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Bible Study IV:

Choose Life!

by Hermen Shastri

 

Deuteronomy 30: 11-20

Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it.?" No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

In this passage, we find Moses addressing the Israelites, calling them to make covenant with Yahweh, the God who is acting redemptively in their history. The thrust of Moses' message is to keep faith and move forward with hope. The blessing that is inherent in the covenant relationship is more than a promise. It is an inheritance to be received and affirmed. In spite of the harsh realities the people of Israel find themselves in, God will show compassion and be faithful. God is not the god of death and hopelessness, but of life and hope, and the one who restores the just fortunes of the people.

Moses lifts up a discerning choice before the people: See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil … therefore choose life (30: 15). This is the thrust of the covenant promise and inheritance. It is a bidding to the people to receive a reality slowly unfolding and secure through God's intervention - the offer of life on the land that God gives. Setting the land before the people who stand on the boundary is setting life before them with all its good and just possibilities. To enter into covenant with God is to take a radical step of commitment and obedience to the divine will of justice.

The realization of a good and just life, which is God's gift to God's people does not just happen automatically. The life offered must also be a life lived out. And there is only one way to do that - to keep the commandments of God that promotes justice and fairness toward the weak, the poor and the alien. To live without accountability to God and neighbour will invite the way of evil and suffering which eventually will lead to death.

A long time ago, more precisely at the Sixth Assembly of the CCA (June, 1977), it was reported that, "The dominant reality of Asian suffering is that people are wasted; wasted by hunger, torture, deprivation of rights. Wasted by economic exploitation, racial and ethnic discrimination, sexual suppression. Wasted by loneliness, non-relation, non-community. As we prepare for the 11th Assembly in June 2000; has the observation of the Asian reality changed very much? Now as then, our communities contain many whose lives have been attacked if not crushed by the forces of evil and death. Poverty; oppression; discrimination; gender violence; substance abuse; communal and religious violence; terrorism and pollution; a long list of human conditions that spell suffering and death to so many millions of people today.

As Christians we cannot be blind to the harsh realities around us. As Moses called his people to life-affirming faithfulness, we are called today to follow in the path of our Lord who proclaimed; "I am the resurrection and the life" (Jn 11: 25). The Kingdom of God which was inaugurated in Jesus Christ brings justice and life amidst the demonic forces which place human lives under bondage. God's word in Jesus is revealed as an overturning of the values and structures of this world that a life-denying. The religion of Jesus is prophetic religion in which the moral ideal of love achieves such a force that lives are changed and situations can be transformed.

Participation in the struggle of Asian peoples for a fuller human life is the only context for realizing the true being of the church. We are called to model our witness and mission in the world, in the way of Jesus, who offers life to people, life in all its fullness. Mission that is conscious of the Kingdom will be concerned for liberation, not oppression; justice, not exploitation; fullness, not deprivation; freedom, not slavery; health, not disease; life, not death.

Celebrating life when death is the norm is to be a community of resistance. Our discipleship in Jesus Christ must always be about the passion of travelling towards the resurrected life in all its fullness. Accompanied by the living Word, Jesus Christ, the journey into the promised land is one of hope. Christ rose in power and freedom, travelling through all our reality and affirming the victory of love, and life in all its fullness. Our Gospel has to do with a Christ who, like Moses challenges us, "I have set before you this day life and good!" Sharing in his death, we shall surely raise up to eternal life - life in its fullness for all.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How are we communicating Christ as one who offers life amidst the destructive forces of death?

  2. Are we sharing with other churches and communities the deep concern in our neighbourhood and nation for better ways of living?

  3. How effective and credible are our efforts to challenge the powers of death in our society?

 

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