We make choices every day. What to eat, what to wear, how to do a task.
When we make choices, do we ever change our mind? Telephone carriers frequently call us enticing us to change our mind about who is our long distance carrier. If we changed our mind every time we received a call, we would be changing Long distance servers about as often as we change socks. Would it be good to change our mind that often? How do we stick to a choice once we have made it.
Some choices are life changing and some are minor. A choice about a particular diet, is life shanging, but a choice about whether to eat porridge today and eggs tomorrow or eggs today and porridge tomorrow doesn't really matter much.
The most important choice we need to make is a choice about whether to go with God or to go without Him. Have you made this choice? How do you stick to such a choice? Have you made a choice to go with God, but later changed your mind about it?
In Deuteronomy 27-30, we come to a high point. In Deuteronomy 1-11, Moses gave reasons why Israel should choose to follow God. In 12-26, Moses repeated the law which described how they should follow God. Last week, we looked at this and noted that there were three basic elements of being a follower of God, namely: holiness, compassion and justice. Now in 27-30, Moses brings the nation to a point of decision and urges them to make a choice to go with God.
As we examine these chapters, we will be challenged to choose to go with God. We will be challenged to make that choice a promise and not just a choice and we will be challenged to return to that choice if we have moved away from it.
I. Make A Choice
A. The Choices and Their Consequences 28
Whenever I make a choice, I like to know what the options are. Whenever I have made significant choices, I have written out all the options on a piece of paper so that I know all sides of an issue and am able to make a good choice. This is exacly what Moses did for Israel in Deuteronomy 28.
In 28:1-14, he laid out the blessings for obedience. Notice particularly in 28:3-6, read. Further blessings are enumerated in the following verses. In summary he tells them that if they choose to follow God, they will experience blessings.
In 28:15-68 he laid down the alternative - curses for disobedience. For example, in 28:16-19, we read something that sounds quite similar to what we read in 28:3-6. It is in fact, the exact opposite. The text goes on to expand on the list of curses and we find an even longer list of curses than there were blessing.
And so the choice is laid out before them very plainly. If they follow God, they will experience blessing. If they do not follow God, they will experience curses.
As we read these blessings and cursings in Deuteronomy, we see a lot of promises that pertain to physical and material blessings. There are all kinds of promises that pertain to the land on which they were going to live. Many of these specific promises are not for us today, but if we were to write out a similar list of options for ourselves today, what would it look like? The basic choice is still the same. It is a choice to go with God or to go without God.
If we go with God, we have His promises that we will have forgiveness of sins, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the joy of fellowship in the body of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit to help us live obedient lives, the promise of God's constant care even in the midst of difficult times, the comfort of His strength and grace to sustain us in trials and ultimately eternal life.
If, on the other hand, we choose to go without God, we have the promise that we will have to live in the guilt of our sin, we will live absent from the helping presence of God and ultimately we will experience eternal death away from the presence of God.
B. Choose Life! 30:15-20
These were the choices Moses laid before the people of Israel and then he invited them to make the choice. The options were set before them and he repeated them in 30:15, "See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction." What is at stake is large. It is a matter of choosing between life and death. This is still true today. We cannot become distracted by the busyness of everyday life. We cannot coast along and avoid a decision. This is not a small decision to make and as Moses urged them to recognize the seriousness of the decision, I also urge you to do the same. The decision to follow God is a serious and significant decision.
Making the decision to go with God is a decision to sign up for blessings. We have already noted that the yes side promises all kinds of wonderful blessings. Why would anyone not want to participate in the wonder of all that God provides.
The other option is death and destruction as we have already seen. In spite of the hope of many people that God will finally accept everyone, we do not find that kind of a hope in the Bible. The Bible invites a choice and to reject that choice is to choose death. In fact, to avoid making a decision is already to make a decision and it is the decision to choose death.
Thus the best option, the most obvious choice to make is to do as it says in 30:19, where Moses specifically invites, no in fact, he urges them to "choose life."
There are some here who have not yet made that choice. There are some here who are sitting on the fence of indecision. Just as Moses urged all Israel to choose life, I urge you to choose life today. Don't put off the decision any longer, don't stay on the fence any longer. Make the choice to choose God and so to choose life!
No one can make the decision for you and God will not force you to make this decision, but I urge you to make it today!
II. Make A Promise
But as we study this passage, we find that God was inviting them to do more than just make a choice. He was inviting them to make a promise. The language of this passage is the language of covenant.
A covenant is a promise. It is a promise between two people. When two people get married, they make a covenant. Each promises the other that they will love and be faithful.
A. God's Side Of The Covenant 29:2-8
God made a promise to Israel. We read in 29:2b, 3, 5, 6, 12, 13.
The covenant begins with God. He led them out of Egypt, He provided for them. He desires that they be His people. He has blessed and promises continued blessing. God has given his eternal and absolutely certain guarantee that He will keep His part of the relationship.
As we make a choice to follow God, we must also realize that God is the initiator of our relationship with Him. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. He sent His Spirit to indwell those who believe. He promised us life.
B. Making Covenant
Moses laid out the choices for Israel. He reminded them that God has already blessed and called them to be His people. But then Moses invited the people to make a promise. As we read this, we see that He was indeed inviting them to do more than make a choice, He was inviting them to make a promise and to make this promise by engaging in several acts of covenant. If we make a choice, we can always change our mind, but if we make a covenant, we make a choice at a completely different level. We make a choice at a level of commitment.
1.Symbols of Covenant Making
Moses told the people that when they crossed the Jordan river, one of the first things they were to do was to engage in a number of acts of covenant making. They were to reinforce their choice by engaging in these signs of the covenant.
We read in 27:1-4 that they were to take some large stones, set them up and plaster them and write all the words of the covenant on them. Then they were to make an altar and make a sacrifice on that altar.
Then they were to set Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, Benjamin on Mount Gerazim to proclaim the blessings to all the other tribes. On a mountain that was just opposite to Mt. Gerazim, that is on Mt. Ebal, they were to set the other six tribes, namely Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali in order to proclaim the curses.
These were to be events for "parading the options."
We have recorded in chapter 27:15-26 the event in which the Levites recited the curses and then we read that after the reading of each curse, the people were to say "amen!"
It was an act of solidarity in which Israel corporately agreed to go with God.
What these symbols do is create an event that is memorable. They provide a marker of covenant making.
Can you imagine what a huge event this was and what it would have done for the people to stand in solidarity and together recite the options and then together sacrifice in the presence of the laws God had given and so commit themselves to keep these laws?
The purpose of such a covenant making event was to raise the choice the people had to the level of a promise. It would help them remember the commitment they had made and it would provide an event to which they could look back and know that on that day, they had made a promise to God. Such events have a powerful impact on the ability of people to keep the choices they have made and this is exactly the purpose for which God had set up these options. He knew that if the people made such a commitment in such a public way, it would help them keep the choice they had made and view it as more of a promise than merely a personal choice which could be changed.
2.Our Covenant Symbols
The covenant making event which God has given for us to keep today is baptism.
The New Testament is quite clear that baptism is the sign which indicates that we have made a choice to follow God. Baptism is the event which raises the choice to go with God to more than a personal choice, but to a public promise making event. Matthew 28:19 says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." Galatians 3:26,27 says, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
If you have made a commitment to follow Christ, I invite you to raise that decision to a covenant with God through baptism.
III. Return To The Promise
About 5 years after I had made a decision to become a Christian, I slipped away from my commitment. I wanted to be accepted by the crowd and I compromised my commitment. A few years after this, I met a fellow whom I hadn't seen for quite a while. At the time, the sign of my rebellion was that I smoked. We were at a church youth event together and I showed him my cigarettes. He was shocked and reminded me that I had led him to the Lord a number of years earlier. That was a turning point for me to return to my commitment. What happens when we fail to keep the commitment we make? Does God receive us back?
A. Failure 29:16-29
In spite of the fact that Israel chose to go with God and even engaged in the act of covenant Moses lays out here, they did not stick to that covenant.
Moses speaks about that possiblity in Deuteronomy 29:16ff. In 29:16-29, he talks about the person who says, "I will be safe even though I persist in going my own way." He talks about the destruction that would be brought on the land because of those who refuse to follow God. As we know, this is exactly what happened to Israel. They strayed away from the choice they had made and as a result, God punished them. I have recently read Jeremiah and Ezekial which tell of the horror of what happened when Israel broke covenant with God and did not keep the promise they had made.
The same can happen to us. I know a girl who was involved in camp ministry at Simonhouse quite a number of years ago. She was enthusiastic and faithful, but a few years later, I heard that she had gotten involved in a cult. We have met people who are vibrant in their faith and then we meet them sometime later and find that they have gotten cold. How sad that in spite of the dire warnings for not following God. In spite of the fact that people make a firm and solid decision, there are times when they fall away.
B. Restoring Covenant 30:1-10
By God's grace, that does not have to be the end of it. Even in the Old Testament, God extended the possiblity of restoration. In Deuteronomy 30:1-10, God gave to Israel the invitation that if they ever fell away, when they returned to the Lord, He would restore their fortunes once again.
God is so gracious that he invites us back and receives us back if we return to Him and if we repent, He will bring us back and restore our hearts so that we will love Him again. Read 30:6. No matter how far we have wandered, God invites us back again and is willing to restore covenant.
Perhaps you are in this situation. If you are, I invite you to reconsider the options once again and rejoice that God is willing to accept you once again.
Where are you today? Please note in the sermon outline a series of choices. Each of us could fill out one of these options.
1.Perhaps you have never made the choice to go with God. I urge you to choose God's way. Remember that blessing accompanies going with God. Remember also that not making a choice is choosing to reject. I want to challenge you to make a choice to go with God today.
2.Perhaps you have made a choice, but you have never raised that choice to a covenant statement by baptism. If the choice resides in your heart, make it a promise in the presence of all of us so that you will have strength to live by the choice you have made. If you would like to be baptized, please contact me about this and we can arrange it.
3.Perhaps you have made the choice, have declared it as a covenant by baptism and are living by it. Then rejoice at the hope and promises that are yours in Christ. Review once again the promises God has made to you.
4.Perhaps you once made a choice, but you are not now living by that choice. God will welcome you back and I invite you to come back. Remember the good promises God has made and return to him for you will find acceptance and renewal in Him.
I invite you to mark your choice on the sermon outline and then show it to someone. God invites us to live and so I invite everyone to choose life!