Sixth Sunday After Epiphany: The Old Testament Passage – The coming faith in God, Old Testament style and other ways

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.” (Deuteronomy 30:15)

Do not think, beloved reader, that the choice is as easy as that. The writer of Deuteronomy (or the words that Moses is said to have spoken) need to be read with two things in mind. First, that this is an admonition to the people who traveled to the land that God had picked out for them, the new Hebrew nation. It is not an promise to each individual person, but a prophecy for the new Hebrew nation to rest upon. Second, there will always be death and adversity in life. It is the nature of being alive on the earth.

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.” (Verses 16 – 18)

While this passage does not address the issue directly, the hidden subtext is that those who do believe on God and follow God’s tenets (commandments as Moses brought then down from Mount Sinai) will not be alone in this world. And this is a good admonition to new believers, and to those of us whose faith could use refreshing – which is all of us. (No offense intended.) Moses/the writer of Deuteronomy was being a little extreme. But when you are working to establish a new faith system, or re-establish an old one, it is good to have strong boundaries.

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.” (Verses 19 – 20)

Another thing I want to point out, the choice for God is a personal one. It is not an automatic inclusion for your descendants. Each person must decide for themselves. However, we can model our faith beliefs and teach those who are new or young to the faith what faithful living looks like. And if that is what is meant here, then I am all for it. The Jewish faith evolved as a faith that has its center in the home, where right living and good choices are modeled and encouraged by one’s parents/elders. Christianity has come to be a faith that is based in the corporate church, again where modeling, teaching and nurture happens. But that happens by intent and design, not as a consequence of simply living.

Now let me qualify that by saying the influence of the Christian faith can happen that way, no matter the setting of the teaching etc. But by and large, most of the time the church is where most Christian faith is transmitted. And even as I say that I know there will be some cases of very noteworthy exceptions. I grew up in a Mennonite/Anabaptist home as did my friends and my family before me. Religion and faith were practiced in every day practical ways and affected all aspects of my home life.

Christians come to their faith in many ways, and because of diverse influences. I am getting the feeling though, that we have drifted away from the Deuteronomy passage. To bring us back, let me say that the Lord God uses many ways and influences to bring people to faith. The Hebrews who would become the Israelites and Judahites came to faith through the influence and tradition of the family and nation they grew up in. It was here, as they entered Jordan, that faith took hold and was placed on them by the expectations of their leaders. But OH that statement could open up a whole other field of commentary!

Let my close by commending you to the Lord God who calls the Divine’s people in so many ways! Selah!