Choice One and Choice Two
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
15 “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall certainly perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him, for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
We are faced with choices every day. Some can be overwhelming. Like standing in front of the milk section of the dairy trying to decide if you want whole milk, 2%, 1%, non-fat, lactose free, almond, soy, coconut, chocolate, something else, or no milk at all. It can make your head spin as you try to decide which milk to pull from the case.
Other choices can be straightforward. Red or black in checkers. The blue tie or the green tie. Purple socks or white socks.
We all have choices in our lives. Those choices can change over time based on our life experience. We may have learned that we are lactose intolerant so the choice of milk is easy – lactose free, soy, or almond. We have decided which one we like so we grab that one and continue shopping. Through our life experiences we have learned that all choices aren’t that critical. There are some that matter and there are many that don’t really matter much at all.
In the text today from Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people to choose life. How hard can that be, we think. Most people want to live rather than die anytime soon. So choosing life shouldn’t be that difficult, should it?
We might think of choosing life as choosing how we want to live. What we want our job or career to be, who will be our life-partner, and what type of family we want. Do we want children or not? If we have children, do we want to give birth to them or adopt them. We choose where we want to live and what type of housing we want. We choose when we want to retire. These are some of the things that contribute to our choice of life.
Choose life can sound like one of those slogans we might see on a bumper sticker or bill board or t-shirt. Choose life has meant varying things such as a motto for a cause. But choose life has a greater depth of meaning than a slogan or motto.
By this point in Deuteronomy, Moses has reviewed all that God has done for the people. He has been doing this in what we might call a sermon. A sermon that takes 26 chapters to record. Think how long you would be sitting there listening to Moses speak. I hope you brought beverages and food, and have found a restroom.
In this sermon, Moses reminds the people of the covenant that God has made with them especially the covenant of the land. God had promised to Abraham that the land they were about to enter would be theirs. The Promised Land that they were to possess after they left Egypt.
Moses reminds them that God’s promises are sure. God is dependable and will never fail them. What God says he will do he will do. Moses also reminds them that God’s expectations for them are clear. God has given them the commandments that tell the people how to live, how to follow God.
Moses lays all of these things out as a summation of all that he has taught because this is his last message before the people cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. Moses knows he is not going with them.
Here in his final speech, Moses boils it down: choose your way or God’s way. Your way is choosing other gods, other things to put before The God. These other gods may be those of the people in the land they are about to enter, possessions you own, or anything you hold up as more important than God.
Or choose God’s way. Choose to follow the commandments and receive the inheritance that God has promised to give you and your descendants. The land was that inheritance. Each generation held on to that promise as the land was passed down from one to the next.
We have the same choice as the one given by Moses to the Israelites. We can choose our way or we can choose God’s way. Our way may not look like bowing down in worship to another god. More likely, it is putting our own choices ahead of what God wants us to do. Putting possessions or family or anything else ahead of God in our life. Whenever God slips down from being number one on our priority list we have chosen our own way.
On the other hand, we can choose God’s way. We can listen to what God commanded the people to do and to what God commands us to do. We can listen to what Jesus teaches and see what he does. We can choose God’s way to love and to follow Jesus and to keep the commandments.
Note that in Matthew 5-7, which includes today’s first reading, Jesus is reinterpreting those commandments, so they are more relevant to a people who lived in a context of black and white rules – do this or you are breaking the rules. Jesus says that there is more involved than following those type of rules. What is in your heart is the most important.
Choosing life is looking inside, looking at what it means for you to live. Considering the choices you make on how to live your life.
Brett Younger describes the choice for us: Choose life! Chose life sounds simple. For Moses, choosing life meant to love God, walk in God’s way, keep the commandments, truly love others joyfully, passionately, and blessed.
He goes on to give a list of things we might do that embody what it means to choose life in God’s way. Many of them are not hard to do. We tend to think that choosing God’s way is incredibly difficult. Choosing God’s way means looking at life with a different lens. His list of options includes:
· Learn things you have told yourself you would never learn
· Enjoy simple things
· Play with children. Take walks with them and look with them at the little things they stop to look at.
· Laugh often
· Cry when it is time to cry
· Be patient with your own imperfections and with those of others
· Surround yourself with what you love – family, friends, pets, music, nature, even silence
· Walk around the block looking at what you walk past
· Turn off the TV and choose another activity
· Get together with friends for coffee, lunch, or whatever
· Read a book of poetry
· Clean out a drawer or cupboard…or more than one!
· Quit doing what is not worth your time
· Do something so someone else so someone else doesn’t have to do
· Give money to a cause you care about
· Stop arguing
· Apologize to someone even if it was mostly their fault
· Forgive someone even if they don’t deserve it
· Have patience
· Stop having patience when it’s time to tell the truth
· Figure out what you hope for and live with that hope
· Worship with all your heart
· Pray genuinely
· Love your church
· Believe God loves you
· Remember the stories of Jesus
· See Christ in the people around you
· Share God’s love with someone who has forgotten what it is like to be loved
· Delight in God’s good gifts
· See that all of life is holy
· Open your heart to the Spirit
· Search for something deeper and better than your own comfort
· Live in joy
Let God make your life wonderful! Choose life! God’s life.