The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

February 16, 2020

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Choose Life!

 

 

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.  But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.  You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  (NIV1984)

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

Have you ever noticed how many choices we face in our day-to-day lives?  Walk down just about any aisle in the grocery store.  Do you find just one kind of bottled water or just one kind of chips or just one kind of apples?  Or do you find a multitude of choices?  The other day Brenda asked me to pick up a pack of hotdogs for the boys.  I asked her to write down exactly what she wanted me to bring home.  Why?  Because there is a whole sea of hotdogs to choose from and I didn’t want to bring home something the boys won’t eat!  Walk through a used car dealership and count how many different makes and models and colors are there.  And I don’t even want to think about walking through the clothing department looking for a new Easter outfit for my wife or my daughters or my granddaughter to wear.

 

How do we choose?  How do we know which choice is best?  More often than not it comes down to personal preferences, doesn’t it?  Brenda drives a Ford because she likes Fords.  I drive a Buick because I like Buicks.  But my favorite car is my baby-blue 1967 Camaro.  Why?  Because I like it!

 

If we were to take a moment to look at our life it would be very clear and very easy for us to see that we make a multitude of choices each and every day.  Some of our choices have a relatively minor impact on our life and some of our choices have a major long-lasting impact on our life.  We understand that truth.  We accept that truth.  We experience that truth over and over again.

 

With that backdrop in mind I have chosen to use two words taken directly from our text to serve as our sermon theme for today.  Those two words are found in verse 19:  Choose Life!  Our goal today is two-fold.  First of all let’s see what those words meant for God’s Old Testament Children.  Then let’s see what those words mean for us, God’s New Testament children.

 

Choose life!  As historic Lutheran Christians those two words might cause us to squirm a little in our seats.  Why?  Because most of us have learned Martin Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed:  “I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.  But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”  In light of Luther’s explanation why would I choose to use our sermon theme for today?  Here’s an even better question:  In light of these inspired words of our God, why do we believe, teach and confess Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed?

 

This is an excellent example of why I teach that when it comes to understanding Scripture there are only three things to remember:  Context!  Context!  Context!  In his explanation to the Third Article Martin Luther is talking about conversionhow someone who is born spiritual blind, spiritually dead and a spiritual enemy of God becomes a Christian.  Here in our text Moses is not talking about conversion, but rather Moses is talking about remaining in the covenant relationship that the Lord God Almighty had established with His Chosen People.  The generation of Israelites who had come out of Egypt, the generation of Israelites who had stood and trembled at the foot of Mt. Sinai when the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob first spelled out the requirements of the covenant that He was establishing with them, the generation of Israelites who refused to enter into the Promised Land because they did not trust the Lord to fulfill His promises to them— their bodies were buried in the desert after forty years of wandering in the wilderness.  Now it was time for the Lord to reaffirm His covenant with their children.

 

This critically important aspect of understanding our text is brought out in the verses preceding our text.  In verses 11-14 of Deuteronomy chapter 30 the Lord reminds His children that remaining faithful to Him by remaining faithful to His covenant is “not too difficult for you or beyond your reach” (verse 11).  Why?  Because the Lord God had already worked in their hearts with His powerful Word!  The Lord says in verse 14, “No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.”  The words of our text, my friends, are not addressed to unbelievers.  They are not addressed to the Canaanites or the Jebusites or the Hittites or any of the other “ites” living in the Promised Land!  These words are addressed to God’s Chosen People.  They are addressed to believers!

 

It is in that context that the Lord God places before His children two choices.  Look at the opening portion of our Text.  The God of heaven says to His children through His servant Moses, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.  But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.  You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.”

 

The two choices that the Lord gave to His beloved children are clear, they are concise and they bring with them powerful consequences.  God’s children, children who have already seen both the grace and the justice of God— the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, the manna and the quail, the poisonous snakes— God’s children could choose to remain faithful to their Lord by remaining faithful to His covenant, or they could choose to turn away from the Lord by turning away from His covenant.

 

How were God’s people to reveal which choice they were making?  The choice they had made in their heart would be evident in the actions of their life.  Choosing to remain faithful to the covenant that the Lord had graciously established with them would be evident in their love for the Lord their God; it would be evident in their “walking” in His ways; it would be evident in their obedience to the Lord’s “commands, decrees and laws.”  Choosing to remain faithful to the Lord by remaining faithful to the covenant He had graciously established with them was synonymous with choosing life!  How?  Moses answers that question when he says to God’s people, “Now choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the LORD is your life.”

 

Choosing not to remain faithful to the Lord by choosing not to remain faithful to the covenant which the Lord had graciously established with them would also be evident both in their heart and in their life.  Their hearts would “turn away” from the Lord and they would bow down to and worship idols.  Their lives would be marred by disobedience to the Lord’s “commands, decrees and laws.”  Choosing to be unfaithful to the Lord by being unfaithful to His covenant was synonymous with “death and destruction”— not just in this life, but also in eternity!

 

As we look back over the history of God’s Old Testament children we can see that the Lord was serious when He said to them, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”  When God’s people were faithful to him and to the covenant He had established with them the Lord blessed them in ways they could have never imagined!  But, when God’s people were unfaithful to Him by being unfaithful to His covenant the Lord took away His blessings and poured out His justice upon them.

 

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”  Does the Lord God Almighty place that very same choice before us, my friends?  Yes He does!  The God of heaven graciously entered into a covenant relationship with us when He adopted us to be His own dearly beloved child through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  The God of heaven reminds us of this covenant relationship every time we receive His Holy Supper and hear Him say, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20).  Purely by His power and purely by His grace we are in this glorious covenant relationship with the one and only true God— not by our own thinking or choosing but because God the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel and enlightened us with His gifts.  At the same time we need to remember:  while we cannot choose to become a Christian, we can choose to reject or neglect the gift of saving faith that God the Holy Spirit has created in our heart.  While we cannot choose to accept Christ and what He had done for us (Pointing to the cross), we can choose to turn our back on our Brother and walk away from our only Savior from sin.

 

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”  How do we reveal which choice we are making?  Like God’s Old Testament children, the choice we make in our heart will be evident in the actions of our life.  Choosing to remain faithful to our Lord and to the covenant He lived and died and rose again to establish with us will be evident in our love for the Lord.  Here each and every one of us needs to examine our heart and see who or what is most important to us.  If money or material possessions are more important to us than our Lord, if leisure or pleasure is more important to us than our Savior then we need to seriously reconsider the choices we are making in our life!

 

Choosing to remain faithful to our Lord and to the covenant He lived and died and rose again to establish with us will be evident in the way that we strive to “walk in his ways.”  I’m not exactly sure how to determine this, but how do other people evaluate our life?  When they watch how we live (and people do watch), when they listen to how we talk (and people to listen) are they able to see and to hear that we are “different”?  Are they able to see and to hear that we are “in the world but not of the world”?  (See John 15:19; 17:13-17)  If the people around us are not able to see and to hear that we are Christians, if the people around us are not able to see and to hear that we belong to Him (Pointing to the cross) then we need to seriously reconsider the choices we are making in our life!

 

Choosing to remain faithful to the Lord and to the covenant He lived and died and rose again to establish with us will be evident in the way that we strive to “keep his commands, decrees and laws”— not because we are trying to earn His grace, His mercy or His forgiveness but simply we want to show our love and our thankfulness to Jesus for all that He has done for us.  Here each and every single one of us needs to examine our life in the light of God’s holy inspired Word.  Do we treat God’s Ten Commands like they are merely suggestions?  If so then we need to seriously reconsider the choices we are making in our life.  Look at portions of Scripture such as our Epistle Lesson for today.  (1 Corinthians 2:6-13)  God’s Word is the only source of pure and lasting “wisdom.”  If we put what we think or what other people tell us over and above what God tells us in His Word then we need to seriously reconsider the choices we are making in live.  Look at portions of Scripture such as our Gospel Lesson for today.  (Matthew 5:21-37)  If we are ignoring or dismissing or downplaying what God commands us in His Word we need to seriously reconsider the choices we are making in our life.

 

“Now choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the LORD is your life.”  We make many many choices in our lives, my friends.  Some of those choices have a relatively minor impact on our life and some of those choices have a major long-lasting impact on our life.  As Christians, as people who have been brought into a covenant relationship with the one true God, as sinners who have been redeemed with “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19), as people who have been adopted as God’s dearly beloved adopted children may God grant that we will always strive to follow His imperative:  Choose Life!

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen