Now Choose Life - Deut 30:19
We have been studying the Israelites’ journey from their deliverance from Egypt into the wilderness and then onto the Promised Land. The Lord was transforming the Israelites from being a people under bondage into a people of destiny. This was accomplished through a series of wilderness experiences, the provisions of water in the dessert, quail and manna. They were given the opportunity to walk in a new attitude towards life, filled with a generous and thankful heart. However, we know that they struggled with grumblings and complaints against Moses and God. None-the-less, God love of God towards the Israelites remains true; they are his “treasured possession” (Ex 19:5) and he promises to let his presence go with them into the Promised Land. God laid out the principle of his love (Ex 34:6-7) as a foundation for the Law which had been given to the Israelites in Ex 20 (Deut 5).
We know from the Scriptures (Numbers 13) that Israel was in the Desert of Paran when they sent out the 12 spies into the Promised Land. This was a time of decision for the nation. God spoke and told them, “Go” but they listened to 10 negative reports and refused to go. Because of their lack of trust in God, an entire generation spent 40 years dying in the wilderness. Now a new generation arises that was eager and willing to respond to the command to cross the Jordan and to battle for their heritage. This new generation had:
- A different heart attitude toward God… the grumblings and complaints and negative reports were a thing of the past.
- They were a people who trusted God… something new was around the corner and they were filled with expectation and anticipation. Nathan’s song…
- They were willing to obey… they were committing to destiny not to disobedience.
We see the new generation of Israelites approving the Covenant of the Lord (Deut 27) and the blessings and cursings identified by God in Deut 28:1-14; 15-68. God’s Covenant with the Israelites was then summarized in Deut 29 - 30.
Commitment determines destiny
As I have studied the Scriptures in relation to this series, Journey to the Promised Land, the idea of commitment becomes so paramount. Commitment carries with it the idea of engaging oneself or promising oneself to a cause. In the case of the Israelites, it was God who first committed himself to his treasured possession to make them into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. This covenant commitment on God’s part is tried and true as we see in his journey with the Israelites. Even though at times God has passed judgement on Israel, his covenant commitment remains unchanging.
The Israelites also had the opportunity to be committed to God. We see over and over again how their obedience or disobedience (commitment decisions) determined the outcome of their experience. In other words, each generation’s choice will determine its own destiny. The first generation of Jews on their way to the Promised Land choose to not trust in the Lord. The second generation was ready and willing and choose the Promised Land as their destiny. This seems like good news for those who are obedient. But what about those who struggle with various aspects of disobedience?
Let’s read Deut 30:1-6 - When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
God gave both blessings and cursings to Israel, based on their actions. Along with these warnings, God also gave Israel promises. In the midst of their sin and in the middle of God’s chastisement, the people would remember these blessings and cursings and would be reminded to return in obedience to the Lord.
Let’s make this personal for a moment. God’s covenant commitment to us remains true even if we stray from him. The key thought that relates to us in this passage is commitment. In this case, commitment is returning to God, re-engaging and coming into obedience. Even if one is feels separated or banished from God, maybe struggling under shame or blame, unforgiveness or pride, God’s covenant commitment towards you is good. He will restore your life and have compassion on you, he will gather you up once again, he will make you even more prosperous and he will circumcise your hearts and cut away anything that hinders your destiny.
Now Choose Life:
This leads us to the main point of today’s sermon. The Israelites are journeying towards the Promised Land and God is 100 % committed for their success. His covenant commitment is an invitation to commitment on their part! The choice facing the Israelites is clear: They can choose life and prosperity or death and exile. There is no middle ground, no place for lukewarmness. God goes onto to tell them that this commitment to obedience is not too difficult; Deut 30:11 - Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. In other words, you don’t have to be a mountaineer because God’s commandments are out of your reach, nor do you have to become a sailor and go to the farthest sea. The ability to choose life and to walk in obedience is in your very mouth and heart; Deut 30:14 - No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. How is this possible? The Law was divinely given through Moses to the Nation of Israel. No other nation was given these specific instructions of how to Love God and Love Man.
Paul quotes Deut 30:14 in Romans 10:6–8 and helps us to understand that Christ fulfilled the Law and is the only Person to have lived perfectly by it. Just as the Law was a gracious revelation of God’s righteousness, Jesus Christ, who perfectly obeyed all that is in the Law, is full of grace and truth (John 1:14 - The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth). In the Old Testament the Law was God’s Word to the Israelites whereas in the New Testament Jesus is the Word of God to you and I. We are told in James 1:21 - Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. This ingrafted word relates to the “gospel of Jesus” and to Jesus himself as the Living Word.
Back to Deut 30:15 and 19; in both these verses God is setting before the people life and prosperity (life and death), death and destruction (blessings and curses). Once again the destiny of the Israelite people is seen in their commitment and obedience to God. In verse 19 a command from heaven is given - “Now choose life”…
There is so much to learn from the Israelites journey to the Promise Land. We see once again that their commitment determined their destiny; in other words, their commitment is seen in two opposing realities - life and blessings or death and cursings. They were exhorted to “choose life” thereby securing a blessed and prosperous future. However, the Israelites failed to fully obey God, just like Christians today. We know that “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself (2 Tim 2:13). Thank God for his being faithful to complete what he starts in our lives.
In light of today’s message, what are we to do? God’s grace is always fresh and it is never too late for a believer to return to God. All the Lord asks is that we respond to Him.
In every generation God has spoken to the live of a believer, “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction”. I believe that there are several responses to address today.
For those followers of Christ who are hungry and passionate for more - choose life and prosperity. Jump in both feet and don’t hold back. There is no end to the grace of God for our lives personally. Your destiny awaits further discovery and development.
For those followers who are hungry for more and yet struggling with disobedience - return to the Lord and re-engage and re-commit your life to God. Don’t hesitate to repent, don’t hold back and let your tears wash away your regrets. There is no end to the mercy of God for our lives personally. God will renew his plans and purposes for you life.
Sometimes as followers of Jesus we lose our way, become confused and or frustrated. We lose hope and our passion for God and his church wanes. Once again, God sets before you life and prosperity, so return to God in all honesty and let the Holy Spirit lead you back home.