“Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

These words are part of the conclusion to the great farewell address attributed to Moses in chapters 29-30 of the book of Deuteronomy. 

“Choose life so that you may live in the land.”  These words were written for people filled with disillusionment and despair for they had experienced a great devastation after having their hopes raised.  The people of Judah’s hopes had been buoyed by the reign of King Josiah (II Kings 22-23). His reforms led people to believe that good times we’re about to dawn once again for Judah.  But shortly after Josiah’s death, things fell apart (II Kings 23:31-25:26).  The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem and in 587 BCE, Jerusalem fell and the Jewish Temple was destroyed.  Leaders were exiled to Babylon.  Thousands emigrated to Egypt.  And a foundational existential and theological question confronted the people.  “Without possession of the land, how could there be an Israel at all?”  They were demoralized.  They were confused.  They were in exile.  If they are to be “saved” and return to the promised land (land is a symbol of salvation in the Old Testament) what are they to do?

They are told what to do in the form of a farewell speech by Moses to the people of Israel as they stood on the plains of Moab waiting to cross into the Promised Land.  Our scripture Deuteronomy 30:15-20 summarizes what they are to do.  They are to “choose life by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him” (30:19-20).  In the midst of despair, following such guidance was difficult for the people.  The temptation is always there to return to the “old gods.”  Sometimes the appeal of these old gods is almost irresistible.  What will they do? What will we do?

There are more than a few lessons for us in these words from Deuteronomy.  Whether times appear to be good or bad, are we tempted to turn towards other “gods” (29:18). Whether life is currently difficult or easy, do we think we are safe even as we choose to go our own stubborn ways (29:19). What fears do we allow to guide our actions? What self-pity do we allow to leave us in despondency?  What do we cling to?  What do we run away from?  What gods do we serve and where does our service to them lead? Will we choose life or death? Will we choose to cross over into our promised land or remain in the wilderness?

This Sunday we will learn how to cross into the Promised Land.

Pastor Dave