Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (NRSV)
Verse 15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. Verse 16If 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 that you are entering to possess. Verse 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, Verse 18I 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. Verse 19I 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, Verse 20loving 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.
How do you hear this scripture reading? Promise or threat? People who have been in an abusive relationship may hear, “Love me, or else” or “Do what I say or I will punish you.” Abusers say that they love those they seek to control, but it is their own selves they serve.
It all depends upon the character of the One who “sets before [us] today life and prosperity, death and adversity.” This is a promise from the God who released Israel from enslavement. Israel complained about food and water and accused God of bringing them to die in the wilderness, yet God provided, stayed, and cared for them. God knows that the character of other “gods” that claim to give us security, hope, and value will eat us up and lead to death.
Consumerism, tribalism, or cherishing privilege lead to enmity and destruction, but living in God’s ways of life mirrors God’s selfless, patient, giving character. That brings abundant life.
Gracious God, this Epiphany season show us your loving, self-giving character revealed in the Exodus and in our Savior, Jesus. Inspire our faith to trust that loving you and living a life like Jesus’ is more than safe; it is abundant for us and a blessing for all your creation. Amen.