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Exhortation to Choose Life

11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 14No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If 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. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

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The Advantages of Revelation. (b. c. 1451.)

11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.   12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?   13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?   14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

Moses here urges them to obedience from the consideration of the plainness and easiness of the command.

I. This is true of the law of Moses. They could never plead in excuse of their disobedience that God had enjoined them that which was either unintelligible or impracticable, impossible to be known or to be done (v. 11): It is not hidden from thee. That is, not send messengers to heaven (v. 12), to enquire what thou must do to please God; nor needest thou go beyond sea (v. 13), as the philosophers did, that travelled through many and distant regions in pursuit of learning; no, thou art not put to that labour and expense; nor is the commandment within the reach of those only that have a great estate or a refined genius, but it is very nigh unto thee, v. 14. It is written in thy books, made plain upon tables, so that he that runs may read it; thy priests' lips keep this knowledge, and, when any difficulty arises, thou mayest ask the law at their mouth, Mal. ii. 7. It is not communicated in a strange language; but it is in thy mouth, that is, in the vulgar tongue that is commonly used by thee, in which thou mayest hear it read, and talk of it familiarly among thy children. It is not wrapped up in obscure phrases or figures to puzzle and amuse thee, or in hieroglyphics, but it is in thy heart; it is delivered in such a manner as that it is level to thy capacity, even to the capacity of the meanest." 2. "It is not too hard nor heavy for thee:" so the Septuagint reads it, v. 11. Thou needest not say, "As good attempt to climb to heaven, or flee upon the wings of the morning to the uttermost part of the sea, as go about to do all the words of this law:" no, the matter is not so; it is no such intolerable yoke as some ill-minded people represent it. It was indeed a heavy yoke in comparison with that of Christ (Acts xv. 10), but not in comparison with the idolatrous services of the neighbouring nations. God appeals to themselves that he had not made them to serve with an offering, nor wearied them with incense, Isa. xliii. 23; Mic. vi. 3. But he speaks especially of the moral law, and its precepts: "That is very nigh thee, consonant to the law of nature, which would have been found in every man's heart, and every man's mouth, if he would but have attended to it. There is that in thee which consents to the law that it is good, Rom. vii. 16. Thou hast therefore no reason to complain of any insuperable difficulty in the observance of it."

II. This is true of the gospel of Christ, to which the apostle applies it, and makes it the language of the righteousness which is of faith, Rom. x. 6-8. And many think this is principally intended by Moses here; for he wrote of Christ, John v. 46. This is God's commandment now under the gospel that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, 1 John iii. 23. If we ask, as the blind man did, Lord, who is he? or where is he, that we may believe on him? (John ix. 36), this scripture gives an answer, We need not go up to heaven, to fetch him thence, for he has come down thence in his incarnation; nor down to the deep, to fetch him thence, for thence he has come up in his resurrection. But the word is nigh us, and Christ in that word; so that if we believe with the heart that the promises of the incarnation and resurrection of the Messiah are fulfilled in our Lord Jesus, and receive him accordingly, and confess him with our mouth, we have then Christ with us, and we shall be saved. He is near, very near, that justifies us. The law was plain and easy, but the gospel much more so.

15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;   16 In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.   17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;   18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.   19 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:   20 That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest 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.

Moses here concludes with a very bright light, and a very strong fire, that, if possible, what he had been preaching of might find entrance into the understanding and affections of this unthinking people. What could be said more moving, and more likely to make deep and lasting impressions? The manner of his treating with them is so rational, so prudent, so affectionate, and every way so apt to gain the point, that it abundantly shows him to be in earnest, and leaves them inexcusable in their disobedience.

I. He states the case very fairly. He appeals to themselves concerning it whether he had not laid the matter as plainly as they could wish before them. 1. Every man covets to obtain life and good, and to escape death and evil, desires happiness and dreads misery. "Well," says he, "I have shown you the way to obtain all the happiness you can desire and to avoid all misery. Be obedient, and all shall be well, and nothing amiss." Our first parents ate the forbidden fruit, in hopes of getting thereby the knowledge of good and evil; but it was a miserable knowledge they got, of good by the loss of it, and of evil by the sense of it; yet such is the compassion of God towards man that, instead of giving him to his own delusion, he has favoured him by his word with such a knowledge of good and evil as will make him for ever happy if it be not his own fault. 2. Every man is moved and governed in his actions by hope and fear, hope of good and fear of evil, real of apparent. "Now," says Moses, "I have tried both ways; if you will be either drawn to obedience by the certain prospect of advantage by it, or driven to obedience by the no less certain prospect of ruin in case you be disobedient—if you will be wrought upon either way, you will be kept close to God and your duty; but, if you will not, you are utterly inexcusable." Let us, then, hear the conclusion of the whole matter. (1.) If they and theirs would love God and serve him, they should live and be happy, v. 16. If they would love God, and evidence the sincerity of their love by keeping his commandments—if they would make conscience of keeping his commandments, and do it from a principle of love—then God would do them good, and they should be as happy as his love and blessing could make them. (2.) If they or theirs should at any time turn from God, desert his service, and worship other gods this would certainly be their ruin, v. 17, 18. Observe, It is not for every failure in the particulars of their duty that ruin is threatened, but for apostasy and idolatry: though every violation of the command deserved the curse, yet the nation would be destroyed by that only which is the violation of the marriage covenant. The purport of the New Testament is much the same; this, in like manner, sets before us life and death, good and evil; He that believes shall be saved; he that believes not shall be damned, Mark xvi. 16. And this faith includes love and obedience. To those who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honour, and immortality, God will give eternal life. But to those that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness (and so, in effect, worship other gods and serve them), will be rendered the indignation and wrath of an immortal God, the consequence of which must needs be the tribulation and anguish of an immortal soul, Rom. ii. 7-9.

II. Having thus stated the case, he fairly puts them to their choice, with a direction to them to choose well. He appeals to heaven and earth concerning his fair and faithful dealing with them, v. 19. They could not but own that whatever was the issue he had delivered his soul; therefore, that they might deliver theirs, he bids them choose life, that is, choose to do their duty, which would be their life. Note, 1. Those shall have life that choose it: those that choose the favour of God and communion with him for their felicity, and prosecute their choice as they ought, shall have what they choose. 2. Those that come short of life and happiness must thank themselves; they would have had it if they had chosen it when it was put to their choice: but they die because they will die; that is, because they do not like the life promised upon the terms proposed.

III. In the last verse, 1. He shows them, in short, what their duty is, to love God, and to love him as the Lord, a Being most amiable, and as their God, a God in covenant with them; and, as an evidence of this love, to obey his voice in every thing, and by a constancy in this love and obedience to cleave to him, and never to forsake him in affection or practice. 2. He shows them what reason there was for this duty, inconsideration, (1.) Of their dependence upon God: He is thy life, and the length of thy days. He gives life, preserves life, restores life, and prolongs it by his power though it is a frail life, and by his patience though it is a forfeited life: he sweetens life with his comforts, and is the sovereign Lord of life; in his hand our breath is. Therefore we are concerned to keep ourselves in his love; for it is good having him our friend, and bad having him our enemy. (2.) Of their obligation to him for the promise of Canaan made to their fathers and ratified with an oath. And, (3.) Of their expectations from him in performance of that promise: "Love God, and serve him, that thou mayest dwell in that land of promise which thou mayest be sure he can give, and uphold to thee who is thy life and the length of thy days." All these are arguments to us to continue in love and obedience to the God of our mercies.