would be destroyed by that only which is the violation of the marriage covenant. The purport of the New Testament is much the same; this, in like manner, sets before us life and death, good and evil; He that believes shall be saved; he that believes not shall be damned, Mark 16:16. And this faith includes love and obedience. To those who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honour, and immortality, God will give eternal life. But to those that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness (and so, in effect, worship other gods and serve them), will be rendered the indignation and wrath of an immortal God, the consequence of which must needs be the tribulation and anguish of an immortal soul, Rom. 2:7-9.
II. Having thus stated the case, he fairly puts them to their choice, with a direction to them to choose well. He appeals to heaven and earth concerning his fair and faithful dealing with them, Deut. 30:19. They could not but own that whatever was the issue he had delivered his soul; therefore, that they might deliver theirs, he bids them choose life, that is, choose to do their duty, which would be their life. Note, 1. Those shall have life that choose it: those that choose the favour of God and communion with him for their felicity, and prosecute their choice as they ought, shall have what they choose. 2. Those that come short of life and happiness must thank themselves; they would have had it if they had chosen it when it was put to their choice: but they die because they will die; that is, because they do not like the life promised upon the terms proposed.
III. In the Deut. 30:20; 1. He shows them, in short, what their duty is, to love God, and to love him as the Lord, a Being most amiable, and as their God, a God in covenant with them; and, as an evidence of this love, to obey his voice in every thing, and by a constancy in this love and obedience to cleave to him, and never to forsake him in affection or practice. 2. He shows them what reason there was for this duty, inconsideration, (1.) Of their dependence upon God: He is thy life, and the length of thy days. He gives life, preserves life, restores life, and prolongs it by his power though it is a frail life, and by his patience though it is a forfeited life: he sweetens life with his comforts, and is the sovereign Lord of life; in his hand our breath is. Therefore we are concerned to keep ourselves in his love; for it is good having him our friend, and bad having him our enemy. (2.) Of their obligation to him for the promise of Canaan made to their fathers and ratified with an oath. And, (3.) Of their expectations from him in performance of that promise: “Love God, and serve him, that thou mayest dwell in that land of promise which thou mayest be sure he can give, and uphold to thee who is thy life and the length of thy days.” All these are arguments to us to continue in love and obedience to the God of our mercies.