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.”
I am a terrible golfer. I am not ashamed to admit it. I probably hit the links a couple times of year at most. I count it a good day if I only lose a couple of golf balls in a nine-hole outing. I am ashamed to tell you my last score. I was not long into my less than stellar golfing career when I was taught the meaning of the term “Mulligan.” It is effectively a “do-over.” I am not a scratch golfer. I am a mulligan golfer.
This text from Deuteronomy is perhaps the biggest biblical mulligan. The people of God had once come all the way to the edge of the promised land. They had sent in spies and prepared to invade, but the report of the spies scared them. They got cold feet. They turned back. God was not happy at that juncture. You can read about that in Numbers 14. God was ready to kill them all and start over with Moses. Moses talked God out of that option and so, at the end of Moses’ life, we find him here urging the Israelites not to turn away from God again. It is a question of life or death for them, even if they go into the promised land. Without God’s blessings, they will perish.
Seldom do the choices before us get stated in such stark terms. But shouldn’t they? Paul tells us that we have been raised from death to life (Eph. 2:1-10) and that we also face a similar choice between life in the spirit and the death of sin (Rom. 6:22-23). Dwelling in God’s kingdom, we are confronted daily by the kingdom of our enemy and invited to participate. It seems so easy, but it was not for the ancient Israelites, and it is not for us either. The Old Testament is a constant testimony to God’s patient love for a rebellious people. Yes, he visited judgement upon them in Exile, but he also brought them home again. In Christ Jesus he has forgiven all our sins and will still forgive them all tomorrow as well. But the choices you face today, the decisions we all make, are often the choices of life and death. Choose life.