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He Chose Us First – 09/08/13

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (GW)   Today I offer you life and prosperity or death and destruction.  This is what I am commanding you today: Love the LORD your God, follow His directions, and obey His commands, laws, and rules.  Then you will live, your population will increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are about to enter and take possession of.

But your hearts might turn away, and you might not listen.  You might be tempted to bow down to other gods and worship them.  If you do, I tell you today that you will certainly be destroyed.  You will not live for a long time in the land that you are going to take possession of when you cross the Jordan River.

I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses.  Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.  Love the LORD your God, obey Him, and be loyal to Him.  This will be your way of life, and it will mean a long life for you in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In our lives we make many choices.  When we look back on the choices we have made, we realize some of them were good and some not so good.  Some choices we have given much thought and some not so much.  In the Old Testament passage for today Moses gives his people a choice, to choose good and live long and enjoy God’s blessings, or to choose to be disobedient and then suffer the results.

First and foremost I want you to remember that the most important choice has been made for us, whether you can get to the Promised Land of Heaven or not.  God had chosen the children of Israel to inherit the Promised Land in Canaan.  Today, you and I also have been chosen to inherit the Promised Land yet to come.  We have been chosen and called out of darkness through faith in Jesus that we might live in the light of the knowledge of salvation.  We have been called out of darkness to some day live with God forever in Heaven.  That divine choice is already made for us available through Jesus.

But what do we do after God has called us out of darkness?  That is what the passage for today talks about.  The Gospel of John reminds us how GOD has chosen us.  We have not decided on our own to believe.  John wrote: (John 15:16)  “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.  I have appointed you to go, to produce fruit that will last, …”  That is what Moses is talking about.

What choice will we make?  Is it going to be good fruit or bad fruit?  The Lord has called us to bear good fruit that will last.  So in our lifetime of choices Moses reminds us to daily ask ourselves – What choices are we going to make?

The setting of the passage for today was when the children of Israel were standing at the threshold of the Promised Land.  They had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, and their wandering was now coming to an end.  But before they stepped across the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, God through Moses wanted to remind them that things were going to change for them.  They were not going to be wandering around in the wilderness.  They were going to find themselves in one place – the Promised Land.  They were not going to have to go out to collect manna every day, but instead were going to be in a prosperous land.  The concern Moses had was that when they came into this land of prosperity they might forget the Lord God.  So he emphasized that point: “Today I offer you life and prosperity or death and destruction.”  This might have seemed to be an easy choice, a no brainer.

But as the people were preparing to go into the Promised Land, we hear the warning that Moses gave them.  Even though it seemed an easy choice, they needed to know the consequences if they made bad choices.  God moved Moses to say: “… your hearts might turn away, and you might not listen.  You might be tempted to bow down to other gods and worship them.  If you do, I tell you today that you will certainly be destroyed.”

 

God gave the children of Israel a command to obey when they entered the Promised Land?  The Lord wanted them to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan because they were pagan people.  They had refused to believe in God and they were not going to worship the Lord God Almighty.  BUT when the children of Israel went into the Promised Land, they drove out only MOST of the people, not all of them.  So because some of those pagan people lived among God’s chosen people, the chosen people of God gave into the temptation to worship false gods.  The false gods were terrible, including false religions that even demanded human sacrifices.  The hearts of many of God’s people  were drawn away from the Lord.

Rather than obedience, God’s chosen people chose disobedience.  What was going to happen?  Moses told them: “You will not live for a long time in the land that you are going to take possession of when you cross the Jordan River.”  So it was that the children of Israel even though before them was their Promised Land for generation after generation, they soon found out when they disobeyed that their enemies came, defeated them, and took them away as prisoners.  Rather than choosing life and prosperity, they chose disobedience, death and destruction.

It was a serious matter.  The Lord told them: “I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses.”  Yet they chose death and curses.

Today as we live preparing to live in our promised land, the Lord wants us to ask ourselves: What choices are we going to make?  We also live among those who worship pagan things.  There are many false gods around us.  It is not that today’s idols are set up as false religions, but people, events, and many activities are worshiped as idols.  The Lord reminds us that day after day as believers, God’s chosen people, we make are challenged to make choices will being tempted by many false gods.

Our choices are not any easier than they were at the beginning of time.  Adam and Eve had only one choice – not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Only one choice to do wrong!  They still chose to sin in a perfect world.  We are far removed from the perfect world that Adam and Eve enjoyed.  Today you and I have many different choices that life puts before us.  The Scriptural evidence that the world makes bad choices and wrong choices is seen in that the world still faces death.  Even though the world might try to deny sin, it is there.  No one can escape death because no one in this lifetime escapes sin.

So the prevailing attitude in the world around us is to let people do what they want and respect their space and their feelings and their opinions, even their bad judgments.  The world claims that it is not so bad.  The debate in our society goes on – what is the meaning of marriage, Is sexual relations outside of marriage just another form of entertainment, Is same sex marriage just another right?  The list of disobedient choices grows with each generation.  All around us people declare that wrong is acceptable and evil is considered good.  People consider themselves worthy of Heaven by their intentions.  Yet, what do the Scriptures say?  Just as the Lord was serious with Moses and His chosen people then, He is very serious in our day and age with our nation.  God says: (Titus 1:16)  “They claim to know God, but they deny Him by what they do.  They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit to do anything good.”    That describes how everyone born into this world makes bad choices.

Still God has placed His choice upon us.  Through Jesus God has rescued us from the grip of Satan and placed us into the palm of His hand to help us make good choices.  It is difficult.  Worldly temptations swirl around us.  The philosophy of the world creeps in.

Jesus told in the parable of the seed and the sower that seems easy to understand.  Jesus explained that seed fell among the weeds.  (Matthew 13:22)  “The seed planted among weeds is the person who hears the word.  But the worries of life and the deceitful pleasures of riches choke the word so that it cannot produce anything.”  Remember God’s desire is that we should bear fruit?  Sometimes in our life we make the wrong choices.  We make choices that are affected by the deceitfulness of wealth.  We worry: Do we ever have enough to live on?  How are we going to survive when prices keep going up?  Do we think God is going to forget us?  We make choices concerning them instead of putting the priorities of God’s kingdom first.  So there are times the Word of God is choked out of our lives.  The Biblical truth that God has chosen to take care of us for time and eternity is forgotten.

The Lord says to us: What is your choice?  Is it going to be, to listen to the world’s temptations and choose disobedience thus facing God’s judgment?  Or is it going to be to listen to God’s Word choosing obedience thus enjoying God’s blessings?

Moses was trying to remind God’s people to BE God’s people.  From now on God’s people were not going to be collected as one group wandering in the wilderness.  They were going to be living in the midst of pagan people.  The Lord did not want His people to have their hearts turned by the false gods of the pagans.  The Lord did not want their heads to be turned by the prosperity they would enjoy.  Moses presented the choice: “Today I offer you life and prosperity or death and destruction.  This is what I am commanding you today: Love the LORD your God, follow His directions, and obey His commands, laws, and rules.”  God’s chosen people had been given the Ten Commandments along with other commands and decrees and laws.  By their obedience to this Old Testament covenant of God’s laws, they could show their love for God by obedience.

God says: “Love the LORD your God, obey Him, and be loyal to Him.”  God was going to bless them: “… you will live, your population will increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are about to enter and take possession of.”  Make no mistake.  God was not going to turn away from His people.  His people might turn away from Him.  God would bring them back through trials and tribulations.  It would have been much easier though if they would just walk in God’s way.  But what did they choose?

Moses went on to say: “Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.”  How strange it sounds that God through Moses had to tell His people to choose life.  But they needed to hear it.  The children of Israel had seen the Lord leading their lives day in and day out as they wandered in the wilderness.  There was the cloud of glory during the day and the fiery cloud at night that led them.  The Lord was with them 24 hours a day.  Moses said, “This will be your way of life, and it will mean a long life for you in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  This next generation would enter the Promised Land.  Moses would not enter because he had disobeyed when he made a bad choice.  Moses was going to see the Promised Land, but he would die because of his disobedience.  So Moses knew what the Lord meant.  He said to them, “What will be your choice today?”

In our day we have so many great blessings in our society.  We have freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  We can do and say just about anything we want to without any repercussions, because those are the freedoms that we enjoy.  We have freedoms which nations around the world desire and do not possess.  Yet, how often do we take them for granted?  How often do we forget the freedom we have to be able to sit down and read our Bible every day; the freedom to confess Christ openly without any government interference; the freedom to worship on Sunday?  God has blessed us in Jesus!  In our Christian freedom the Lord reminds us to choose life.  In the letter to the Hebrews believers were encouraged: (Hebrews 10:23)  “We must continue to hold firmly to our declaration of faith.  The One who made the promise is faithful.”  Our faithful, gracious God has promised us life and every blessing – both earthly and eternal.

As we look at our life, we see our lives are continually filled with blessings beyond all comparison that God has provided.  These are blessings that you and I do not deserve, that we have not earned, that we cannot buy.  This is especially true when we look at the spiritual blessings that the Lord has given us.  When we look at all of the creation in the world and all the billions of people that are here, the Lord says, “You will be My own special possession.”  Every believer, no matter who they are or where they live, is a chosen part of God’s treasured possession.  When we compare ourselves to all of God’s creation, we are like a speck in the whole picture of the world, just a speck in this universe.  Yet, the Lord knows us by name.  God has chosen us, so that we might choose obedience and enjoy God’s blessings.

It is a constant struggle – our new Christian nature that wants to do what God wants us to do.  This battles against our sinful nature that always wants to do what God does not want us to do.  Our sinful nature agrees with the world.  The worldly point of view says that all those commandments are out of date.  The Bible is ancient.  Who can live by it, or still wants to live by it?  Who can live and have fun by obeying God’s Words?  Who CAN follow God’s commandments?  Yet, what does God say to us?  The Lord said: (I John 5:3-4)  “To love God means that we obey His commandments.  Obeying His commandments is not difficult because everyone who has been born from God has won the victory over the world.  Our faith is what wins the victory over the world.”  God has given us faith to overcome the wickedness of the world.  God has given us our faith to overcome the snares of Satan.  God has given us our faith to overcome the failings of our flesh.

Our gracious God says to us that now that He has made us His believers and His children, “What choices are you going to make?”  Is it disobedience, listening to the world, or is it obedience and listening to God’s word?  On our own we cannot do it, but because God has given us faith we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  Paul wrote to the Philippians: (Philippians 2:13)  “It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please Him.”  Stand fast against disobedience.  God has given each of us the strength and ability to continue to follow Him, because He has chosen us first.  May each of us enjoy all of God’s blessings in Jesus’ name.

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