Tuesday of Epiphany 6 – Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

The Kakapo is a strange flightless bird, related to parrots. It now only lives on a few Islands off the coast of New Zealand. The article I saw suggested that there are critically endangered, only about 250 adults remain. Bound by gravity, they can never soar. The closest they get is climbing a tree, but they must laboriously claw their way up every step. You can watch a short video about them, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3a88_SjJR0

I bring them up because in truth we rather resemble them as human beings and it is important to notice this when we hear these words from Moses today. He urges us to choose life and good, not evil and death. It all sounds like a proper exhortation until you try it. Then you will discover it is a little like urging the kakapo to fly. He can climb the trunk of the tree, ascending a little way. I can work hard, train my body and mind, I can rid myself of a few sinful things here and there, but I cannot really become good that way and I cannot escape this death to which I am doomed. What is Moses doing here?

The wise reader of Scripture will notice context. These words come at the very end of the Exodus, on the plains of Moab, just as Joshua is about to lead them into the promised land. God has led them through the Red Sea, fed them on manna every day for 40 years. They have drunk water from the rock and followed God’s pillar of fire and cloud through the wilderness. Great kings have already fallen before their armies as God miraculously saved them. Moses is not speaking to flightless birds here, but to people whom God has already visited with His grace and love.

You can choose life and good today. You can do that because God has touched you in baptism, called you in the Gospel, and sustained you in the community of His people. He has given you the wings to fly this way, no longer constrained by the sin of the Fall. Yes, choose life and good today. Be a light and a blessing to all you meet. Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20) and that is possible through Him.

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