The contents of Deuteronomy 30 may seem like they aren't very near to us, but the God in Deuteronomy 30 is the same God I worship today. What's so cool about the Bible is that this chapter does affect us today and has a lot to do with the character of God and His call. The same God who spoke to Moses and the Israelites is the same God I pray to and claim to follow, and maybe you do too.
God, in this passage, was very clear. Moses just spent the whole book of Deuteronomy up until now describing everything he heard from God. He outlined for the people what it would look like to follow God and then outlined all the blessings they would receive if they did it AND all the curses they could expect if they didn’t. Moses then reviews everything God said in chapter 29 and ends with a simple summary in chapter 30. After Moses spent time telling the Israelites all this stuff right before he dies, he ends with this passage:
"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, 'Who will ascend into heaven and get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, 'Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess (the Promised Land). But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I will declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is our life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."-Deut. 30:11-20
I love how it starts with sarcasm in verse 11, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” I sense sarcasm here and I totally understand why! These people and their families have frustrated Moses for decades. They never have been the best listeners and for the first three verses of this passage he makes it very clear that what he’s about to say is easy "So listen up!"
He presents the people with a choice; a pretty simple one at that. "Okay guys, here is it…if you weren’t paying attention to the last 30 chapters plus, then listen up now! You have a choice: life or death. That’s it. This God I have been talking with and the God that has been leading you and speaking to you is a jealous God and is frankly making this pretty clear. You either get life with Him or you choose not to have your life wrapped up with Him and you get death. That’s it. Now choose because I’m going to die and I can’t help you anymore." At least that’s what I picture.
The characteristic I want us to see is the jealousy of God and how clear-cut our God truly is. There are a lot of grey issues that are talked about today. Grey issues meaning issues that we have a hard time finding a right or wrong answer to very easily. Some consider abortion a grey issue, others war, still others homosexuality, or the death penalty, or women as elders or pastors. While Scripture can sometimes seem to leave things as “grey issues” I hope we recognize today that God is not always grey. He does have His black and whites; He has clear-cut answers and expectations.
From Deut. 30 we see Moses telling the people one issue God indeed sees as black and white. Look at verse 19 again, “Today, I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make.”
While this passage was written for the Israelites in the time of Moses thousands of years ago, we also have that same choice. We have a choice between life or death from the same God that still has His jealous streak. We have the choice between the blessings that come when we wrap our lives up in Him or the curse of living a life unconsumed by Him. There is no grey; there is no in-between; there is no partly.
Jesus wasn’t kidding when He told His disciples that they would have to “count the cost” of discipleship. Count the cost is a pretty way of saying really think hard about what it’s going to mean to choose life with our God. Again, it’s not a half-hearted thing, but it's a life or death choice. I will point out that anyone who didn’t choose life in the next couple of chapters of Deuteronomy doesn’t die immediately. Same for us. If we choose not to wrap our lives up in God that doesn’t mean we’re going to die tonight either. We could live until 95 with riches, health, and good family. But, if you do not choose life with God you will not receive the blessings the Lord promises and that is for both in this life and beyond.
Blessings from the Lord are a tough thing in today's world. When most of us (or at least most of the people in the areas that we live) think of blessings minds automatically go to wealth, health, no worries in this world, smart kids, perfect marriages and grades. While all these things are great, and I think most of us would agree they are blessings in our lives, nowhere in the Bible does it say that our blessings promised us would be enough money so we wouldn’t worry about our finances, or good health the rest of our lives so we wouldn’t feel pain physically or in our families emotionally. He doesn’t promise us straight A’s, or faithful, loving marriages with no tension. He promises us His love, support and strength, mercy, grace, forgiveness, internal peace, and even eternal life.
I say this because if we did choose life wrapped up in God and still found ourselves with some pain, struggles or anxiety in life, I don’t want us to be surprised. Moses wrapped himself up with God and he didn’t even get the land with milk and honey!
But, as you would’ve guessed, we aren’t choosing life based on the blessings. We choose it because it’s life, and life with God.
Looking back at our Scripture passage Moses doesn’t leave the Israelites with just the options, but he even tells them what to pick and how to do it! In the middle of verse 19 it says, “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and holding fast to Him; for that means life to you…” What means life? Loving the Lord, obeying Him, and holding fast to Him…The NLT puts it “This is the key to life.” And the NIV, “For the Lord is your life.”
So if the jealous God of Deuteronomy 30 who loves you and wants you to be wrapped up in Him asks you to choose life or death, what do you choose? Do you choose life with Him or life without Him?
Choosing life with God takes a certain kind of conversion. This isn’t the kind Christians usually talk about (i.e. the "conversion experience" or "saying the prayer"). I’m not asking you to choose Jesus or choose Christianity or to say a prayer. This conversion is what one scholar calls a “fundamental transformation.”
Choosing life with God means committing to change our foundation from ourselves, our family, our schooling, or our career to God. We are saying since our foundation has changed we no longer function or act from the same motivation as before. Choosing life, or conversion, for us means to re-think our attitudes; to think through what we seek on a regular basis. In our day to day lives we no longer focus on our workout goals, families, dinner, schoolwork, or friends and spouses like we used to. Everyday, in every activity, we seek God and where He’s at. One guy writes that conversion means that we order our lives, our activities, our attitudes, to its proper End. it is not a one time decision. Choosing life with God is a continuous commitment we make to have our lives wrapped in His. We turn from what we know and return to what we have been called to.