Old Testament: Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (Epiphany 6: Series A)

Reading Time: 3 mins

Obviously, the choice is very black and white: good or evil; life or death; blessings or curses...Unfortunately, the actions of the people will speak louder than their words.

The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the fifth book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. The text is Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and is really quite straight forward. Moses is coming to the close of his big speech to the people of Israel. Soon he will hand over the reins to Joshua and the LORD will take him away to be buried in a secret place. Previously, Moses has been outlining all the LORD has done for them, especially as they journeyed from Egypt, through the wilderness to the banks of the Jordan River overlooking the land of Canaan. The words of our text are very clear… make a choice, decide!

Obviously, the choice is very black and white: good or evil; life or death; blessings or curses. Of course, the answer is almost rhetorical. Unfortunately, the actions of the people will speak louder than their words. It is important to remember how in all this the people are not making a, “decision for God!” They have already been brought into the covenant BY the love of God! Now, they are called upon to walk in that covenant and faithfully walking in the ways of the LORD brings blessings while being unfaithful and following other paths brings curses.

Due to the simple nature of our text I have provided the first half of a sermon I prepared following the exegetical notes.

30:15 רְאֵה> (re-Eh) Qal, imperative: “to see”

נָתַתִּי (na-Tat-ti) root: נתן (naw-than) Qal: “to give; to place; to set”

30:16 לְאַהֲבָה. (le-a-ha-Vah) root: אהב (aw-hab) Qal, participle with preposition: “by loving”

30:17 וְנִדַּחְתָּ (ve-nid-dach-Ta) root: נדח (naw-dakh) Niphal: “to allow oneself to be lead astray; to be seduced”

וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתָ> (ve-hish-ta-cha-Vi-ta) root: שׁחה (shaw-khaw) Hishtaphel (the only verb in this form): “to worship”

30:18 אָבֹד תֹּאבֵדוּן (a-Vod toe-Dun) root: אבד (aw-bad) Qal, infinitive construct (repetition gives emphasis): “You shall surely perish”

תַאֲרִיכֻן (ta-a-ri-Chun) root: ארך (aw-rak) Hiphil: “to make long; to prolong”

30:19 הַעִדֹתִי (ha-i-Do-ti) root: עוד (ood) Hiphil: “to invoke; to call as a witness”

הַבְּרָכָה; (hab-be-ra-Chah) “blessing”

וְהַקְּלָלָה (ve-hak-ke-la-Lah) “curse”

30:20 וּלְדָבְקָה (u-le-da-ve-kah) root: דבק (daw-bak) Qal, participle with preposition: “to hold fast; to cling to; to cleave to; to stick to”

וְאֹרֶךְ (ve-O-rech) “length”

Title: Keep Right!

If only I could move to a new town and make a new start—then I would be happy! If only I could change jobs, buy a new home, a new car, find the right mate, get into the right college, have enough money to retire—then I would be happy! If only I had this…if only I could find that…Looking for happiness? Will Rodgers said that now and then he grew tired of the same old surroundings. Then he would wish for a new place to live and work. He would pick some city that sounded attractive, but before he moved, he would subscribe to the local newspaper in that place and read it for thirty days. Rodgers declared he always decided not to move. The news from where he planned to live was no better than the news where he was.

True, isn’t it? We are always looking for a change of direction. After all, happiness, fulfillment is always somewhere else. I grew up on a farm in Southern Iowa where we raised cattle. Every Spring we would move the cattle into the Summer pasture. All Winter they have been in one pasture and the grass and feed are gone—but the Summer pasture was full of fresh, new grass. Yet, it never failed—5 minutes after I let those cattle into this lush pasture with five inches of new grass, they would have their heads through the fence eating dead. Dried up grass in the old pasture! “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence…”

Of course, these are cows—people are not like that—right? Hmmm… We think happiness and fulfillment are right there—on the other side of the fence: Must be better, must be more exciting, must be more entertaining, must be!

Narrowing down even further: Here we are, serving the LORD, walking in His ways, following His paths… is this all there is? Dreary, boring---looks like everyone else is having all the fun, getting all the stuff, reaping the bennies, cashing in! The grass certainly looks greener and we wander off into some strange and ungodly pastures.

From the path of the LORD, from this side of the fence it looks like everyone else has it made… and I want a piece of the action, my share of the pie. And, the only way to get what I think I want is to conduct a taste test of the other pastures.

I have often thought while I was driving around that one of the world’s shortest sermons is found on a traffic sign—“Keep Right.” A traffic sign, and the lesson in our text for today from Deuteronomy—Keep Right! Stay on the paths of the LORD, follow His ways, think His thoughts, speak His words—Keep Right!

The message of our text indeed! God is speaking to the Israelites and tells them to keep right. Now, God loves these people and He wants them to have an opportunity to love Him in return—so He gives them a choice—an easy choice. Choose between life and death, between prosperity or destruction. Well, duh! Obvious! The problem was the Israelites keep getting mixed up. Which path had life and prosperity? Which one is death and destruction? God made it clear, but… dumb cows… I mean us… I mean Israelites!


Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Deuteronomy 30:15-20.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Deuteronomy 30:15-20.