30 15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
Can you imagine a world without rules? It sounds great. No 9 to 5 or limit on vacation time. Nothing stopping you from going on that shopping spree. But in reality it would be a nightmare. Ask any parent of young children how they feel about a world without rules and you will see pure terror in their eyes. Just imagine a world without bedtimes. What five year old is going to choose a reasonable time to go to sleep? Or what if you told your kids that they could have absolutely anything they wanted for dinner? Do you really think they would choose brussels sprouts over cake or a big bowl of M&M’s? A world without rules? For most kids that would mean a whole lot less school, a lot more toys, and puppies and kittens as far as the eye can see. It’s every parents’ secret nightmare. No. There is a reason for rules. There is a reason we tell our children “no”. It’s because we love them. We want them to be safe. But that doesn’t stop children from trying to find ways around the rules. We understand that. Because we are tempted to do the same thing. But as adults we understand there is a reason for rules: a world without rules is dangerous. It’s chaos. It’s death.
That’s why every culture in the world has had laws and ways to enforce those rules. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. Don’t attack others. No trespassing. Pay your taxes. Keep your pets under control. No speeding. Wear a seatbelt. No texting while driving. Those laws aren’t just arbitrary random ideas. They are meant to keep safety and peace. To protect us and the people we care about. That’s why we always obey the law. We don’t murder. We don’t steal. We don’t attack others. We pay our taxes. We always go the speed limit. Well. Usually. You know. I mean, it doesn’t really count if it’s only 5 over. And on the highway? I mean everyone goes 10 over. Or 15 even. Besides, if the police don’t catch you is it really breaking the law? Yes! Of course it is! But it’s so easy to make excuses for why we aren’t obeying the laws. So easy to try to sound reasonable or explain away why we just bend the rules a bit. But guess what: it’s still breaking the law.
And then we look at the Law of God. He is very clear: it’s not just the letter of the Law that he’s concerned with, it’s also the will of God that we’re supposed to follow. Just because you have never murdered anyone don’t think that you aren’t a murderer! “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22) Things just got a bit tighter. Anger at someone is the same as murder. Sinful thoughts about someone is the same as adultery. No you haven’t ever stolen your neighbors huge tv, or beautiful car but don’t think you aren’t a thief. Sinful desire for those things are the same as stealing. God knows the heart. He knows our secret thoughts, wants, desires. He knows our sins. All of them. The Law of God isn’t supposed to be a cruel thing. It’s there for our good. To keep us safe. But our wandering hearts so often want to find ways around it. To make excuses for why we’re bending his will.
God stands before us with a promise and a warning. Following God is life and blessings. Sin leads to death and sorrow. “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-18a) This isn’t a pick and choose kind of deal. Either we follow God and obey his Word or we die. Life or destruction. We want life. But we get angry. We lie. We lust. We break God’s Law. We want to obey God but the temptation is so real. Our struggle is confusing. So we try to get around the edges of the Law and we find God’s judgment: you are a sinner. You are a Law breaker.
Do you want to see a model citizen? Do you want to see someone who has kept every Law perfectly? Turn your eyes to Jesus. In a world full of law breakers Jesus alone can’t be accused. During his life he never tried to find the way around the Law. When his parents thought they had lost him on their way home from Jerusalem they rushed back to see if he was still there. And when they found him in the temple they were a bit upset. They didn’t understand that he didn’t disobey them. Instead he was exactly where he needed to be “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) When Satan came to tempt him Jesus right through his lies. “Turn this rock into bread. Throw yourself off the temple and know that the angels will catch you. Bow down to me just one time and all of this world will be yours.” Now those are just the three temptations that God tells us about when Jesus was in the wilderness. The Bible says he was tempted throughout his time there. And sure, Jesus could have tried to get around the Law or try to explain why he could bend the Law. But he refused because he wanted to keep the Law perfectly. Not just the outward appearance, but in his heart as well. At his arrest Jesus could have escaped. After all, he was innocent. But he knew it was time to face judgment that was a long time in coming. Ever since the first sin and God promised a Savior this moment was bound to happen. Because God doesn’t try to get around his promise. He doesn’t twist his Word. So he faced the punishment for all of our sins. And by his Sacrifice he gave us exactly what he promised: salvation. Forgiveness. Peace.
Our perfect God kept all of the demands of the Law for us. And our loving God worked faith in our hearts. A faith that trusts not in ourselves but in Jesus who fulfilled the Law on our behalf. And he stands before us today with a promise and a warning. He tells us that he has only good things in store for us. Not just for this short life, but for the eternal one waiting for us. He holds out his promises and his love. In the Bible he gives us glimpses of the beauties and wonders of Heaven. That’s where he will bring us. “See, I set before you today life and prosperity.” (Deuteronomy 30:15) But our loving God is also concerned for us. He knows of the dangers we face, the temptations, the struggles: so he also lovingly warns us to watch out for all of those things that lead us away from him and his promises. He doesn’t want us to be destroyed. He doesn’t want us to wander away. So in his great love he warns us of the false things. He tells us to be on guard and to watch. The Law is a blessing. The Law of God is there to protect and guide us. And he uses it for our good.
And that’s why we want to obey the Law. As Christians we don’t want to try to find ways around it, but to obey it. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…for God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7-8) For us, there is no choice. We have heard the message. We have had faith worked in our hearts and we want to serve our God out of love. With our hearts filled with thanks we follow the Word of our God and obey his Will. Because we know that our lives are in the Lord. “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) Amen.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Amen.