|Slide 1 Last week I said that we never give up the ability to choose; that it is always present in every life circumstance. Now granted there are times in a person’s life and some of us have experienced this, when a loved one has been incapacitated and someone else, usually a designated person, has to take over the decision making process for a while. But for the most part, we never, ever, give up the ability to choose and one of the hallmarks of being a mature adult and a mature Christian adult is taking responsibility for our choices and accepting the consequences of those choices, intended and unintended.
I encountered our main text for this morning during my daily reading this past week and the Spirit spoke to me about this passage and I now simply share the insights that came during that time as a prelude to communion.
Slide 2 What first occurred to me was that the Lord gave the Israelites one basic choice but stated that basic choice in three different ways: life or death, prosperity or disaster, blessings or curses.
Let’s look at these three pairs of words for a moment. The first pair of words is the basic choice that the Israelites were asked make – Life or Death? What does it mean to choose life or death?
To choose life is to choose to live in a right relationship with God through Christ. It is to be open to and empowered by love, joy, peace, and the rest of the Fruits of the Spirit. It is to love God and others as we love ourselves as Jesus said when someone asked Him what the greatest commandment of the entire Jewish faith was.
Now if you are like me, you have found reading through Leviticus and other front-end Old Testament books to be a bit tedious with all of those laws. Let me give you a big picture view of all those laws: They describe the choice of life, prosperity, and blessing and what it should look like.
One of the intriguing and noteworthy passages to me concerns the ‘Cities of Refuge’ that are described in Numbers 35:9-34. These were places to which, as we read in verses 11 and 12, people could ‘flee to if they have killed someone accidentally. These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be killed before being tried by the community.’
To me a choice for life, prosperity, and blessing gives people the chance to be innocent until proven guilty because it values human life and a properly followed system of justice. Things that we have said as Americans we believe in while we are aware of the often glaring flaws and mistakes in our system and history.
In these so called boring passages there is an understanding of the need for health and hygiene because as we are all aware of, bacteria and viruses travel very quickly between humans and back then as well as in our time and recent history, we know what unchecked epidemics can do to humanity. Is this not also a case for choosing life?
To choose life is to say no to death. And death in this context is alienation from God, conflict with others, hate toward those who are not one of us and apathy toward the human condition. The kind of death that we so easily choose – spiritual death, moral death, relational death, comes from the pursuit of selfish goals and desires. It says, ‘me first, then everybody else.’
Slide 3 Life brings prosperity not necessarily wealth. One of the other unique laws on the books for the Israelites had to with the period of Jubilee as it appears in Leviticus 25. It was a time that came every fifty years when the land was returned to the original owners. It was designed to not take advantage of others and was to level the playing field. Debts were to be cancelled and slaves were to be freed. Why? God makes in clear in Leviticus 25:14, ‘When you make an agreement with a neighbor to buy or sell property, you must never take advantage of each other.’ It was designed to equalize the playing field and give all a chance to prosper. (Hum, I wonder how different our economy would be if maybe we tried this in 2050 or sooner.)
Slide 3a Life brings blessing not necessarily total freedom from difficulties. To bless someone is to empower them. One of the Biblical dictionaries that I consulted said that to bless people is to ‘[express] good wishes to someone or [offer] prayer to God for his welfare.’ It also said this, ‘among the Jews in their thank-offerings the master of the feast took a cup of wine in his hand, and after having blessed God for it and for other mercies then enjoyed, handed it to his guests, who all partook of it.’ (Does this remind you of something?)
To curse someone according to this same dictionary defines cursing in this manner as a ‘prediction’ of trouble and divine rebuke down the road. It was a logical conclusion to disobedience.
Death is an embrace of everything against God and the opposite of life. It brings un-life, it brings disaster and cursing. It brings about loss and hardship and grief and sorrow and guilt. Why do we keep choosing death? Why do we seem to prefer disaster and cursing instead of prosperity and blessing?
Because we are easily seduced by the Devil’s temptations to take shortcuts thinking that it will lead to life and prosperity and blessing. Years ago I heard someone say, ‘good is the enemy of the best.’
This table before us, on which the bread and the wine sit, is a table of life, of prosperity, and of blessing. It is a remembrance of God’s loving sacrifice on our behalf through Christ. It is the best and not merely the good.
Next week we will conclude our current series, ‘Growing as We Go,’ with a look at a third Old Testament character who intentionally, consciously, and courageously choose the way of life, godly prosperity, and tremendous blessing – that person was Daniel.
Daniel, probably having heard the words of Moses many times, chose life, prosperity, and blessing even though it nearly cost him his life. He said yes to the right things, to God and obedience to Him and Him alone, so that when the time came to say ‘no’ to a lesser life and commitment, he was able to do so.
Jesus did the same after He broke the bread and served the cup. Though He came face to face with a deep fear of death, He said yes to the Father and chose the way of life through death with the result that we can have the prosperity and blessing that comes with the forgiveness of our sins.
Slide 4 Last week I shared with you the experience of having two questions enter my mind that I try to think about on a daily basis, ‘What is in your heart today? Is love there?’
Slide 4a Since that time a third question has entered my mind, ‘What are you after?’ It is a question about intent and direction and to answer it correctly we have to determine what we are going to say ‘yes’ to so that we know what we will be able to say ‘no’ to when that time comes.
And it will come this week, perhaps even today, when we are presented with a temptation to short cut our faith and relationship with God in some way. When those moments come, and they do and they will, we need to remember that Jesus said ‘yes’ so that we can say ‘no’ and chose life, eternal life through Christ that will provide us with a prosperous and blessed life. Say you ‘yes’ this day to God?
Let us prepare for communion. Amen. Slide 5
Sources: Bible Dictionary sources are found in the ‘Ouick Verse Application Life Bible software.’