Monday, January 25, 2010

The Offer of Life or Death

At the end of any great message comes the crux. It solidifies the foregoing, reinforcing the principles, when the rubber is due to hit the road. Deuteronomy 30 is just that place as Moses cranks up for the Israelites what this law he’s proclaimed for the second time is all about—the consequences of faith and obedience, doubt and rebellion.

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”

~Deuteronomy 30:15 (NIV).

Everything consists of life or death; materially or spiritually. And hardly ever the twain shall meet! There may appear plenty of shades of grey about, but Moses is booming the small-print: “choose life.” (30:19b)

How easy is this life? ‘I’ve heard it’s hard,’ came the underpinning intent.

Moses commences his final refrain (30:11-14) saying that it is not too difficult for us to follow God—it’s easy. We read it with our eyes, we speak it with our tongues and lips, and it enters our hearts. It’s not like we have to “cross the sea to get it.” Yet, many see it much harder, though they’re the ones not likely to be putting their time where their mouth is.

In turn Moses then takes us to the summation of the blessings and cursings: life and death is placed before them. Yes, cause and effect.

People might be tempted erroneously to poo-poo the idea. Blessing and cursing are tantamount to the journey of life. No one is beyond either. To be blessed and to live under the shape of blessing is to exist ‘circumcised of heart’ (30:6) which is a state God brings upon the predestined; those willing to live. They’ll live heartily with God full steam, heart and soul.

The heart is the very seat of the intentions; obedience and rebellion. Crooked or pure, the charge is issued for those who would hear—those who care for life. Their very lives depend upon holding steadfastly, fearfully—with respectful awe—to Yahweh and the entire message they’ve just heard, not turning away to idols.

Reading the passage we can sense the building crescendo. The tom toms are beating more rapidly, more urgently.

The striking of the covenant, the very tenet of relationship that holds the cosmic deal together, is placed before the national throng. The covenant is an enduring motif symbolising life; life in relational unison. The covenant is the alpha and the omega of God’s salvific plan.

It is perhaps weirdly paradoxical, in the context of the eternal, that the rhetorical ‘today’ is foisted upon them time and again. Yet, today is the day. Today can never be released or vanquished. It is never put off, only lived. Today is all we have to obey God. That is how desperate this message was preached.

Life or death; you choose, today. Today is urgent. It is now.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy – Apollos Old Testament Commentary (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 429f.

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