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 obedience to him, 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. 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 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 the heavens and the 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 your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This text is located in a book ascribed to Moses, however Moses could not have written this book because the end of Deuteronomy includes Moses’ death and burial. How possibly could Moses have died and written about his own death? This question may never be answered but acknowledging this reality might help us to recognize the work of ancient writers who may have edited the writings of Moses whom we call, redactors. It’s important to understand this selection of scripture is a part of a larger unit of scripture which provide a foresight of the cycle of apostasy the Israelites lived in. Time after time, Israel would abandon God, focus only on themselves and forsake the corporate community for the fortune of private gain. Interesting we see the same thing today. We live in a country that apparently has abandoned God and have often time gotten so busy that we forget about the concerns of others because we are so focused on ourselves. The poor, the homeless, refugees and others that are ‘less than’ forgotten.
This was the scene Israel constantly found themselves in and usually God would allow them to experience hardship because of their lack of faithfulness. This is understood as retribution theology, which is the idea that blessings come from faithfulness and curses from unfaithfulness. It is believed that Israel was experiencing a season of curses for their abandoning God and it is from this lens we examine this scripture. Amidst the ruin, destruction and demoralization of the nation of Israel, the writer of our scripture had the audacity to believe there was still a choice. Verse 19 highlights it best, where the writer provides a choice to live or die. I believe the writer believed that God was faithful enough to forgive Israel even though Israel was not faithful to God. I believe we can vicariously share in this hidden message of good news, that in times of trouble and pain, much of what we might well deserve, we must remain confident that God is able to forgive and restore and that leaves us with Hope.
Gracious God, we pray your loving kindness continues to be with us, even when we have failed to be faithful and committed to you. We are reassured through scripture that your love never ends and we ask you to forgive us. We thank you in advance for the out pouring of forgiveness we receive daily and we ask the Holy Spirit to be our help and guide when we drift from our paths. This day, we choose life and we pray we experience it more abundantly. In Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Pastor Dion is a native of Chicago, Illinois. Currently, Pastor Dion serves as the esteemed Pastor of Bray Temple CME Church (The Temple Chicago). Pastor Dion loves the Lord, loves the church, and mostly loves his family. Pastor Dion is committed to service and the spiritual and educational uplift of the community he serves.