Thursday 10th September 2020
Deuteronomy 30: 11 – 20
Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 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. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 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, 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.
Choices – every day we make choices: some of us are blessed with so many options that we get confused: what to wear, what to do, what to eat and drink; others long for such an opportunity of choice and feel their lives confined by unavoidable restrictions – but his experiences in Nazi concentration camps led Victor Frankl to write, “Everything can be taken from a person but one thing, the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way!” Man’s Search for Meaning.
Our writer today presents the most vital of choices with characteristically Semitic starkness; the issues are clear and the consequences of choice are made clear. Later understanding of God’s ways moved on from presenting those consequences in materialistic terms, though it is easy to be tempted to want virtue to be rewarded in material ways. Choose life and live on God’s terms, or reject God and go your own way; there are no intermediaries, each person needs to choose. God does not punish the wrong-doer but such people bring the consequences on themselves.
Although this passage in Deuteronomy is set within the context of God’s covenant with the people we should recognise, as Frankl wrote, that each individual has to make her or his own choice. The consequences of that choice will affect others, perhaps the whole community, but each person has an individual responsibility to live, “loving the Lord your God, obeying him and holding fast to him” so finding fullness of life which is developed when Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” John, 10.10. Jesus also said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself” Luke 10.27.
Gracious God, give us the insight to know what choices we should make and give us the strength we need to make those choices, Walking the Way of Jesus, in whose power we pray: Amen