October 14, 2012
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (The Story, Ch. 6)
I didn’t preach this week, but here’s a brief commentary on the time the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness. Next week: Joshua leads the people across the Jordan. But in the meantime…
God led the Israelites out of Egypt through the water of the Red Sea, and then met them up on the mountain. At the other end of 40 years of wandering, they will again meet God on the mountain, and then cross the waters – this time, of the Jordan – into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the meantime – during those 40 years of wandering through the desert land – they have a decision to make. God has been their deliverer, their provider, their savior. Will they be God’s people?
Their decision – and ours – is not whether they will havea god; we are all ultimately loyal to someone or something. There is always something directing us, someone who motivates our decisions. The question we face is not whether we will have a Lord, but who that Lord will be. To whom will we belong?
The Israelites struggled with that decision in a hundred little ways. Would they trust God to provide water in the desert? Would they be thankful for the food they had, or grumble about its blandness? Would they follow the leaders God set before them, or grumble at their demands? Their biggest problems, it seemed, were the little things – everyday matters, like food and water and their daily routine.
So it is for us. Our life with God is generally shaped much more by the little everyday decisions than by any great spiritual mountaintop moment. We must decide, daily, to make time for Scripture and prayer. We must decide, sometimes moment by moment, to love our neighbor (especially the neighbors closest to us, who put the empty milk carton back in the refrigerator or leave toothpaste in the bathroom sink or come home late again). We must decide, every day, to give thanks for what we have rather than grumble about what we lack. Little decisions – but the little decisions generally control the great ones.
In Deuteronomy 30:15-20, the Israelites face one critical decision: will they love God and obey God’s commands? Or will they be disloyal, reaching toward the gods of the world around them? Who will they serve?
They may say what they wish, but given their track record, we can’t help but doubt their sincerity when they proclaim their loyalty to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And if we are honest, we know our tendency to waver too.
But the Gospel – the good news – is this: God has already made his decision. God has decided, for all eternity, to forgive, to provide and to guide. God will remain faithful when we do not. And when they – and we – turn back, God will be waiting.