At A Crossroads – Choose Life

At A Crossroads – Choose Life

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Deuteronomy: Introduction
At a Crossroads: Choose Life

During my freshman year @ ISU, I had NO interest in God. I was living my life the way I wanted, and God was not part of the plan. And I was happy with that.
But next Friday, August 25th, will mark 39 years since I was faced with the greatest choice of my life.
I was ready to start my sophomore year at Iowa State, and I was at a Crossroads.
I was confronted with God in as clear a way as I had ever experienced. I was at a Crossroads.
And this Crossroads, God set before me two choices.
What would I choose?

But first, I need to give some background.
• I grew up in Sioux City, Iowa.
• I decided to go to Iowa State to study engineering. So I came here. 40 years ago. (Wow, I feel old!)
• And as a related story, literally days after my parents dropped me off here, they moved to Colorado.
• Over the next few months, they were confronted with a Crossroads in their own lives. A crossroads with God. And the path they chose to walk pushed me closer to my own Crossroads.

We are beginning a sermon series for this fall on a book from the Bible named Deuteronomy. It was written 3,400 years ago. A document that old sounds archaic and unrelateable.

But as we read through it, we will find many places where we say to ourselves, “That sounds like me.” You see, in this book, we will find that God’s people—the people of Israel—were at a crossroads themselves. They were faced with two choices.

For example, one statement in Deuteronomy describes well the crossroads I encountered 39 years ago.
Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you may live…”

This describes what Israel faced. And honestly, it sounds like my life, too. I had laid out before me a choice: Would I choose life? Or would I choose death? Heaven? Or hell? Glory? Or darkness? More on my story later.


Let’s now watch a 6-minute video that gives a nice overview of Deuteronomy. Video from the Bible Project

Background and Setting

Your handout in the bulletin gives some good background and overview of Deuteronomy. You can read that later.
This book is one of the most quoted OT books in the NT. For example: When Jesus is tempted by Satan in Matthew 4, he quotes 3 Scriptures in the face of his temptations. All 3 quotes are from Deuteronomy.
And overall throughout the NT, Deuteronomy is one of the most widely quoted OT books. That gives us an idea of its importance.

But you might be wondering, “What is this obscure book with the funny title? What’s it all about? Why should I care?”
Before I answer those questions, I want to give you some brief background that will help us make more sense out of this book.

Let’s start at the beginning of the Bible.
Genesis: Promise
We have to begin the story of Deuteronomy by going back to Genesis. 700 years earlier, God spoke to a man named Abraham.

Genesis is a story about a PROMISE. God made a phenomenal promise to Abraham, promises that affect us even today, 4000 years later, through Jesus Christ.

Genesis 12:1–7 ESV “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed… To your offspring I will give this land.'”

Without exaggeration, this is one of the most profound promises God ever made to a human.
God promised Abraham and his descendants a piece of land we now know as “Israel.” But also, he said in vs. 3, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Why is this such a profound promise? Because this promise made before 2000 B.C. has fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul recognized this.
Galatians 3:8 ESV “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.'”
Jesus is Abraham’s Great Descendant, and he….he… is the Blessing to people all over the earth.
Today, every person on the planet can find blessing from the fulfillment of this great promise made 4000 years ago. People all over the earth. From the U.S. From China. From Nepal. From Nigeria.

I met a man on Friday. Jewish background. Down on his luck. Got him a hotel room in Story City. I told him, “Everything I believe is founded upon the God of Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. And I believe in the Messiah who was promised to Abraham.” Everything that we believe in the NT about Jesus Christ is founded upon this one promise to Abraham.

So God promised blessing to Abraham’s descendants. Part of that blessing was Land. This plays a crucial role in the story of Deuteronomy.

Exodus: Deliverance
Now fast forward 700 years. The next 4 books of the Bible all occur in a 40-year period.
Abraham’s descendants have not yet received the promised land. In fact, they’re stuck in Egypt in cruel slavery.

Exodus 2:23–24 ESV “The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help… And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.”

God uses a man named Moses to deliver them. So Exodus is a story about DELIVERANCE.In the end, Moses leads the people out of Egypt through a series of astonishing miracles:
• Ten plagues on the nation of Egypt that wipe them out.
• Then escape through the Red Sea in perhaps the most triumphant moment in the entire Old Testament. That one event became a marker that God frequently pointed Israel back to. Throughout the rest of the OT, we might be surprised how many times God refers his people back to that deliverance out of Egypt.
That deliverance is reminiscent of our deliverance through Jesus Christ. Instead of being delivered from bondage in a cruel nation through the Red Sea… ….we are delivered from bondage to sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So the Red Sea is a picture to us of what Jesus has done.
The Apostle Paul said that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb.

1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

The Passover Celebration for Israel was a permanent reminder to them of their deliverance from Egypt. Much more, Jesus Christ has become the Passover lamb for us. Our Great Deliverer.

Numbers: Rebellion
Then we skip ahead to the book of Numbers. Just a year or so later. So Israel is now free. And they are poised to receive the fulfillment of that old promise made to Abraham. In that first year or so, we read about a major problem. They are stubborn against God. They fight and rebel.
We read about all this in the book of NUMBERS. It’s a rather disheartening read. God wanted to bless them richly and powerfully, but by and large, Israel’s hearts were hard.

Finally the Lord’s patience towards them ended, and he brought judgment on them.
The Lord said to Moses,

Numbers 14:27–30 ESV “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me?…
Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord… your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and… not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb… and Joshua…’”

So the Lord judges them, stating that none of the adults alive at that time will ever enter the Promised Land, except for two men: Joshua and Caleb. A very grieving and sad story.

God offered them so much good. Why wouldn’t they believe him and walk with him?
Sometimes we can think that the God of the OT is always harsh and angry. I disagree. Every time I read the OT, I’m amazed by God’s patience. He put up with his chosen people for a long, long time. If I treated you the way God’s people treat him, you would hate me and want nothing to do with me.
It’s a staggering judgment. So Israel spend the next 38 to 39 years wandering in the wilderness south of the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy: Exhortation
Now we come to Deuteronomy. So after those 38 years, all the adults under judgment are dead. And the nation is finally poised to receive the blessings and the land promised to Abraham. This long-awaited moment is upon them.
Moses pens his last words. He writes in this book 3 sermons. They are sermons filled with exhortation. He is urging them to pay attention to his words.

Message of Deuteronomy: Goodness

It’s a challenge to summarize a long book like this. And it’s a rich book.
But I want to take a stab at summarizing one of the more fundamental points of Deuteronomy.
Let’s go back to what I said at the beginning: God’s people were at a Crossroads:
They had before them really only two options: LIFE or DEATH. Blessings or Curses. Obedience or disobedience. Love the Lord or hate him.
There really were no MIDDLE options. It was Black or White. There was nothing “GRAY” about what they faced.

In the most succinct way to explain Deuteronomy, we could say this: The Lord is calling his people to wholeheartedly keep the covenant he made with them. There is much wrapped up in this, but this says it succinctly.
I haven’t spoken yet of this Covenant, but at its core, the Covenant God made with Israel is largely a covenant of relationship. He wants to bring them good. And he wants them to walk with him in nearness. In a beautiful, harmonious relationship.

This is the verse from our video:

Deut 6:4–5 ESV “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Why does the Lord ask this of his people? Simply: Because he loves them. God loves his people.

This is a theme that’s been on my mind for a couple of months. In a sermon on May 28th, I shared how God had impacted me through a simple statement made by the Apostle of John in his Gospel.
John described himself as, “The disciple whom Jesus loves.” (John 19:26) Those words have been comforting and inspiring me these past 3 months.

Deuteronomy is really a call to God’s people that he loves them and that he wants them to love him with all their hearts.
We see this throughout the book.

Deut 10:12–13 ESV “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”

I love this. These 2 verses may be one of the best summaries in the entire OT, answering the question, “What does God want for his people.” He wants them to fear, walk, love, serve, and obey. WHY????? “For your good!”

We may think God’s commands are a BURDEN. Restrictive. But God says, “No, no, no. They are for your good! You are at this crossroads. I want your good. Choose life, not death. Choose blessings, not curses.”

I was reading a story a couple nights ago about a man who simply didn’t want to hear about the gospel of Christ. He was arguing with a Christian about God and the Bible. After two hours of arguing, he finally admitted his real reason was: “I don’t want God or anyone else telling me what to do. I want to do what I want when I want.” He was a man who refused to believe that God loves him. He refused to believe that God wanted good.

Throughout Deuteronomy, God appeals to Israel to remember how good he has been to them.
One example is that he continually refers back to Egypt.

Deuteronomy 4:37 ESV “…he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power…”

He has already shown his love and his power by rescuing the entire nation in one of the most remarkable miracles and demonstrations of power that mankind has ever seen.

God appeals to them to remember his goodness. That he loves them.
It reminds me of the New Testament. To us believers in Jesus, the Lord regularly reminds us of his great love for us shown in our “Red Sea” experience: the death and resurrection of Christ.

Romans 5:8 ESV “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Even to us, the Lord appeals to the greatest demonstration of his love and his goodness: the cross.
God is good. He wants good for us. He wants good for Israel. And he’s proven it over and over again.
Near the end of Deuteronomy, Moses summarizes all this with a simple statement:

Deuteronomy 30:19–20 ESV “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Israel was at a Crossroads. And God, through the lips of Moses, said, “Choose life! Choose life! Choose my blessing and my goodness. I want you to live!! I want you to hold tightly to me. I will give you life. I will give you all the glorious promises I made to your forefathers.”

Israel was at a Crossroads.

If we’re completely objective, we would say, “Well, if that’s true, of course the obvious choice is God! Why wouldn’t we immediately and wholeheartedly believe him and begin walking with him?” In fact, if our head is on straight, we would admit, “Israel….and I….would be FOOLS not to choose life!”

Going back my earlier story, this is precisely what I faced 39 years ago as a 19-year old sophomore at Iowa State. I was at a Crossroads with Jesus Christ. Would I choose life in him? Or would I choose death and God’s wrath?
John 3:36 ESV “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Honestly, I loved my sin too much. Why wouldn’t I choose life in Jesus Christ. I would be insane NOT to.
Well, I was sort of insane. I was out of my mind. I wrestled with this Crossroads I was at. I knew going to the RIGHT was the only reasonable choice. But I so badly wanted to turn LEFT.
WHY? Why would I wrestle with that choice? And why did Israel wrestle with that choice? And in reality, why does every human who has ever lived end up wrestling with this choice?

We come to a Crossroads, and we are faced with a choice.


We looked at God’s goodness. He is good. He showed Israel his goodness and his love for them thru the Promise to Abraham and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. He has shown us his goodness and his love through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But there’s another side of the story. It’s OUR side. The other side of the story in the Bible is mankind’s hard-heartedness. Our REBELLION. We already talked about the Book of Numbers. One sad story after another. Israel constantly tested God, doubted him, ignored him. They became spiritual adulterers, giving themselves to other gods like in a marriage when one spouse turns to another lover.
So over and over in Deuteronomy, Moses reminds them of their history. He reminds them of their stubbornness.

Deuteronomy 1:26–27 ESV “Yet you… rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.”

When you know the Promise to Abraham and the Deliverance from Egypt, Israel’s attitude here is remarkable. They said, “The Lord hates us.” SERIOUSLY? He has done more remarkable and powerful and loving things than he has ever done for any man or people. And you say he hates you?
This shows man’s remarkable propensity to rebel against God. To doubt him. To ignore him. To hate him.
He says, “Look, this is the way you’ve been. This has led only to CURSES. To destruction. To harm. Don’t go that way again!” And he is telling them again: “Do not trifle with God. He is good. And he is HOLY. He will not tolerate your rebellion for long. Do not trifle with him.
In LOVE and in HOLINESS, God warns them.
The Goodness and Love of God OUGHT to be enough to motivate every person to love God in return and receive his glorious goodness. But because mankind is so stinking stubborn, we need to be warned of the consequences. That’s why Moses said things like this:

Deuteronomy 30:15 ESV “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”

That’s why 39 years ago, I needed to hear things like Jesus’ words in John 3:36. And I needed to be warned. And some Christians did. Very lovingly they warned me. And eventually, on the warm evening of August 25th, 1978, I finally yielded to God. I said, “Lord, I’m on the path of DEATH and CURSES. Save me. Rescue me through your Son.”
Now as I look back, I think, “What a FOOL I was to fight against God.” He wanted to give me good through his Son, but I simply kept fighting against that. I was a fool.

Fortunately, God was more kind to me than I deserved. And that is EXACTLY the story of Deuteronomy. And as we go through this book this semester, we are going to see a lot of ourselves.

Lessons for Us Today

What are some lessons that we can take today from this brief overview of this beautiful book?

We see his goodness to Israel, and we should take note and believe. He promises good things. Blessings. Land. Victory.
We’ll all be faced with circumstances that will test our Faith in God’s goodness. And we’ll have to ask, “Is he really good?”
Israel knew it from the story of the Red Sea and deliverance from cruel bondage in Egypt.
We know God’s goodness from the death and resurrection of his Son to deliver us from cruel bondage to sin and ruin. We must not EVER conclude like Israel did, “Oh, God must hate me.” He LOVES us. And he is GOOD.

He is holy, and we ought never to trifle with him. He is patient. But his patience has an end. Fear him.
If you are in a position like I was in 39 years ago, give in to Jesus. The fight against him is not worth it.
And even all these years later, in perhaps smaller ways, I still find myself fighting against God at times. Why do I do this?
Romans 6:21 reminds us that nothing good comes from rejecting the Lord.
“What benefit did you receive at that time from things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death.” Romans 6:21
Be warned. YIELD to God. He is holy. And he is good.

With both his goodness and his holiness in mind, wholeheartedly LOVE the Lord. Jesus told us to love him with everything we have. And he was quoting Deuteronomy 6. Why should we? It’s our only reasonable, logical, sensible response to God.
He loves us and wants to bring us BLESSING. He wants to honor us. To reward us. To do GOOD to us.

Beginning with the great covenant God made with Abraham all the way down in history to the Person of Jesus Christ, we see that God has had a plan to bring salvation to people all over the world. God has orchestrated this marvelous plan.
He made a promise to Abraham, and it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Our spiritual family tree begins with Abraham. This is our spiritual DNA. So what we read in Genesis and Deuteronomy is our HERITAGE.

Like I told that Jewish man on Friday, ““Everything I believe is founded upon the God of Abraham, Moses, and the prophets.”
In a very real way, if you are a follower of Jesus, you are a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not by YOUR blood, but by the blood of Christ. can help you know your physical DNA. Deuteronomy will help you know your spiritual DNA.
We are part of something grand and vast. We are part of an eternal plan that God is orchestrating. It’s a marvelous plan.

If you are still searching out Christianity, and you haven’t yet landed on what you believe, know this: What you are confronted with in Christianity is rich and powerful truth. Christianity—faith in God’s Messiah, Jesus—provides answers to life’s hardest questions.

Eventually we all come to a CROSSROADS. And the Person standing at the Crossroads is Jesus. And his call to us is clearly spoken by Moses’ own words:

“I have set before you today life and death, blessings and curses…..Therefore choose life that you may live.”