“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:19).
Moses was going to die. He knew it. The people knew it. The great leader of Israel was going to depart earth. It was only a matter of days. But before he died, Moses wanted to say something to the people. He wanted to remind them of their rich spiritual heritage. The Bible says in Deuteronomy, chapter 29 that Moses called all of Israel together. The people assembled and there was a vast multitude of souls.
Looking over the sea of humanity, Moses called upon them to remember what the Lord did before their eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land (Deut. 29:2). The children of Israel had witnessed the signs and great miracles (29:3) as God moved to deliver them from the land of suffering. Moses did not want the people to forget the goodness and greatness of Almighty God.
The temptation to forget God, is not unique to Israel. America faces that same challenge today except that in our case the situation is far different. The argument can be made that there is more going on in our society than benign neglect. There is a concerted effort on the part of the few to force the many to disregard our rich spiritual heritage.
The antidote to combat the poison of forgetting God is to remember. Moses began to call upon Israel to remember specific things. Moses reminded the people that during forty years of traveling up and down desert lands the clothes of the people never grew old, and their shoes never wore out (29:5).
In times of military threats, God gave victory in warfare. Do you remember? “When Og, the King of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, we smote them,” said Moses (29:7). Because of the faithfulness of God, because of the favor of Jehovah, the people should keep the words of the covenant first established at Mount Sinai. Moses spoke plainly. “Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God.”
The young were there and the old. The weak and the strong were present. The wise and the unlearned stood together. And as Moses looked with a loving heart over the people he cared for so much, he knew that they had a decision to make. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
The critics in the crowd that day probably mocked. “Moses,” they would have said. “You are being too mellow dramatic! Things are not so black and white. Relax Moses.” But Moses would not relax. There was urgency in his voice, and an ultimatum in his words. Moses understood. There really are moments in the history of a nation when either life or death is chosen. Contemporary history offers many illustrations.
In the early dawn of September 1, 1939, the decision was made to choose death over life. A corporal of WWI had become a dictator of Nazi, Germany. In the madness of the hour he caused death to rain down by means of bombs upon millions and all over Europe the light of hope for life went out. And the light stayed out from 1939-1945.
In October 1962, the world waited and watched in almost breathless anticipation as the two world superpowers engaged in a war of words that took all of western civilization to the brink of a nuclear holocaust. President Kennedy had to make a decision between life and death. It was a very real decision. College students debated on Friday whether to study for a test or not. Why study when the world was coming to an end. To their credit they chose life, and our generation was allowed to live. America is at that definitive moment in her history once more. The clarion call goes forth, “Choose life America and live.”
Life is to be chosen as a fundamental principle. Our text does not say choose quality life but choose life itself. There is much talk today about quality life. The implication is that the handicapped or the disabled, the malformed somehow do not count. However, the Bible teaches us that there should be a fundamental respect for life itself. Quality will come by the work that is done, the knowledge that is acquired, and the friendships that are formed.
There is a TV commercial that captures the Biblical concept very well with the words: “Life. What a beautiful choice.” When Moses spoke to Israel and exhorted them to choose life the implication is that they should choose while they still had a choice. Moses had already explained that there are seeds of self-destruction that could grow so powerful that the choice to live would be lost (v. 17-18). We see this principle in natural law.
A person goes to an apartment built 16 stories high and jumps off. He may want to reverse his course but a greater law has taken over his movement. Self-destruction is now certain. There is something else in our text. The decisions we make today affect not only ourselves but others as well. The Christian ethic has always been to make those decisions which bring the most happiness and blessing to others.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) Paul wrote “Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.”
Whenever a spirit of selfishness prevails in the soul of a society, everyone gets hurt and other evil manifestations of the soul and heart are encouraged. The year 1992 is a presidential election year. One of the candidates has called upon people to embrace a new covenant. God too is calling nations into a covenant relationship. The conditions of the covenant are simple. Obedience brings blessing. Disobedience brings divine discipline and death. Obedience to God’s laws includes the familiar commandments.
Thou shalt have no other gods.
Thou shalt not make any graven images.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Honor thy father and thy mother.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false testimony.
Thou shalt not covet.
A nation can break covenant with God but it does so at the its own peril. It does not take a social scientist to realize that America has many new gods to worship. There is the goddess of lust. Pornography is a multibillion-dollar industry, and we lead the world in the making of child pornography according to a recent Presidential commission.
A fundamental respect to keep the Sabbath day holy has not been found since the 1950s. Adultery is such a way of life that no one blushes at this scarlet sin. Watergate, Korean Gate, the Iran Contra affairs, all reveal that lying comes to some Americans as easily as breathing. The S. and L. scandals reveal the entrenchment of covetousness. The various riots expose how openly many people will steal, with relish, and then call this sin of covetousness social unrest.
America’s appetite for self-destruction is growing almost insatiable. Perhaps, in grace, God will call the nation together one more time as Moses called Israel and cried, “Choose life that thou and thy seed may live.”
In the audience that day, as people went back to their homes some individuals understood the seriousness of the hour of decision. Some people, in the integrity of their hearts, in the mentality of their souls, chose life. They chose to enter afresh into a covenant relationship with the Living God. Their quiet decision did not go unnoticed in heaven or in earth because their life was changed forever and others were affected.
First of all, those who chose life longed to keep the commandments of God. There is wisdom in doing what God wants, for the Creator knows best how the creation should act.
Second, those who chose life, decided not to kill their babies. Pharaoh had done that but the Israelites would not. They wanted their children to live. The people of God would have a fundamental respect for life. And if a person was born lame, it was only so that the power of God could be made manifest. (John 9:3)
Then third, those who chose life decided not to engage in the suicidal suggestions of the other members of society. To choose national death is simply another form of mass suicide. Many of us have not forgotten the horrible scenes of death caused by the madness of Jim Jones in the jungles of Africa. Television commentators referred to the tragedy of Ghana.
There is a tragedy in America whenever people engage in social suicide by breaking covenant with God and choosing death to life, for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
On December 29, 1972, after 36 years and 1,864 issues, the publishers of Life magazine announced its last issue as a weekly news magazine. And yet, between pages 72 and 73, there was still attached a promotional card, and this is what it read, “Please start sending me Life.”
On a grander level, this is in reality a prayer. If the unborn could pray they might very well say very simply,
“Please, start sending me life.” “Give me the nourishment and the protection I need. And dear God, let my mother learn to love me.”
And those of us who love life, and love our country we can pray and ask the Lord, “Please start sending us life.”
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He also said, “I come to give life and that more abundantly.”
Life. What a beautiful choice. Choose life America, and live.