September 4, 2016
In the wilderness beyond the Jordan, the Israelites listened as their prophetic leader Moses described the kind of people they had become: a people formed in the crucible of covenant, a people who were made by the grace of their God. Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt and guided them through the perils of the wilderness. Moses laid out in stark terms the choice that lay before his people: obedience or death. Love God and live; serve other gods and perish! Blessings and extravagant abundance would belong to those who heeded the voice of God; unspeakable calamity, terror, and affliction would be the lot of those who abandoned the covenant. At this moment, on the brink of crossing the Promised Land and at this crucial point at the end of Deuteronomy, Moses exhorted believers to a renewed and fervent commitment to the God who alone was capable of saving. Moses thundered, "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity." The people must have understood what was at stake and, as would be reiterated by Joshua when Moses died they must choose life, which was serving God. Moses was urging his people to commit, heart and soul and body, to a vibrant relationship with the God in whom they lived and moved and had their being. The radical hope in Deuteronomy was that God's redeemed people should never go back to Egypt; but not just Egypt the actual country. In the ancient Israelite imagination, Egypt represented captivity--not only the enslavement of Israelite bodies before the time of the Exodus, but spiritual enslavement in the form of idolatry and hopelessness. It would not be easy; living as a holy people involves risk. They would have to contend with the hardships of wilderness: the harsh weather, unwelcome terrain, scarcity of food, everything was in terms of inconvenience and problems. Some came to the point of struggling with spiritual anguish or personal experience of seemingly abandonment of God. Deuteronomy knows that believers may be tempted to choose familiar captivities to sin and cultural subjection (those cucumbers and melons and figs!--see Numbers 11:5, 20:5) rather than the alarming freedom that they had in God. Deuteronomy exhorts us not to yield to fear--not to "go back to Egypt"--but rather to fear only "this glorious and awesome Name, the LORD your God" (Deuteronomy 28:58). Deuteronomy's rhetoric of blessing and curse means to catalyze repentance in the hearts of its hearers, so that the return to God and God's loving restoration could be theirs. This is crystal clear from Deuteronomy 30:1-5, which affirms Moses’ compassion to return to the LORD and live anew in obedience. Moses' exhortation was relentless because it was intended to compel the believing community to throw itself once more upon the God who is all compassion (Hosea 11:8-9). Moses cited Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 30:20) in order to ground Israel's hope in the ancient promises of God. The curse and death here is not really punishment but the effects of disobedience. God set this from the very beginning in Genesis. We have to realize that Christianity is not a point system or reward system; God is good all the time! He is ever compassion to all, but this should not give us an excuse to do wrong things. God is telling us to choose His blessing, choose His provisions, choose His strength, choose His love and joy and peace, choose His ways. CHOOSE LIFE.
Dcn. Garry F. Salguero