Choices: Blessing, Cursing, Life, Death
Text: Deut 30:11-20
Moses is instructing Joshua on a ceremony that will be done once they enter the Promised Land. This ceremony would be carried out on Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim just inside the border of Canaan. It would signify the acceptance of the Covenant between God and the People of Israel, a covenant we label the Palestinian or Land Covenant, because it dealt with the people and the land God would give them.
We read about it in Deuteronomy 27:11-13, And Moses commanded the people on the same day, saying, "These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have crossed over the Jordan: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin; and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.
What Moses detailed here in Deut 27 does take place under the leadership of Joshua and is recorded in Joshua 8.
Sometimes I think it would be good for us to have a ceremony to understand the importance of the choices we make.
Joke: The Cajun’s son makes his choice. Beadruex called his wife one day to come into the living room of their house. He told her he had figured out a way to see how his teenage son was going to turn out.
She asked him, “How you goin’ do dat?”
He say, “Look here on de coffey table dat is in this here livin room.”
She looked and what she see was three things, a Bible, a wallet with 20 dollars sticking out and a fifth of whiskey.
She look at her husband and say, “You one crazy fool of a man. How dem thangs show you how Junior gonna turn out?”
He told here, “Here come junior now, hide. Hide behin this here curtan and I dun show you this amazing thang I jus figured out.”
So they hid and peeked through the curtains as junior walked into the living room and spotted the things on the coffee table.
First he picked up the wallet and looked at the twenty dollar bill.
Beadrux tell his wife. “Oh no. if he take de mony, my boy gonna be a theef”
Junior put down the money and picked up the whiskey.
“Oh no, If he take the whisky he gona be a lousy drunk jus like yo daddy!”
Junior put down the whiskey and picked up the Bible.
“Ifning he take the Bible he gonna be a preacher for sure.”
Junior put down the Bible and started to walk off.
Beaudrux’s wife say, “I dun tole you, you crazy like a crawdad. That boy done take nuthin.”
Just then Junior walked back into the living room, picked up the wallet and stuck the twenty in his pocket. He opened the whiskey took a big swig and put that in his other pocket. Finally, he reached out took the Bible, tucked it under his arm and walked out with a smile on his face.
Beaudrux started to cry and moan and wail like it was his pappa’s funeral.
What his wife asked, “What it mean since Junior dun took the money, an the whiskey and the Bible.”
“Oh it be terrible” cried out Beaudrux. “It be worser dan a theef, worser dan a preacher and even worser dan a drunk. That boy you gone an raised up, he gonna be a politician!”
Choices and Contact - Deuteronomy 30:11-14
"For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Moses, tells the people, The word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart. That you may do it. He is telling them this is not a hard thing to understand, it is not hard to know what to choose. The right answer is not hidden but directly in front them. It is so close that he says it is in their mouth and in their heart that they can and must make the choice.
God beginning in Egypt and continuing throughout the wilderness has revealed Himself to His people, God has revealed His word and His will. Now in full view of that undeniable revelation of God, they must choose.
There is no neutral ground, the people were either on Mt. Ebal or Mt. Gerizim, they choices this day would be just as obvious and just as telling.
I don’t know if we are always cognizant of the power of choices we make everyday. Or sometimes of the consequences of not being willing to make those choices. One choice can make or break your whole day, like choosing to mess with your wife before the coffee is made, that can wreck your whole day. Or the choice of your friends can wreck your life. I knew a young man who choose bad friends and one day when they asked him to go for a ride, he said yes. At the end of that ride they robbed a liquor store while he sat in the car. When they were caught, he went to prison and his life was changed, terribly changed by that choice he made that day. The lack of making a choice may be the difference between heaven and hell, one choice made or not made can have eternal consequences.
The Bible is filled with places where God challenges us to make a choice.
Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
1 Kings 18:21 - And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Proverbs 1: 20-26 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
By our choices we face God as our Master or as our enemy. By our choices we find Heaven or Hell as our eternal destination. By our choices we have forgiveness of our sin or judgment of that same sin. The difference is but a choice.
There are choices we make after salvation as well. We can choose to surrender or server self. We can choose to forgive one another or to condemn one another. We can choose to give to God or to rob God in our tithes and offerings.
All these choices are right before our eyes. Just as they were for the Israelites, they are in our mouth to say yes or no. They are in our hearts to accept or reject.
I have an uncle in Yuma, Arizona who was a marine in Vietnam and later was my boss when I worked in the construction trade building houses. If he knew how often he comes up as an illustration in my sermons, he probably wouldn’t have said as much to me as he did, but its too late for that. He had that Texan way of having the right saying at the right time. When he was ready to make a choice that would make a change for the better, the would say, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” My uncle Larry’s once told me about a Marine buddy of his who was constantly getting in trouble, he did the least he could do, often got written up by his superiors and basically wanted to just coast through life. One day after another incident his Sargent called him into the barracks for a serious talk. My uncles buddy was a corporal if I remember the story right, he had potential to go further but he was lazy and not very responsible. The Sargent told him, Today you have to make a choice as to which path you want to walk as a Marine. Either you straighten up and make the right decisions and go on to your next rank or you don’t and I’m going to see you busted back to private. What is going to be? The marine said, “Sarge, I’m happy right where I am. I just want to stay right here. His Sargent told him, “Today, you will decide to take one path or the other, staying where you are is not a choice.”
I stand before you today to echo that truth when it comes to God and our responsibility before Him, you don’t have the choice to not choose. There is no neutral ground, there is no putting off a choice for another day. Doing so is simply saying no to God and that is a dangerous choice.
Transition: Moses goes on in making this confirmation of the covenant and its consequences as plain as possible.
Choices and Consequences Deut 30:15-18
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it
Moses Gives the Choice and the Consequence
What Moses told the people was really very straightforward, very simple. If the people of Israel would love God and obey him they would be blessed by Him and dwell in the promised land in safety and peace, but if they chose to rebel against him and disobey then they would be cursed by Him and driven from the land.
When they crossed the Jordon Joshua was to have the tribes stand on the two mounts, Mt. Ebal represented the curse and Mt. Gerizim the blessing of God. No tribe was allowed to stand in the valley. This was symbolic there being no middle ground when it came to obeying God and making a choice. Blessing or cursing was their choice make but they must make it.
God still Gives the Choice
When God created man, he created him in the image of God. One aspect of that image is free will, the ability to choose and even to choose in opposition to the God who created him. One of the reasons I have such a problem accept the doctrine of foreordination, that God has already determined who is saved and who is lost, is that the Bible is filled with so many occurrences of God telling man to choose. It would just such a contradiction for God to call on man to make a choice, if He had already made that choice for man. And one thing I am sure that the Bible makes very plain, God does not contradict Himself.
Look at just a few examples of man’s ability to choose and then the consequences of that choice.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
1 John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
Galatians 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Yet many think there are no consequences to their choices or worse that they can somehow choose, not to choose. That, of course, is the worst choice of all. They wait until it is too late to choose. They wait until the choice is made for them and then they suffer the consequences.
As individuals we choose and reap the consequences but the principle is the same for nations and governments. Do you remember the story of the pastor who was called to open the Kansas State Senate in prayer? His prayer that day was about the wrong choices and it made national news when Pastor Joe Wright finished.
Prayer of Pastor Joe
In 1996, Pastor Joe Wright was asked by one of his church members, a state legislator, to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good" but that is exactly what we have done.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism; We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism; We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle; We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery; We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare; We have killed our unborn and called it choice; We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable; We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem; We have abused power and called it politics; We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition; We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression; We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will, to open ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen"
The prayer led to "angry walkouts in two state legislatures, an unprecedented two readings on Paul Harvey's Radio show, more than 6,500 phone calls to Wright's church and so many boxes of mail that the church staff didn't' know where to put them all. Additionally, Wright's prayer went viral, with thousands of emails, which republished and critiqued the prayer, circulating on the internet.
That Pastor understood we as the American people will suffer the consequences of the choices we make or just as often the choices we refuse to make. Moses has one more appeal to the Israelites.
Choices and Challenge Deuteronomy 30:19-20
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
The Challenge To Choose
vs. 19. “Choose Life!” Moses knew it was not enough to just lay the choice before God’s people. They had to be challenged to take action and make the choice now and every time they would make a choice in the future. His challenge is powerful and direct, he tells them, “Choose Life!”
In fact Moses draws the reason or making this choice to an exact pinpoint of reality in vs. 20. “For He is thy Life.”
The choice they were about to make was vastly important, important to their conquest of Canaan, important to the settling of the land, important to their keeping the land and important to the generations that would follow them. Their choice that day counted, it meant something because the choice they would make was about God and their relationship with Him. “He is they life!”
There is nothing more important than that.
Our Challenge Today
What mountains are we choosing to stand upon today? With our choices we will choose the place of cursing or the place of blessing. As it was then with Moses and the Israelites it is with us today, there is no middle ground. No place where we can choose not to choose, when it comes to God and our relationship with Him.
It is not enough just to know the choices. It is not even enough to understand the consequences. It is only enough when we choose. When we make the right choice, today and every single time we are confronted with the challenge of making a decision, we must choose.
So, how then should we choose? If we must act every time then what guides us to make the right decision, to choose correctly? Here, the words of Moses are as clear today as they were those thousands of years ago, “Choose Life! Choose Life! Choose Life!” because “He is thy life” and there can’t really be any other choice. Choose eternal life. Choose the best life of your family. Choose life in your friends and choose life when forgiving your enemies. Choose life in all things and you will find the blessings of God as the consequence for that choice.
In the Book of Revelation, when Jesus wrote his letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, by the hand of John, one phrase is sent to every single church. We read it Rev 2 verses 7, 11,17, and 29 then in chapter 3: verses 6, 13 and 22. What is this one phrase that it is so important that every single church no matter its circumstance was to hear and respond to.
Revelation 3:13 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." That is a challenge to every person to make the right choice. It is a challenge to hear the words of Jesus Christ as they are given to us by the Holy Spirit working through the Bible, working through the sermon, working through our hearts. If you are hearing this then the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. Listen and then make the right choice.
In the final appeal to the Church of Laodicea, Jesus says in Revelation 3:20-22 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Just as Moses stood before the nation of Israel and told them to Choose Life, Jesus stands at the door of the church and knocks, He knocks at our will, he knocks at our heart, he knocks and the knock is a challenge to make the right choice. Choose life, choose to open the door and let Jesus give us life.
What choice will you make today?
You need to quit stalling, quit waiting and choose life in Jesus Christ You need to answer the challenge, make the choice and put your faith in Christ this morning, right now, right here.
Perhaps there are other choices that involve the path God would have you walk and you’re stalled at the crossroad. It’s time to choose life, let Jesus Christ take your hand and lead where He wants you to go.
Whoever you are and whatever you are struggling with this morning I stand before you and without doubt tell you, that you will never go wrong if you choose life and choose to follow Jesus as Savior and as Lord.