“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. “
“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil . . .”
It is the law of the blessing and the curse!
Do this, and thou shalt live! Love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, soul, and strength. And love thy neighbor as thyself. Doing this thou shalt be blessed. Do this, and thou shalt die! Hate God, and worship the idol. Hate thy neighbor, and love God’s enemies. Doing this thou shalt surely die; thou shalt not live.
This is the law which Moses received from God, and had given to the people. If ye will love the Lord and walk in His ways, and do His commandments, ye shall surely live. But if ye are haughty, and proud, and refuse to obey, ye shall be cursed and scattered.
Life and death!
Choose life! Glorious life!
But what is it?
Life we see all about us. We see it in the world of vegetation. We see it in the waters, and in the air about us. We see it in the trees and plants that spring up out of the earth. We see it in the animals and creeping things upon the face of the earth. We behold the life of the bird that wings its way freely in the sky above us, and in the fish that plays in the waters of the sea.
While all about us we see life, we also see death on every hand!
Peculiarly after the creatures live for a time, they die. And none of the creatures makes life or death a matter of choice. Life appears to be imposed upon them; but death, too, is inescapable.
And in a certain sense of the word, what is true of the creatures in general is also true of man. He is not responsible for the fact that he lives, for his life came to him from without. And after he lives for threescore years and ten, or fourscore years if strong, he too passes away as a shadow.
And so the questions persist . . .
What is life?
And how can it be said to be a matter of choice?
When we look at the living creatures about us, we observe that life for them seems to be their constant adaptation to the proper sphere of external reality in which they are placed by God, and which is in harmony with their very being and nature. A tree, for instance, is said to be living when it constantly draws from the soil in which it is planted the life-giving ingredients which God has put into it, when it takes from the air, from the rain and sunshine the energy these elements give. Or take, for example, the fish; which is said to live so long as it abides within the water, the law in which God has placed it. Take the tree out of the soil or the fish out of the water, and these creatures die. But as was said above, life is imposed upon them. They have no choice in the matter. In fact, life must first be given to them, or they cannot continue to adapt to the law of God in which they are placed. Put a dead tree in rich soil and it will soon deteriorate and rot away. Leave a dead fish in the water and it will soon bloat, and become a stinking mess. And, as was suggested, man, the crown of creation, is in many respects like the tree and the fish and the animals. His natural earthly life, breathed into him by the Spirit of God, continues so long as he breathes the air about him, and adapts himself to the earthly creation for his food and drink. Deprive him of the air, and he suffocates to death; take from him his food and drink, and he perishes.
But man is also different from the other creatures!
And life for him in the ultimate sense of the word is quite different than that of the animal.
He is made in the image and likeness of God!
And this image is the very idea of his being! He resembles God in a creaturely way. He therefore cannot live by bread alone, but by the Word which proceeded out of the mouth of God.
Life in its highest reality is in God!
He is the living God! The absolute reality of life!
In God life is the eternal adaptation to Himself alone! This is possible because He is One in Being and Three in Persons. Reverently speaking, were God only one, He could not be the living God. But because He is triune, He can and does eternally adapt to Himself. In the Trinity there is a mutual seeking and finding of Himself. Among the three Divine Persons there is a bond of perfection, love. The Father seeks and finds Himself in the Son, Who is His perfect reflection and impressed image; and this He does through the Spirit. The Son seeks and finds the Father through the Spirit. And the Spirit takes the deep things of the Father and reveals them to the Son. This proceeding and returning, generation and procession, is the divine, perfected, covenant life of God.
Man’s life, on the other hand, consists in the vibrating of God’s life in him. God’s covenant love must thrill his whole being. Man’s real life consists in his constantly adapting to the covenant life of God. For him eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent. (John 17:3).
We must remember here that we are speaking of man as he came forth from the hand of his Creator; of man as he was formed out of the dust of the earth and in whom God breathed the Spirit of life, and he became a living soul; of man who was created in the image of God, in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.
As such, man could rightly know God his Creator, heartily love and serve Him. Though he was created lapsible, he could by an act of his will choose life. But with the freedom of his will he could also choose death. And the fact of the matter is, that he chose the latter.
Consequently Adam, and all men in him, could not and cannot now of themselves choose life. He is in bondage and in slavery to sin, and he wills only death, and the way to death. Since the fall all men are conceived and born in sin, are spiritually dead. Incapable is the natural man of any spiritual good, nor can he of himself choose life.
But here is the good news of the Gospel!
God, the living God, in His elective love chose His the world to assume their guilt in their nature. This assumed guilt He bore to the accursed tree, where the wrath of God He bore over against the sin of His people, so as to remove the guilt and that wrath from them. And because He redeemed them from eternal wrath, God raised Him from the dead, and exalted Him at His right hand. There He gave unto Him the Spirit of Life without measure, which Spirit He, their Saviour, imparts unto them in such a way that they are spiritually renewed. And becoming new creatures by grace, their will is also renewed, and they are enabled to choose once more life and glory.
By grace, therefore, he is a new creation, recreated in true knowledge and righteousness, reflecting in a creaturely way the virtues of God. He is alive with the resurrection life, the imperishable life of Christ His Saviour. Able he is once more to love God and to adapt to the will of God for his life. While he stands in the midst of death, in a body that tends to the grave, he is enabled by the grace of God through faith once more to choose life.
Not so is it that man is free not to choose if he will. Nor is it so that the natural man, apart from grace, can choose life if he will. Never is it so that man can decide to be independent, refusing to make a choice between life and death, between light and darkness, between Christ and Belial. Vain man may boast of the freedom of the will. The so-called atheist may boast that he has decided to serve no God. But all such boasting is vain. Choose he must, and choose he will.
The reason is that man, in distinction from the animal, is made a rational, moral creature. When he fell through the choice of our first parents, man did not become another creature. He remained a man. He retained his rationality. He continued to choose. True, he now chose only death and corruption. But choose, he does. True, he could not choose life, but constantly he chooses death. And when grace comes, and he is renewed by the Spirit of Christ, he in principle chooses life once more. But choose, he does. In the second place, we must remember that God, the Creator and Re-Creator, places man, in distinction from the animal, in an antithetical relation, so that always man is required to choose the good and hate the evil. And so he is constantly choosing. Depraved and corrupt man always chooses darkness rather than light, death rather than life. He cannot choose both, it is either-or. No different is it when he is saved by grace. The new man in Christ chooses Christ, not Belial; to love God and to hate evil. True, he does this in an old nature that hates the light, and that delights itself in the way of death. But choose he must. Yes, to God; and No, to evil. This is precisely the significance of the Word of God in our text.
That both thou and thy seed may live!
Here we are assured that the choice of life is never vain. He that chooses life will not somehow come to bitter disappointment. Rather, the converse is true. He that chooses life shall live.
And the meaning is not that the choice of life merits life. Truth is, we never merit, and he who rejoices in life now in principle and forever in heavenly glory constantly admits that of himself he forfeits all right to life and blessedness as he is by nature. We recognize the truth that our sins and iniquities which we still commit deserve God’s eternal wrath and judgment.
We confess that the choice of life is due only to God’s sovereign choice of us, which is first, before we could do any choosing of life. We declare openly that the choice of life is the work of His sovereign grace in us. We proclaim it loudly unto all who will hear, and to God Who always hears, that salvation is of the Lord, and the choice of life is the choice of faith, which He has graciously implanted in our hearts through grace.
And this choice of life is not merely the choice of the individual child of God, but of the church of God which He is gathering in the generations of the believers and their seed.
That thou and thy seed may live!
The choice of life is the choice which all the elect seed makes!
God’s covenant shall be realized in the gathering of all the elect seed!
And they shall live!
Now, as they still walk in the flesh, in the midst of an evil and corrupt world that tends to destruction. In that world they walk antithetically, always rejecting the evil, and choosing the good; always fighting against the darkness, while choosing the light; always with the clean garments of righteousness, while they despise the garments spotted by the flesh. Choosing life!
Presently, they shall live in the glory of eternal life, with the living God, in the house of His covenant tabernacle!
World without end!