Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Lonnie Branam
In the above passage Moses was delivering to God's Old Testament people the covenant he received from God. There was no way he could overstate the case; he had no choice but deliver a hard message. The very survival of Israel was at stake. In the midst of Moses' oration, we find these critical words, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants might live.” Those were disturbing words indeed. Their choice would determine how soon they would enter the land of promise, how long God would allow them to live in the promise land, and whether God would allow them to enter the heavenly Canaan at the end of the world. Eternal life was a promise to the Old Testament church as well as the New Testament church. The city God has built for the saved of earth is described in Revelation 21,22, and the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are written on the twelve gates of the wall surrounding the city, and the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are written on the twelve foundations of that wall. The choice they made had both temporal and eternal consequences. Moses was saying that a time of decision was at hand, and the people could no longer walk on both sides of the fence. They must make a choice.
The first thing we learn from these words of the great man Moses is one of the important principles of life. It is that the making of choices is an unavoidable and necessary component of life, even as breathing itself. You and I are continually making choices, are we not? Some are easy and some are not; some are major choices and some are minor. Think of all the choices you make getting ready for church on Sunday mornng. Shall I go? Which suit, which tie? Which dress, which blouse, which shoes? Some choices we make are life changing-- like going to college, choosing a mate for life, choosing a religion and choosing a church. Some of us are old enough to remember an event in the 1950's of an almost Cinderella marriage. A British World War II fighter pilot, Peter Townsend, loved and lost Princess Margaret of Great Britain who was third in line to the throne. They carried on this romance for over two years and seriously considered getting married. He was a divorced man and sixteen years older than her. All England was astir over this romance. Because of the objections of the people of Great Britain and the Church of England which frowns on divorce, on October 31, 1955 she told the nation she had decided not to marry the captain because he was divorced. The captain was banished from the palace on the advice of Winston Churchill and assigned to a diplomatic job outside of Great Britain. Captain Townsend wrote these words in his autobiography, “She could have married me only if she had
been prepared to give up everything–her position, her prestige, her privy purse. I simply hadn't the weight to counterbalance all she would have lost.” We have never had to choose between true love and a throne, but we still have to make important choices. All who are acquainted with the tragic history of Israel know how important that choice was that Moses called on them to make. Choose life, said Moses, by walking in His ways, keeping His statutes and judgments.
Secondly, Moses was not the only one who challenged Israel to choose life or death. The successor of Moses was Joshua, and after leading Israel across the Jordan and after conquering the land of Canaan, he made a choice that I want all of us to consider for a few minutes. It is recorded in Joshua 24:14,15, “Now, therefore fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the river and in Egypt. Serve the Lord. And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” That is one of the most famous statements in the Old Testament.
Joshua is to be honored more for making this choice than for his military exploits. He knew that most of the nation outwardly claimed to serve Jehovah, but were secretly worshiping the ancient gods of their Mesopotamia ancestors and the gods they worshiped in Egypt. This fact is verified by Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who scolded Israel for rejecting God and the religion .of Christ. In Acts 7::42 he said that Israel during the wilderness wanderings took up the tabernacle of Moloch the fire god, to whom children were burned in sacrifice. He also said they took up the star of Remphan their god. Stephen charged them with rejecting God just as they did during the wilderness wanderings. That speech cost him his life. .To compel Israel to make a choice Joshua declared his own .choice. Listen to this great man of God who in effect said, “You people may hesitate, but my mind is made up once for all. Judge as you will; my verdict is already given, and my children are in agreement–as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”. We admire the loyalty of Joshua and the choice he made, but it is far better to possess it ourselves. We may perhaps forget that there never was an age in which a choice for God was not equally required.
Thirdly, the choice Moses and Joshua made reminds us of the same challenge the apostles made to Christians. They gave the same command to “Choose this day who you will serve, “ but worded a little differently.
Paul gave this challenge in Galatians 6:7,8, “Do not be deceived God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” This is another way of saying what Moses and Joshua said Choose life, not death. Choose eternal life, not eternal punishment. The flesh and the Spirit represent, as it were, two corn fields, in which different kinds of seed are sown. The person who sows to the flesh walks after flesh, lives to gratify fleshly desires, minds the things of the flesh, and fulfills the desires of the flesh and the mind. He is a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.. To sow to the Spirit is to live for the eternal well being of your soul, which continues to exist after the body dies. To sow to Spirit is to let the Holy Spirit guide your life. It is to walk in the narrow way that Jesus said leads to eternal life. It is to lay up treasures in heaven and not on the earth. Our thoughts, words and actions is the seed that every human being sows. We can live just for this world or we can live for the new heavens and the new earth. We can be spiritual minded Christians or worldly minded Christians.
There is a special apostolic warning that goes with the two kinds of sowing and the harvests which follow. The word of God says, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap....”(Galatians 6:7). This is just another way of saying we have to live with the choices we make in this life and the life to come. The warning is, “God is not mocked.” The word mock means to turn up the nose or sneer at someone. It's a way to show contempt. No one can trifle with God. It is possible to trifle with God, but no one can get away with it. The greater part of the world has rejected God's offer of eternal life through His Son. To ignore this offer, to refuse to believe it; to believe and then swerve away from the truth is to mock God..
How do we account for the fact that most of the world refuses God's offer, and some Christians swerve from their first love and turn away from the hope of the resurrection of the dead? All whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of life are dominated by the world view that there is nothing to be gained by living a religious life, and there is nothing to be lost by living a worldly life. They take comfort in the fact that science has not proven that life continues to exist after death. They live guided by the belief that one end will come to everybody alike. Death will end it all,
and we shall all be annihilated. To them death is a plunge into the dark. Whatever dignity or degradation of character we have, all shall go to the same place, and that is the grave. The idea of future reward for virtue and
future punishment for sin has little or no effect on the way most people live. To hold that view is to mock God and no one will get away with it. The world cannot make fun of God with impunity, for there is an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God. Moreover, He is the moral Governor of the universe. He will not allow creatures He made to break His good laws without punishment, and .He will not allow His name to be dishonored or His Son to be ejected..
I would like to say one more thing about this man Joshua who gave us this wonderful resolve, “Choose this day whom you will serve...but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Joshua had a mind of his own. He knew his own mind, and he did his own thinking. He was a thorough-going, decided, down-right man who could not endure double-mindedness. He demanded the people to make a decision saying, “If it seems evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose this day whom you will serve— the true God or the false gods, but you cannot serve both.”. He began early in the service of God, and he never turned away or back. . A hundred years rolled over his head but we never read of him wandering away from God's service. To enjoy the service of God you must plunge into it. The service of Christ is not a matter to be loosely touched with the tips of one's fingers. A man who serves the Lord God knows his way about the world. Satan tempts those who can be tempted, but when he finds people sufficiently resolved, Satan goes elsewhere. James, the Lord's brother said, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Like Joshua, it is important that Christians have a mind of their own and do their own thinking. We must learn to think for ourselves. The great masses of people in this 21st century do not think for themselves; they are like cattle following the few who do. But it must not be so for Christians. Christians are not to fall into this mistake. In a world of unbelief, religious confusion and a divided Christendom, both adults and children must think for themselves. Fashion is the law of the multitudes. If it is fashionable, it must be done. The world has its fashions in religion as well as in dress, and many fell the influencce of it. The only safe course is to think for ourselves. The Bible is for children as well as adults, and as soon as they are old enough they must study the Bible for themselves. Before they reach the age of accountability and know right from wrong, God will not hold them responsible for their misconduct. But when a responsible age has arrived, they must study the Bible and learn God's will themselves. They cannot excuse themselves by saying, “My parents taught
me falsely.” They must study the Bible for themselves and correct any wrong teachings they may have received from parents and others. . We are born alone, and we shall have to die alone and be judged alone. It's high time we that we begin to look into our soul's affairs with our best judgment. The Bible says, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good.”
Jesus taught us about the importance of making right choices and decisions when He said, “Remember Lot's wife.” Lot was the Nephew of Abraham and lived in Sodom, a notorious and dangerous city. One day two angels in human form came to him and said, “This city is to be burned with fire; you must escape and leave now.” Lot is on the road at once, and before long he reaches the mountain and is safe. His wife is willing to go, and yet in a way unwilling. She wavers and delays, and I think she had difficulty making up her mind. She didn't like leaving the nice house she lived in, and I am sure her wardrobe was full of good clothes. In addition, her neighbors, even though they didn't go to church every Sunday and were rather loose in their morals; yet they were friendly and cheerful people; and the story implies she did not exactly like leaving them. God's strict command was, “ Leave this place and do not look back.” She started with Lot and the daughters, but she looked back! And she may look back forever, for there she stands where she turned around, transformed into a pillar of salt. When it comes to serving God, no one is in more danger that those who halting between two opinions. If you have not made the choice, choose this day whom you will serve. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.”