Now Choose Life
In the movie Sophie's Choice, Sophie was a polish Jew during World War II, and that was not a good thing to be. She spent the war in a Nazi concentration camp during the war, and it was there that she faced a choice no mother should ever have to make. She was told by a camp guard that she had to give up one of her two children, her son or her daughter. One would stay with her and perhaps live; the other would be taken from her and almost certainly would die. In shock, she protested that she couldn't choose, but she literally had no choice. The sadistic guard said, "You must choose." Sophie's response is frantic, "Don't make me choose, don't make me choose!" But she is told that if she doesn't choose one, then both of them would be taken from her, and the officer coldly reaches toward both children. Realizing that she has no choice but to choose, she thrust her daughter into his arms, crying hysterically, saying, "Take my little girl!"
We can't even imagine having to make a choice like that. Nor can we imagine the far-reaching consequences of making such a choice. The rest of the movie chronicles the way that Sophie's life was affected, and destroyed, by the horror of Sophie’s choice. Surely our choices are not that horrible, but the choices that we make can be even more monumental than Sophie’s… without us even realizing it.
When Joshua is about to turn over leadership of Israel, he demands that Israel make such a monumental choice, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Josh 24:15). In our reading for today, Moses does the same thing as he gets ready to turn the reigns of leadership over to Joshua in Deuteronomy 30. The chapters that follow are full of last minute details as Moses nears the end of his life—
- He appoint Joshua as his successor as leader (Deut. 31)
- He sings a song glorifying God and blessing Israel (Duet. 32)
- He will one last time bless Israel tribe by tribe (Deut. 33)
And then in chapter 34, Moses will take the hand of God, and together they will climb Mt. Nebo. There God will give Moses a glimpse of the land to which he had been leading Israel for some forty years. And there, with vision of Canaan fresh in his eyes, Moses will die and God will preach his funeral.
But before all of that, Moses calls Israel to choose which God they will serve. The choice they must make is an easy choice (30:11). The choice was a test, but it is the easiest type of test there is. It is not essay test nor is it multiple choice; it is true/false. What they have to decide is whether or not they are going to serve God. This is no Sophie's Choice where the two alternatives are too difficult and no answer is a good one. Moses assures them that the ability to make their choice was well within their grasp (30:12-14). Here is the choice that Moses offers Israel--
19 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 live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut. 30:19-20)
The choice that Moses laid out for Israel was the choice between life and death, between God's destruction and God's blessing. That doesn't seem to be such a hard choice. But that is the choice is before us today. Most of the decisions we make day to day been pretty inconsequential, but often times these choices either bring us closer to God or lead us further away. We choose God in the small things of our lives as we seek to glorify him and place ourselves under His rule. Or we don't. God still speaks to us as He did through Moses (and here through Moses) and says, "Now choose life." That choice will mean obedience and submission in the small things of life as well as in the big things. We make those little choices every day. What we might not realize is that we are choosing life and death. And God still calls to us, "Now choose life."