When someone is nearing the end of their life on earth they usually have a few, but simple and wise words to share with their loved ones. There’s something about being close to death or having a near death experience that those in that condition are able to boil down in just a few short lines, some of the greatest advice and fundamental ideas that will help their loved ones really live well. Maybe you can recall some of those wise words yourself. This is where we’re at when we come to Deuteronomy 30:15-20.
After leading Israel for 40 years in the wilderness and just before the next generation of Israelites were about to cross over the Jordan River into the promised land, Moses summoned all to come and renew the covenant that God gave them on Mt. Sinai. That’s why Deuteronomy is called Deuteronomy – it’s Greek for “second law giving”. Moses is at the end of his life and will not be crossing over with them so it’s time to pass on new leadership and renewed principle. At the end of the reading of the Law, he boils it all down with some wise last words. He gives them a choice between two destinies: blessing and life or cursing and death.
“See I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other god and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jorden to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and length of days…
How simple! How profound! It’s refreshing, isn’t it? If you love God and follow His ways, you’ll be blessed and you’ll really live(!) both now and in heaven. But if you don’t love God and follow His ways, you’ll find adversity and cursing in this life, and in the end, an ugly death that results in separation from God. Then he says, “Choose.” Specifically, “Choose life in order that you may live!”
We must make the same decision today in our lives. We are either going to obey and find blessing or disobey and experience consequences. Of course, this is not teaching some sort of shallow prosperity theology or works-based legalistic salvation where if you just put a couple dollars in the offering plate God will give you everything you want or allow you to earn heaven by your own righteousness. God is not a genie and our obedience to God is not cold ritualism. The obedience called for here comes from an authentic love relationship with God. Notice how Moses points that out twice that you should “love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways” and “by loving your God, by obeying His voice.” Love is always the primary motive for obedience that He desires and when that’s the motive, duty becomes desire. This is what John meant when He said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
But here’s the thing: we cannot love and follow God on our own any more than Israel could. Today, we need hearts renewed by the Spirit of God through faith in Christ. I think Moses was anticipating the New Covenant even at the renewing of the Old Covenant when he told Israel that they too needed new hearts. Moses told them in chapter 29 that even though they had witnessed God do great things for them since leaving Egypt and provide for them miraculously, they still didn’t have, “a heart to know, eyes to see, nor ears to hear” (29:4). They were still spiritually dull. It’s interesting that even though Moses gives them two options and tells them to make a choice, he prophetically foretells them what they will choose: disobedience. He says they won’t keep the Law he just read. What a way to end a sermon!
In reality, it is a good reminder for us. After every challenge from the Word of God to live for Him, we’d better know we cannot do it on our own but only through Christ and the Spirit of God. And when we mess up like the Israelites, we should remember what Christ has done for us in the New Covenant.
In those moments, we too, need to repent and “renew” our own covenant with God as His covenant people.
In verses 1-5 of chapter 30 he tells them that curses are going to come upon them for their disobedience and they’ll be dispersed throughout the world, becoming outcasts at the ends of the earth. But then says that’s exactly what they’ll need because only when experiencing the consequences of God are they going to turn back to Him with a genuine repentance, receiving a new heart (v. 6). And just like them, that’s exactly what some of us need. Sometimes it’s only when we’ve royally blown it by doing our own thing that we realize His way is better and His blessings are not because we deserve them! Then, we will blessed and He’ll enjoy the fruit of our obedience now being compelled by love (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
Notice that even though God blesses them, their descendants will be blessed as well – “choose life that you may live, you and your descendants.” Elsewhere, it says the nation will be blessed as a head and not a tail in the world (28:1-2, 13). That’s one of the things about doing things God’s way: those who are around you and follow after you are blessed. Just as Noah obeyed God and blessed all of us (Gen. 9:9, 12) and Abram obeyed God and was a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:1-3), so we bless others by our obedience. I think it was E. V. Hill who said, “When God blesses you, He rarely has you in mind.” God loves to bless us, but it’s not only about us. God wants to bless us in such a way that when He pours out His blessings on our head, they splash onto others shoulders standing near us. When we live, others start to live.
But we have to make a choice: Life or death? Blessing or cursing? Moses’ suggestion: Be a blessing for life!
“Choose life in order that you may live!”
In conclusion, I just want to share with you some of my favorite lyrics from a song called The Blessing by John Waller. I listen to this song on occasion to remind myself that my obedience to God is not just about me (and it’s okay to need that reminder daily). This is about God’s glory and others who follow after us: our kids, our relatives, our nation, our onlookers – those who are looking to see if this Jesus thing is really real… Please take the time to read these lyrics. Better yet, look the song up and listen to them!
The Blessing by John Waller
Praying that you choose to be a blessing for life!
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