Summary: "Choose life": an exhortation that belongs not only to the outset of the Christian life, but to all our choices in this life.
On more than one occasion I am sure, “Choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19) has been used, not inappropriately, as the text for an evangelistic sermon. The context, however, suggests that these words were not originally addressed to people who did not know the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but those who were in covenant with Him. It is perhaps necessary to remind those who are Christians, or from a Christian background, that their lives are made up of choices which will at least effect the here and now, if not indeed their eternal destiny.
The Book of Deuteronomy as a whole, and Deuteronomy 29-30 in particular, are written in terms reminiscent of Ancient Suzerainty treaties. Under certain terms and conditions outlined in the pronouncement of curses and blessings, a more powerful Empire would enter into a covenant to take a lesser nation under its wings, providing that that nation would not make any treaties with anyone else. Thus the Suzerain would proclaim his love, and ask nothing but love and loyalty in return.
When the LORD called Israel to account for abandoning His covenant (Micah 6:1-2), He called “the mountains and hills, and strong foundations of the earth” as His witnesses. This is similar terminology to that which is used throughout Deuteronomy, where the heavens and the earth are consistently called to bear record (Deuteronomy 4:25-26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28), and it is upon two mountains that the blessings and curses were pronounced (Deuteronomy 27:11-13). All creation can testify to His mercy and goodness towards His covenant people, and groans at the mess we have made of things (Romans 8:19-23).
In this short passage of Scripture we are struck first of all by the primacy of love. It is a loving God who sets before us the stark alternatives of life and death, good and evil (Deuteronomy 30:15). And He asks nothing but our love in return (Deuteronomy 30:16).
His love to the fathers caused the LORD to bring about the deliverance from bondage which brought His people to this point in their history (Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 7:7-8). He promised all manner of blessing upon the obedient (Deuteronomy 7:13), and provision for orphans, widows, and strangers (Deuteronomy 10:18). And even the wayward prophet who sought to curse them could only pronounce the blessings of the LORD (Deuteronomy 23:5).
The LORD has already demonstrated His love to us in the redemption which He has wrought in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. All He asks in return is that we should love Him (Deuteronomy 30:16), and stay loyal to Him (Deuteronomy 30:17-18). The LORD has freely given us His favour in the Person of His dearly beloved Son, so we should be happy to obey His commandments (John 14:15).
There is a certain simplicity about the choice which we are being called to make in our Christian walk and life. Life or death? Blessing or cursing?
Without taking away our right or ability to choose, the LORD commands: “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). He outlines some of the rewards that lie in this life to the Christian who obeys (Deuteronomy 30:20). “He is your life,” so in all your choices, choose Him.
This does not take away from the impact of using Deuteronomy 30:19 as an evangelistic text. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life: nobody comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). If you have not done so already, choose Him, and you will have eternal life.