I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love the LORD thy God, to obey his voice, and to cleave unto him; for he is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
It was a deal that they should not have refused.
The LORD had been quite faithful to Israel. He delivered them with His strong hand out of the house of bondage and slavery in Egypt. He had led them throughout the parched desert wilderness; He had given them His instruction; He sustained them despite terrible conditions; He had even given them military success against their foes. He was about to fulfill another promise He had made to their ancestors– He was going to give them an inheritance in the land of Canaan.
So much promise; so many blessings. And yet God was willing to give even more– the hope of long and prosperous life in the land which He was giving them. It seemed so wonderful!
But there was a “catch.” Israel had to choose to follow God and His instruction. Over the generations, many would choose God and life. In pretense, most made the same choice. But, in practice, too many acted in ways contrary to God’s purposes and thus chose a curse and death!
But what would we think about God if He did not give them that choice? What if God compelled and coerced them into choosing life and blessing, and they had no real opportunity to refuse? Or what if He compelled them to choose death so as to display His wrath? What kind of God would we think Him to be?
There are many who think that such is the way God really is. To them, humans are really just puppets of some divine force. They feel as if we are all on some kind of supernatural strings and all direction is coming from elsewhere. In such a view humans ultimately have no choice: they are what they are from their genes and from the impulses they follow.
Yet such a view of God is not consistent with the revelation of God throughout Scripture. God wants all men to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), just as He exhorted Israel to choose to follow Him and to receive life and blessings. God greatly desires for us to choose Him and to walk in His ways, but there is no compulsion or coercion to do so!
Think about it for a moment: if God was going to be the sadistic monster of a divinity that many make Him out to be, why would He make such agonizing pleas to Israel so that they would repent (cf. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea)? Why would He send His Son to experience such terrible cruelty if He just intended to still show people cruelty (cf. Romans 8:32-39)? Why would He bother with the creation after mankind sinned and it was corrupted with decay (Genesis 3, Romans 8:20-25)?
God’s commitment to man’s free will is very strong. Consider everything God has done to facilitate man’s salvation: He has given the creation, He has sent His Son to die for our sins, and through Him He has promised eternity in the resurrection and every spiritual blessing (Genesis 1:1-2:3, Romans 8:1-39, Ephesians 1:3). He has constantly exhorted His people, be it the Patriarchs, physical Israel, or spiritual Israel, to live according to His instruction. Wouldn’t it have been much easier for God to just compel us to do what He wants? How much heartache He would have saved Himself had He just fashioned mankind to do everything He told them to do!
Yet, as we know all too well, God did not make us that way. For whatever reason known to Him and not to us, God wants us to choose to serve Him, not to be forced into doing so. He has been willing to suffer the anguish of seeing His people turn their backs to Him, rebel against Him, and suffer the consequences both here and in the hereafter. Yet He still shows love toward mankind, having sent His Son to manifest His characteristics in the flesh and to provide the way to eternal life (Hebrews 1:3, 1 John 4:7-21)!
We are not pawns or robots in some contrived supernatural machine. For better and worse, we have been created as free moral agents, and the loving Creator God beckons us to choose Him, and in so doing, choose blessings and life. This is not a guarantee that life will be a walk in the park, but is the assurance that if we seek to serve Him, God will always be there for us, will love us, and will ultimately reward us beyond our imagination (Romans 8:17-39). Therefore let us all choose God and thus life, and be saved!
Ethan R. Longhenry