Life or Death?

Life or Death?

“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”  (Deuteronomy 30: 15-20)

The above verse was spoken by Moses to the people of Israel before entering the promised land, as part of the covenant that was made between the Lord and His people.  I believe that this statement not only applied to the Israelites of that time but also applies to us as His people today, receiving His promise of heaven.  Moses was offering them two different, opposite ways to live their lives; two different ways of thinking.  We are faced with this same choice of life or death.

The Hebrew word used for “life” is “chay” and is used also when describing the creation of man:

“…then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

The word “chay” was translated as “life” and “living” in this verse.  God is the source of this life, and therefore life is a spiritual entity that we humans don’t fully understand.  We don’t know how man is conscious or what makes a man truly alive, nor do we have the power to create or revive life in a person.  This power is an attribute of God only.

Death, on the other hand, is associated with this world and was a result of sin.  This world was cursed and death resulted from Adam and Eve’s sin.  It is an indisputable fact that every human being faces an ultimate death, with an unknown aftermath.  The Scriptures state that death is our final enemy.  It states also that the devil has the power of death, and has held humans in bondage due to their fear of death.

“..that through death He (Jesus) might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14 & 15)

This choice between life and death is at the center of the Gospel message.  Jesus came to give us eternal life, to free us from the bondage to the fear of death and to remove the power of death from the devil.  I believe that it is critical for us as Christians to understand the entirety of this life and death decision, as well as the underlying philosophies that are associated with each.  We need to know how to enter in, receive, and then walk in the life that Jesus has brought to us, and also understand the death that we have been delivered from, not allowing ourselves to be ensnared again.

I have recently been reading and studying the book of Proverbs in the Bible.  This book was written by King Solomon.  Because Solomon had requested wisdom from God upon his inauguration as King of Israel, rather than requesting riches, or fame, or any other worldly gift, God had ordained that Solomon would be the wises man who ever lived.  There is much to be learned from Solomon’s advice in the book of proverbs.

There were two verses that stood out to me while reading through the book that are very similar and refer to this contrast between life and death:

Proverbs 13:14 “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.”

Proverbs 14:27 “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”

The “teaching of the wise” represents a philosophy or an approach to life.  At the core of this thinking, as made very apparent throughout the content of the book of proverbs is the principle of living for the future, as opposed to living for the present.  The analogy used to illustrate this principle is a farmer’s sowing of seeds and harvesting what is produced by the seeds. The way of life understands that what we sow today will directly affect what we reap in the future.  Sowing good seed produces a bountiful harvest of good crops. Sowing bad seed means that you reap a bad harvest.

The way of death says that the future doesn’t matter, that we should only consider what is important today. This philosophy is reflected in many of today’s popular songs.  I can remember songs from back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s that promoted this thinking, like a song by a group called “The Grass Roots” entitled “Live for today”.  The chorus said “…don’t worry about tomorrow, live for today.”   And another very popular song by Frank Sinatra that says, “Let’s forget about tomorrow, for tomorrow never comes” .  The Beatle John Lennon had a hit song that said, “Whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright…”  The statement that best reflects this philosophy is “let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  The apostle Paul mentions this foolish philosophy thousands of years ago in his letter to the Corinthians, so this way of thinking is nothing new.  This way of death is completely devoid of faith.  The thinking is that we are going to die some day and we don’t know what is beyond that, so let’s get the most out of the time we have now.  It says let’s enjoy ourselves now and not worry about the future consequences, ignoring the reality of a Creator who needs to be honored and respected, ignoring the obvious principles that God has placed within His creation.

It is not enough, though, to recognize that hard work and effort invested now will produce good results in the future, and apply this thinking to the results for this life only.  As the Scriptures affirm, what good is it if we gain the whole world, but then lose our soul?  It is God who has the power to send our soul to eternal condemnation, so it is also critical that we understand the overall spiritual situation. We must also consider the “fear of the Lord” as a part of the thinking for the way of life.  There are many places in the Bible that discuss the understanding of the larger situation, namely, that the Lord will come again and that all men will need to give account of their lives to Him, but I was recently reading the 2nd letter of Peter, and I think the end of the letter says it well:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.  Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter 3: 10-14)

It is clear that we must consider the reality of the future that God has defined for the world, that is that it will be destroyed and is therefore temporary, and that the eternal things are spiritual.  As Peter states above, with this in mind, we must be zealous to walk in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.  This is the proper fear of the Lord that leads to life.

I want to connect the dots here: This way of thinking is a fountain of life!  This way of thinking will protect you from the snares of death!  It will protect you from entering into the bondage from the enemy.  We need to keep our minds aligned with these thoughts.  We need to be mindful of the future hope that we have been promised, and allow the reality of this future hope to motivate our efforts to be found blameless when He returns.

The Israelites at the time of Moses failed to walk in the way of life because they focused more on the set of rules and laws that they needed to follow, rather than exercising their faith towards the spiritual reality of their situation.  Today we have a better promise that has been established by the death and resurrection of Jesus, with the witness of the Bible.  We also have much better teachings from the New Testament writings. The way of life is a way of faith and spirituality.  Recognizing the reality of the temporary condition of the physical world, and the permanence of the future spiritual world is the key to our success and victory as Christians.  Focus on the spiritual reality and severance from the temporary physical world is critical, but the result is a “fountain of life”.

We, as Christians, have chosen this path of life, and we must continue to choose it, strengthening our resolve and commitment towards the spiritual harvest that will come when this world ends and the new heaven and earth is established.  Continue to choose life and good, over death and evil.  Don’t let the lies of the enemy deceive you into thinking as the world thinks, living for today.

The irony is that the world’s approach is supposed to lessen the amount of worry and anxiety in a person’s life by removing the “threat” of future consequences, but the opposite happens.  The way of the world creates more anxiety and more worries.  The way of the world offers no hope beyond this life.  It also shifts the responsibilities and pressures of life to the individual alone, without looking to the Creator for help.  Stress and anxieties are therefore increased.

Find rest and peace in this way.  Be thankful and grateful for God’s mercy and grace.  May the Lord bless you abundantly in your walk with Him.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE.”

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