We finished Deuteronomy this past week, so here’s a quick catch up. The people of Israel stand on the boundary of the land God swore to give Abraham and his offspring. The first generation that left Egypt have died in the wilderness because the last time they were at this point they were too faithless to enter. So Moses has led the second generation back to the edge of the land, he has repeated the Law for them and he has repeated the covenant blessings and curses (chapter 28).
Deuteronomy 30 is one of the most moving chapters in the whole Old Testament for me. God gives Israel, and us, what should be a precious gift: clarity. Moses refers back to the lists of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience and says:
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 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.” - Deuteronomy 30:15-20
I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse… choose life! It is that simple. Life, blessing, wisdom, prosperity are all intertwined with faithfulness to God. Life equals obedience. Blessing equals obedience. You can choose to experience blessing! Or, you can choose death. You can reject God’s law; reject his presence and choose to pursue other gods. Death and destruction are intertwined with disobedience.
It’s simple, and it is crystal clear. Choose life. Or, choose death. You choose when you decide whatever you decide about God and his “commandments and his statutes and his rules…” No excuses, no confusion, no ignorance. You choose.
We like to make things complicated. We like to confuse the issue by blaming our parents, our spouses, our physical afflictions, our lack of resources, etc. We say to ourselves, “Surely God understands why I need to do this sinful thing. I mean, in my situation this really can’t be thought of as sin.” We spin circumstances, contort Scripture, avoid confrontation, so we can allow ourselves to play the “it’s complicated” card.
It is never complicated. Disobedience is disobedience and obedience is obedience. Life or death? Blessing or curse? Aways, only one real choice.
We choose death, pretty much most of the time. Israel did. If you’ve already read chapter 31 you read how God knew Israel would choose death. (They haven’t had a great track record up to this point.)
But don’t miss the beginning of chapter 30. God says even after you choose death again and again when you are ready to choose life I will bless you. Whenever you turn to follow me I will restore you.
So, God gives great clarity. Israel can choose life or choose death. They will choose death. But God will wait for the curses to turn their hearts to him again, and when they do he will restore them and he will bless their obedience. God will keep his promise to Eve, to Abraham, to Jacob even though Israel won’t keep the covenant with him. God is determined that somehow he will give them life.
I wonder what Scripture Jesus was thinking about when he said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)