15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 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. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 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. 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, 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.
Reflection: See, I have set before you today life and prosperity.
There is a difficult dynamic at work in this passage. Many have taken the idea of prosperity as a result of obedience and twisted the truth. The Prosperity Gospel is that false teaching that claims that if you follow God, then you will only meet success, and if you do not follow God, then you will only meet failure. That is not what this passage is saying, nor does the rest of the Bible promote that theology.
For one thing, this passage is addressed specifically to the community of Israel. Yes, there is a responsibility for the individuals within that community to follow God. After all, you cannot have a faithful community without faithful individuals who make up that community. It is like that quote from Leo Tolstoy: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” The only way for Israel – or, now, the Church – to be faithful is if enough of its citizens are faithful in their day to day lives.
However, because this is addressed to the community as a whole, the ultimate promise of prosperity in the face of obedience is for Israel, especially in view of Israel’s specific mission and purpose. Biblical Israel existed for the purpose of showing God to the world and preparing the world for the coming Messiah. The danger for Israel throughout Scripture (and the danger now for the Church) was in the allure of foreign cultures that rejected YHWH. Culture accommodation – accepting the practices of the world around them that did not fit with the ways of YHWH – could eventually lead to Israel missing out on its designed place in God’s plan.
There is a word for the 21st-century Church in this passage. Remain faithful to God and the ways of life revealed in Jesus Christ. This means that each disciple must take up the cross of Christ and live the life of self-abandonment and self-emptying. If we do this, then we will find true life and meaning on a personal level. We will face struggle and trial and suffering, but ultimately the arc of our life will bend toward goodness. And ultimately it will mean that the arc of history will bend toward that same goodness, as God builds the kingdom through the collective faithfulness of his people.
Journaling Focus: Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.
In what ways are you actively choosing life? Reflect this week on the choices you make – especially the big life decisions. How are you setting a holy, godly foundation for your life? What are some of the consequences of the big decisions you have made in life? Are there some choices that you need to make to turn away from damaging behavior and to turn toward life?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (sometimes in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Explore: If you would like to explore the Scripture more deeply, go to our Exploring Scripture page!
Listen to the song Take My Life. This song is essentially a prayer, asking God to change our lives to mirror the life of Jesus Christ. As you sing this song, pray it. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today…
Being a person of faithfulness and obedience is no easy task. Obedience has taken upon itself a bad connotation in our society, because it has been abused as a term and a concept. Obedience, however, simply means following the ways God intended for us because God knows that they will lead to satisfaction and life. Obedience, then, is not a heavy burden God has designed to torment us, but a way toward freedom and goodness. Pray for the inner strength that leads to godly obedience and trust that God will direct you joyfully.
Meditation Focus: …so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Look at the image above. There are many doors available to us in life, each one leading to unique life experiences. Sometimes there are doors that we clearly must keep shut, and we know not to open them and walk through them. Perhaps it is an intuition or a holy voice that cautions us. Sometimes, though, there might be several doors that seem good, but we must discern which is best for us. The best door will lead to the land of promise God has set aside for us. Is God asking you to make such a choice right now in your life? Are you in a season of choosing which door will open up to God’s will for you? Meditate on God’s will for whatever choice you are facing this week, big or small. Trust that God will reveal the right door to walk through.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- In what ways have you experienced life?
- In what ways have you experienced death?
- In what ways have you been obedient to God?
- In what ways have you struggled with godly obedience?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Take stock of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going. What is the trajectory of your life leading you toward? Do you see hope and joy opening up before you? If not, then what adjustments can you make to lead you in that direction? Remember where God has brought you from and be reminded that God can redeem any life situation.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, lead us into life.