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Life or Death

Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV) … “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live…”

Moses has set before the people life and good, death and evil. There is a way of life, which starts with the response of faith and love, and leads to obedience and good—all the blessings God has for his people. And there is a way of death, the way that turns from God and what he has said, a way of evil that leads to disaster. Although Moses urges the people to ‘choose life’ (v. 19), there is no long-drawn-out appeal, no extended pressure put either on the emotions or on the will. Rather he relies on a clear, straightforward setting-out of the options. Once he has done that, the way Israel should choose is obvious. This is a valuable model for evangelism: a clear exposure of the options facing people so that they are in no doubt about what the Word of God says to them. This should not be done coldly, without a heartfelt plea to make the right choice, but it is the setting-out of the truth that makes the right choice obvious.

We might note that all these people were second-generation Israelites; all the older generation had died on the journey. They had grown up as God’s people and they took it for granted that they belonged to the Lord. Here, however, was an opportunity, a challenge even, for them to affirm from the heart their commitment to love him. Children brought up in a Christian home, or in a generally ‘Christian’ society, are in an analogous position and need to hear the same call to definite commitment. Moreover, there is an important sense in which this was a continuing choice that would always confront the people. There were going into Canaan. New temptations would arise, new challenges to their faith and obedience to the Lord. Would they remain faithful?[1]

The choice is always between life and death? In Israel’s case, the choice was between trusting God and enjoying the bounties of the land (“life and good”) or turning to idols and experiencing the curses given in the covenant (“death and evil”). It’s either “life and blessing” or “death and cursing.” Is this a difficult decision to make? Of course, today the choice is between eternal life and eternal death, salvation by the grace of God or condemnation by the righteousness of God. The only sensible decision is to choose life. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36, nkjv).[2]

[1] Brown, P. E. (2008). Deuteronomy: An expositional commentary (pp. 224–225). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1999). Be equipped (p. 176). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

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