Going Deeper 9-4-19

The first reading for Pentecost 13…

Deuteronomy 30:15-20   See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.  If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.  But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.


A quick review: this text is a reflection of the “Blessings & Curses” part of the Sinai Covenant, which if understood outside of that context seems to put forth an “if-then” motive for obedience.  This has caused a whole lot of misunderstanding, from ancient Israel to the modern church.  It is basically a “works-reward” approach to motivating obedience.  IF you obey, THEN God will reward you.


However, when understood in the light of the entire Sinai Covenant structure, we see that this is a secondary level of motivation.  The primary motivation is to reflect a “because-therefore” mindset.  BECAUSE of who God is and what He has graciously and powerfully done for you (rescue from Egypt, as well as guiding, providing, and protecting in the wilderness), you THEREFORE are to respond with obedience.  The primary motive was (and is!) gratitude and love, not fear or a desire for reward.


These words of Moses also reflect wisdom teaching, as we can see in the Psalm of the day for this coming Sunday, Psalm 1, which has the main theme of “Delight in and obey the law of the Lord and all goes well; live a life of disobedient wickedness and things will fall apart.”  We do well to listen to this wisdom.  While our primary motivation for living lives of obedience must be gratitude and love, we are wise to see that living according to the ways of our Creator/Redeemer brings the best, safest, most meaningful and joyful life possible.  To reject God’s ways in favor of living our own way, or in the ways of the broken world, is, well, just plain foolish!


We are wise to “Choose life”… “loving the Lord your God, [and] walking in his ways.”


Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington, Colorado


“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”