Just before Moses died, he brought one last word from the Lord to the people of Israel:
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If 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. . . . I call heaven and earth to witness today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19)
This challenge should remind us that, underlying all the little choices we make daily, each of us is living out a basic life choice we make to affirm or deny the destiny God created us for. In last Sunday’s Bible lesson from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, we heard him use three striking metaphors for this choice:
- The Wide Gate and the Narrow Gate (7:13-14),
- The Tree with Bad Fruit and the Tree with Good Fruit (7:16-20),
- The House Built on Sand and the House Built on the Rock (7:24-29).
Essentially, Jesus was saying what God had said through Moses more than a millennium earlier – Choose life!
There are many other ways this basic life choice has been expressed. One of these seems to have roots in teachings of the Cherokee tradition. The story is told of a young man who was brought before the tribal council because of some displays of angry and aggressive behavior. One of the elders took the young man aside and said, “I understand your anger, because we all have two wolves inside of us, one good and peaceable, the other evil and angry. They are in constant battle against each other, because neither is strong enough to destroy the other.” The young man asked the elder, “If the wolves are of equal power within me, which one will win?” The elder’s simple answer was, “The one you feed.”
And here’s an interesting poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919):
One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.
Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
‘Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.
You may not think you’re saying No to God in your life, but maybe you’re feeding the wrong wolf. Maybe you’ve set your soul to gather the energy from the wind of the world rather than from God’s Holy Spirit. It’s not too late to Choose Life!
— Pastor George Van Alstine