Lent Devotion for March 17
Reader: “What I am commanding you today,”
Response: “is not too difficult for you.”
SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 30:11–20
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Reader: "The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
In this chapter, Moses concludes his instructions regarding how the children of Israel are to live in the land, which God is giving them. The first sentence above is almost comical. It’s almost as if Moses is needling them a bit. What I’ve said is not too difficult…even you can understand it! It’s not ethereal, abstract, or mystical. It’s not complex. It doesn’t need to be translated or interpreted by some brilliant theologian. It’s not an idea from a faraway place, distant culture, or so deep in the sea that it is an irretrievable mystery. The plain truth is on your lips and in your heart. In other words, it is so straightforward and simple even you can speak it. It’s planted in your heart so you can respond. It’s a heart matter. There is no ambiguity regarding what I’ve said or mean. The choice is simple; will you do it? Will your hands and lips respond in obedience and receive a blessing as a result? Will you live out the Shema and choose life by following the commands, decrees, and regulations and receive life and blessing in the land as a result? Or, will you choose death and curses and troubles and destruction? You and I read Moses’ charge to the people and wonder how anyone could be so rebellious as to reject life and blessing, yet we do it all the time. We too are stiff-necked, stubborn people, all too often preferring short-term pleasure where we do what we want to do and reject God’s ways. Moses knew these people quite well having led them forty years. Chapter thirty-one is a heavy chapter. Moses predicted that with his death, they would reject God and follow the ways of the pagans in the land they were about to enter, eventually and sadly, his predictions came true. He wrote the instructions for godly living down in a book and left it with them to read…you are reading it! Choose life!
"He Watching Over Israel” by Felix Mendelssohn, Mormon Tabernacle Choir (Watch on YouTube)
Eternal God, who hast caused us to live in a world of mystery, where many difficulties and uncertainties and temptations surround us, suffer us not to be cast down nor dismayed, but keep alive in each one of us hope and trust in thee, that our lives may indeed reflect thy peace, and we may be used in the service of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- from Prayers for Sunday Services, p.49