“Too Many Choices?”
Epiphany 6, February 16, 2014
Too Many Choices?
Text: Deuteronomy 30:15–20
I think it is safe to say that as we all get older, we are offered more choices. Let me give you an example. This is going to show how old I am, but when I was Christopher’s age TV’s had knobs and you had to walk up to the TV to change the channel, and we got five channels.
For some folks out in the country, it was possible to get only one or two. Those folks didn’t even get all three networks. Now when you get cable, satellite, U-verse, you get hundreds of channels with the technological capacity for over a thousand. And yet when we sit down and turn it on, it is quite frequent where we realize we have all these channels, but there’s nothing on worth watching.
Or think of the grocery store. When I was a kid, if you wanted a chocolate cereal, and who doesn’t, it was Cocoa Puffs (although I cannot say I was actually cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs). Now when you go to Crest, or wherever, there are 1672 different kinds of cereal, and a dozen of the chocolate kind, from Count Chocula to Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.
Out there, choices are waiting to be made in all kinds of things. Our world and our society have become a “super market” of moral choices. Now sometimes it is nice to have choices. Except when it comes to that which is most important, we quickly discover that God offers only two choices. This morning’s text clearly states what God has placed before us: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil” (v 15). The choice of life, good, is characterized by obedience to God’s Commandments. But as God places these Commandments before us, He also creates in us and gives us the wisdom that enables us to be obedient to them. So, as we’ll see, it turns out We Really Don’t Have Too Many Choices.
Our text is the finale of a lengthy speech that began back in Deuteronomy 27 when Moses began his farewell words to the Israelites. Earlier, he repeated the covenant and reminded Israel once again of the ingredients of their relationship with the Lord their God. He clearly says what will bring blessings and what will bring curses. Their choice is simple. Obey His Commandments and be blessed; disobey, and be cursed. There is no middle ground—and, really, that’s not a lot of choice. God really commands us to make just one choice: life, through obedience to His commands.
We must ask ourselves why this was so important. In verses before our text, we read “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. . . . The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord.” (28:1, 9)
God called Israel and set them apart in fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12: “Through you all the nations of the world shall be blessed.” God gathered His people and placed them in a strategic location so that they might be a light to the nations, and that through them, all the nations of the world would come to know the one true God. The laws and commands God delivered to Israel were the means through which they were able to be this “light to the nations” and a witness that would draw other nations to them.
Now you might be asking me right now, “How does that work today ?” Let me tell you. When we tell our buddies, “Sure, we’ll look forward to meeting you at the lake . . . right after church,” they’ll know we worship a different God than fishing or water skiing. When our language and jokes are noticeably clean, when at work we tactfully but unmistakably change the subject away from bad-mouthing the other guy in our department, people will know we’re somehow different. When we speak glowingly about our spouses and children instead of piling on those “Women, what are you going to do?” or “You know how men are…” or “Kids these days….”, folks will see there’s a lot of love going on here. Just as with Israel, God still requires obedience to His Commandments so that we might continue to be a “light to the nations.”
In verses before our text, and sorry, again this is not in your bulletin, Moses declares, “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you.” Would you say “Amen!” to that? Is it easy to do what God wants?
In here, we always want to do the opposite of what God’s Commandments say. The Law of God is a burden for us, in that it is a constant reminder that we want to do what we want do, and not the things that God wants.
Well, what God requires of us He produces in us. Part of the Good News here in Deuteronomy 30 is that God does not call on us to accomplish the required change through our own efforts. I am not teaching you today what is being taught in many churches today, that we make a decision for Christ, that our faith is our work. See, God isn’t leaving this choice up to us. No, not really. The one acceptable choice we need to make, He makes for us by Himself. He changes us in here through the Holy Spirit. He changes us in here through His Word, through Baptism, through the Lord’s Supper. The passage clearly proclaims that God will accomplish that which He requires. Our text says that “…[the Lord] is your life” (v 20). Left to our sinful, selfish nature, we cannot obey the Commandments of the Lord. Yet, He will fix the hardness of our hearts and produce in us a desire and a willingness to do His will and obey His Commandments.
God continually and repeatedly shows mercy, grace, and forgiveness to His rebellious people. Time and again, before this point in history and for many centuries to come, God displayed His abundant grace and mercy. Moses received this assurance when God called him back to Mount Sinai to chisel new tablets of stone after he’s broken the original ones over Israel’s worshiping the golden calf. Ex 34:6–7 reads: The Lord passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”
God absolutely revealed the reason behind His mercy and grace for a rebellious people when He sent His only Son to die on the cross and rise again. Jesus’ taking away the sins of all people is the reason we are delivered from God’s just punishment. The love with which Christ Himself loved us and willingly went to the cross is the love that compels us to love Him in return and to love others: “For the love of Christ controls us. . . .Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:14,17)
So, equipped through Word and Sacrament, we can go out there into a world of temptation, testing, and moral imbalance—so many evil choices—fully capable of making the one right choice between two paths. We don’t really have, we don’t really want, any other choices. We choose, given the strength and wisdom by the Holy Spirit, to obey God’s voice, follow Him, and turn aside from the many voices of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh.
Choosing Cocoa Puffs? Not the best idea. A better choice? The only choice? “Choose life.”