Between Life and Death

Today’s first reading from DT 30:15-20.

Here Moses offered the people two choices, life and death, and they must make a decision between the two.  Life and death in antiquity were realities that were taken much more seriously and less literally.  Life was not simply being alive, but it was living out one’s existence in fruitfulness in blessing and in the protection of God.  Death was not simply a physical end to one’s worldly life, but it was living out one’s existence in a barren land and time, void of God’s blessings and favors.  Life was a blessing; death was a curse.

And so Moses offered life and death to the people, and he urged them to choose life – not only for their sake, but for the sake of their children.  The choice was both restrictive and urgent.  It was restrictive in the sense that they must make a choice between the two; there was no third option.  It was urgent because the every action they make thereon would be an action that either drew them towards life or pushed them towards death.

Notice also that the choice was theirs and not God’s to make.  YHWH’s faithfulness was never a problem; it was the fickleness of the Israelites that was constantly leading them to unfaithfulness to YHWH.  And so, too, we have a choice to make.  Fence-sitting is not only an inappropriate posture when it comes to the spiritual life, but it is an impossible posture.  For everything we do either brings us life or death.  Lent is only beginning, and it is a good time for us to ask ourselves: what must I do to choose life?  And then do it!

Happy Thursday after Ash Wednesday, friends.


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