Our sermon text this morning is from Deuteronomy 30:19-20 which says, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may life and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
There is a story about a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time, his throat obviously became very dry. Just about the time he thought he couldn’t go any farther, off in the distance he saw a little shack. He wondered, “Could there be water out here in the middle of nowhere?”
With a new sense of hope, the man went to shack and yes, there was water there! But things weren’t exactly as he had hoped. You see, inside the shack he found a small jug of water right next to a water pump. There was also a note which read, “Pour ALL the water into the top of the pump to prime it. If you do this, you will get the water you need.”
What do you do? Do you choose the water on the note’s terms and possibly receive the abundance which it promised? You could potentially get enough water for the moment and enough for the journey ahead. Or do you choose to drink the water in the jug? That would obviously satisfy your thirst in the moment, but nothing else. What would you do?
After thinking about it, the man decided to go ahead and risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the pump. Nothing happened at first and he got a little nervous. Could this have been a cruel joke played on him in the midst of his misery? He pumped harder and harder and then suddenly, as if to calm his fears, water started gushing out. So much water came out that drank all he wanted, showered, and filled all the containers he could find. Resisting the temptation for momentary satisfaction, this man trusted the note, and received all the water he needed and then some. But there was one more thing written on the note. It said, “After you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveler.” The overjoyed man refilled the jug and added to the note, “Please, trust me on this. Prime the pump, it works!”
“Trust the note. Prime the pump, it works.” Our text for today would say, trust the “Deuteronomy 30 note” from God about life and death. Trust it because His Word works and your life depends on it. But the thing is, people are still “hellbent”, they are still determined on doing things alone, doing things their way, even if it’s the total opposite of God’s direction. Moses lays out this note, a note which truly matters, one which is not just about water for the journey through the desert but is about “living water” for life itself then, now, and forever. Moses calls heaven and earth as witnesses to this. Why? Because it’s serious stuff. Because you are precious and your life depends on it. Everyone needs to hear and receive God’s truth about life, about “the curses and the blessings, that the wages of is death but the free gift of God’s eternal life in Christ” is for you, for all.
Today is not just a Sunday about the sanctity of life. Today is the day when God calls you and me to receive and live life on His terms alone. Like the children of Israel, Moses’ call to “choose life” was a wonderful opportunity to repent, to turn to God to receive His blessings of grace and forgiveness. It was also God’s call for the people to be His people of life, sharing His message of life in a world which is stuck in sin and death. This is our opportunity as well. Yes, there are deafening voices of death and destruction all around us. There are those who reject God’s free gift of grace. We hear it in words like, “It’s my life, my money, my talent, my body, my choice, my morality, my sexuality, my right.” But haven’t we seen the destruction which follows this defiant path? Haven’t we seen the heartache which comes from selfishness, the brokenness which comes from infidelity, the emptiness and loneliness emanating from a “career at all costs” mentality? To live is not to be cogs in a secular, bureaucratic machine. Money can’t take the place of love, laughter, and relationships.
Moses pleads with the people, with us, to hear the joy in God’s invitation to “choose life” on His terms. The Bible reminds in 1 Corinthians 6 of the loving sacrifice needed to make life possible again for sinners like you and me saying, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (6:19b-20).
So, Moses can’t be any clearer. The words of life and death, blessings and curses are set before us. In the metaphor of the jug, the pump, and the water … “Trust the note, receive and put to work what is provided because your life depends on it.” Oh, and remember to leave a jug behind with the note for the next guy. Be blessed by God? Yes! Be a blessing in His name for others? Most definitely. Isn’t that what life is about? Isn’t that what makes life worth living? Isn’t that what the Bible says is precious and valuable?
When it comes to the different issues of “life”, it’s important to know what is precious, what is valuable and enduring. And would we know what that is? Think about it. Is your life precious in God’s eyes? Are the lives of your loved ones precious in God’s eyes? Does your life have purpose? How do you know? And what if the purpose of life has nothing to do with your job, your status or stature in the community, or your fame and fortune, but instead your life is based on your faith relationship to God and your gracious love for those who He places in your life? Is the life of the child in the womb precious in God’s eyes? Is the life of those who are older, who are a bit frail, “past their prime years” precious in God’s eyes? And what if the answer to these kinds of questions are the ones that matter in eternity?
Today Moses calls heaven and earth as witnesses because the people to whom he is speaking to matter to God. God wants you and me to take this message seriously as well because you matter to Him.
One day back in Nebraska, I was visiting a member in the hospital. He knew he was dying and that the doctors were essentially trying to make him comfortable. As we were visiting, I could tell something was bothering him. He worked up the courage and said, “Pastor, I’ve done a lot of horrible things in my life and I’m not sure that I could ever be forgiven for all of them.” I looked at this man and asked him … “Which sins is that Jesus died on the cross for?” He sat there a minute and quietly said, “All of them.” “Exactly.” I had my communion set with me and gave him communion. I gave him the very precious gifts of Jesus which emphasized the value of life, of his life. Those precious gifts are the same ones which you will receive today. You matter to God, your life matters to Him. So much so that God was willing to give up His only Son for you. Not you all, but you individually.
If God could forgive Moses, He can forgive you. If God could forgive the children of Israel who constantly turned against Him, then God can forgive you. Open up the Old Testament sometime and see the people whom God loved and forgive, the people through whom God loved and forgave, the people through whom God extended His love and forgiveness to others. You’ll be amazed at how much they are just like you and me.
Life Sunday, is more than just pushing back against our culture’s obsession with abortion, shameless and immoral behavior, and death. It’s that but more. Life Sunday is about receiving the life-giving message from God by grace through faith and living a “pro-life” life as Christ’s blessing to others.
The opportunity for life on this side of heaven is to revel in God’s grace in life and to daily take up the challenge of being His special workmanship of love and kindness to others. Now is the time to call our culture back to the sanctity and sanity of life on God’s terms. If you find yourself like the gentleman from Nebraska, questioning what matters … now is your time by the power of the Spirit to choose life. If you find yourself amongst the brokenness of this life, now is your time to put God’s gift of life to work to heal, to bless, to reconcile. If you find yourself confronted by a culture hellbent on wasting, even despising, God’s eternal life for them, now is your time to be a blessing, to be an invitation to life on God’s terms for them too.
Choose life? Yes. By grace, through faith, in Christ alone. And be a blessed blessing in Him for others. You’ll be glad you did, and so will those whom you love. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.