The phrase “therefore choose life” is taken from Deuteronomy 30 where Moses is addressing the people of Israel one of his last times before his demise. It comes after a gauntlet of decisions is presented to them demanding for them to choose whether to serve the Lord or to follow the world. Verse 15 sets the tone of this passage in stating, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” The choices are clear as to whether they will choose life or death and then the decision is left to the individual.
Choice of life comes with a definition of what that will entail. We see these instructions in Deuteronomy 30:16a In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments.” The first component is to love the Lord thy God. We are far too complacent in our day with the term love. It is used to describe everything from a really good meal to how we feel about our spouse. The love that is to epitomize the believer is one of surrender and sacrifice to the one that is loved. I will sacrifice for my wife, but I will not necessarily for a hamburger. The love I am to have for God is one of sacrifice and surrender to His authority in my life. Unfortunately, many Christians treat God at the same level as a good meal and it is evident in how they live.
The second item on the list from verse 16 is that of walk in his ways. The proper concept being expressed here is that of behavior or agreement. Perhaps a little example from Scripture would be helpful. We see in Genesis 5:24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. The idea is that Enoch moved through his life in a manner that was consistent with that which agrees with the character of God. We see this explained in Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Notice there at the end of the verse, “he pleased God.” His behavior was such that it was pleasing to God.
A final trait of those that are choosing life and good is that they follow God’s instructions. The terms commandments, statutes and judgments all have a little different meaning but essentially all come back to the concept of doing as we know we are to do by adherence to the Word of God. We are to follow His clear instructions, in the manner that He commands us to follow them, trusting that His way is best. True discipleship is not a negotiation but a surrender to the leadership of the Master.
The decision to not follow life will result in the decision to follow the path of death and evil. We see this pattern laid out in Deuteronomy 30:17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them. The beginning of this path is a familiar one in that it simply starts with a refusal to hear. I am sure most are familiar with Charlie Browns teacher in the cartoon. You know the one that simply was noise without it being understandable at all? Far too often that is the same with people that do not desire to follow Gods plan for their life. It is not that they cannot hear the instructions it is that they do not want to know the truth. Paul warned about this in 2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
An additional trait is that they are drawn away. It is the concept of the opposition to our living a life in accord with God’s way is placing temptation in the path of those that are swayed. In fact that is probably giving our enemy too much credit in that we learn in James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. When we stop listening to God’s Word and following the path of righteousness the next logical step will be that we will choose our lusts over the Lord. We can have an intellectual knowledge of what is right and wrong, but it does not matter any longer because we are focused solely on what we want not what is right.
The path is culminated with the worship and service of other fictitious gods. The failure to reverence God will lead you to find other things that you value more, and it will lead inevitably to the same place. I am reminded once again that there is no middle ground. We will either choose to serve God or we will choose to serve some other gods. I am reminded of Joshua charge to these same people years later in Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. A refusal to hear leads to being drawn away and ultimately serving and worshipping other gods leaving behind all that is to be cherished.
Moses put this charge to the people in a manner of a challenge for them to make the decision as to what they were going to choose. The same petition is present today in that we all make choices daily as to whom we serve. A recent anonymous quote that I read states, “Your choices tell me what you believe.” The text gives the same sentiment in Deuteronomy 30:19 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. Decisions regarding how we are living our lives have an impact nor only for us but for generations to come. Will we stand up and make the decision to choose life, or will you decide for death and evil?
Pastor Eric O. Buhrow
Immanuel Baptist Church of Rice Lake
Board Member, Baptists for Life of WI