19 November 2016

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

“Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” (v. 19)

Psalm: Psalm 53


This passage brings to an end the long speech reported to have been given by Moses - a speech which detailed not only the laws by which the Israelites should live by, but the offer of the covenant between them and God that they were being invited to enter. As Moses's life was drawing to a close, and as he explained to his followers that he wouldn't be able to travel with them in to the land beyond the Jordan river (Deuteronomy 31:1-2), it's notable that he concludes his speech with the exhortation for his people to "choose life".

Once again the offer God was making to them was made clear. They could obey the commandments given to them and in return have a prosperous future, or they could adopt the religious practices of the people they were shortly to live alongside and by doing so have a life of adversity (verse 15). The choice was stark, a choice between life and death.

If Deuteronomy was based on the law book produced in the temple during the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23), whether written then or as some scholars believe at the earlier time of the reforming King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20), the authors would have been well aware of the troubled history of the Israelites. They would have known the ancient stories now contained within the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, known as the Deuteronomic history. These were accounts of the entry into the Promised Land, the battles and setbacks, the establishment of a kingdom only to be followed by its division and throughout it all a constant attraction to follow the indigenous religious customs and rituals. The authors will have known that all too often the Israelites made the wrong choices.

One of the tasks therefore was to re-establish the truth of the oneness of God and the proper way of worship, then centred on the temple, for this was a vital way of rebuilding the nation, not only at the time of Josiah but also after the period of exile. It was a time once again to make the right choices, to obey the commandments, "loving God and walking in his ways" (v. 16). For the sake of the future of the nation, it was time to honour the covenant with God and "choose life".

To Ponder

  • Throughout Deuteronomy the suggestion is made that the people will prosper if they obey God's laws. How would you explain that to those living in poverty today?
  • What are the idols today that could make it difficult for us to "choose life"? And how should we help those facing this difficulty?
  • We often pray for doctors, nurses and carers, but rarely for lawyers or those whose task it is to uphold the law. Pray for those who have responsibilities relating to the law, both in society and in the Church.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.