03 The Choice of Life and Death

UNIT #: 
I
Lesson Theme: 
Loving God and keeping His commandments
Aim: 

1) Covenants are made by God 2) Freedom of man to choose Life or Death 3) How to Love our Lord

Bible Passage: 

Please use Deuteronomy 29 for reference.

Deuteronomy 30:1-20

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

God’s Fidelity Assured

30 When all these things have happened to you, the blessings and the curses that I have set before you, if you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, and you and your children obey him with all your heart and with all your soul, just as I am commanding you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, gathering you again from all the peoples among whom the Lord your God has scattered you. Even if you are exiled to the ends of the world, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will bring you back. The Lord your God will bring you into the land that your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it; he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.

Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on the adversaries who took advantage of you. Then you shall again obey the Lord, observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10 when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

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. 12 It 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?” 13 Neither 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?” 14 No, 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. 16 If 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. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I 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. 19 I 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, 20 loving 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.

Teacher’s Preparation: 
  • Covenants: Depending on one’s perspective many biblical verses can be classified as covenants. Palestinian covenant is chosen to illustrate the objectives of this lesson. Encourage students to read the Bible references of other covenants in their daily devotion, over a week.
  • Encourage students to reflect on loving their Lord
  • Prepare for activities using practical situations of students
Main Ideas: 

St. Augustine (Aurelius Augustine) was born in Northern Africa (Present day Algeria) in 354 AD to a pagan father (Patricius) and a devout Christian mother (later. St. Monica). Augustine went to study in the city of Carthage at the age of sixteen. In Carthage he was drawn to pagan ideas, theatre, and various sins of impurity. From the age of seventeen Augustine maintained a relationship with a woman whom he never married. He had a son from this relationship. During these times he learnt about Greek philosophies such as Platonism. Subsequently, he was attracted to a heretical philosophy called Manichean theology. None of these ideas gave him peace of mind. By the age thirty, Augustine left Carthage for Rome and then to Milan in Italy. All these years his mother Monica was praying for his conversion to Christianity. He gave up his mistress on Monica’s insistence. But, began a relationship with another woman.  At Milan, Augustine got attracted to Bishop Ambrose for his oratorical skills.  Gradually, Augustine became interested in the Christian messages itself and began reading the epistles of St. Paul. Augustine became a believer and was baptized at the age of 32. Ten years later he became Bishop of Hippo. Augustine became a prolific writer and his treatises on subjects such as Grace, the Trinity, the Soul, Sacraments and other became authoritative works on Christian theology. “The confessions”, is his autobiography and is the first known autobiography in history.  
Augustine realized that he was following the path of sin or death and chose life by becoming a follower of Christ. God blessed him abundantly by magnifying his talents of oration and writing. His autobiography and other works led people to truth and God. He was declared a saint of the Church in the 14th century.

Bible Exposition

Covenants
The word covenant is repeatedly used in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. It is an agreement, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified. Biblical covenants are always initiated by God. God in his mercy and love instructed or decreed His people or creation to honor these covenants in order to have life. God has warned that the rewards of disobedience of the covenants are curses or death.  
 
Some of the biblical covenants
At various times in the biblical history of man, God assures his blessings of protection, mercy, kindness and warns of punishments. You have learnt about Noahic covenant (Genesis 9: 12-16) and Abrahamic covenant:  Genesis chapters 12-16 in junior classes. Some of the other covenants are Mosaic Covenants (Genesis, chapters 17, Exodus chapters 19-24, 34:28 and Deut.5:6-22), Palestinian covenant (Deut: chapter 29 and 30: 1-20), Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7: 12-13) and New Covenant (Jeremiah 31: 1-34)

Palestinian covenant
Palestinian covenant is part of Mosaic covenants and it is also called the land covenant because Moses gave these commandments just before the Israelites were to get possession of the Promised Land Canaan. These covenants are described in Deuteronomy chapters 28, 29 and 30. God made this covenant with Israel while they were in Moab waiting to go into the Promised Land, and the covenant would serve this new generation of Israelites as a reminder of their special covenant relationship with God.

Deuteronomy chapter 30:1-20 can be taken as a summary of the Palestinian covenant. Moses reminds the Israelites as follows:
1.    you can choose Life or Death (blessings or curse - Deut: 30:15 &1)
2.    these commandments are not too hard for you, neither is it far off....but the word is near you; it is in your heart, so that you can do it (Deut: 30: 11-14)
3.    you can obey His commandments by loving the Lord your God (Deut: 30:2&16)
4.    you will perish and will not live long if your heart turns away from the Lord and his commandments (Deut: 30:17&18)

The Palestinian Covenant presupposes that Israel will fail to keep the Mosaic Covenant. In the event of such failure, God promises the following, if they sincerely turn to God:
•    Have compassion on Israel
•    Free Israel from enslavement
•    Re-gather Israel, from all parts of the earth, into their own land
•    Circumcise Israel's Heart such that their love and obedience of God will be perfect

Blessings and curses
The history of the people of Israel is replete with cycles of blessings and punishments. We see that the nation of Israel prospered during the times of Kings like David and Solomon. Whereas, during the time of King Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem and exiled most of the people to Babylon.  When they turned their heart to God, Israel was returned from captivity during the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. Many a times, God judged Israel’s enemies and destroyed them. Thus, we see a God who delights in blessing the people. We know that Israel as a nation rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah and was once again cursed and cut off from the land when the Romans conquered Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Freedom of choice
In the Palestinian covenant, Moses reminds the people that they are free to choose life or death. This is similar to the freedom of choice Adam and Eve had and they chose curse or death. They lost their dominion and fellowship with God.

All of us have the freedom to do good or bad in our daily life. Every day we are encountering choices in our life situations. Some examples of these choices are:  watch good movies or bad ones; browse good or bad internet sites; whether to be kind to a fellow student/neighbor; whether to ignore a person or listen; whether to attend a church service and so forth. Every day we make our choices without much consultation with our Lord and continue to live our lives. We are not thinking about the consequences of our choices. God’s covenants teach us that we are choosing a blessing or curse whenever a choice is made between good and bad. Perhaps, these consequences are not visible immediately, as in the case of King Uzziah. However, it will affect our inner state of mind and our well being. It is true that we get an inner satisfaction and sense of joy when we sincerely love or help another person. Whereas, we feel disgraced after a sinful thought or deed; Not only we indulge in sinful deeds but also we pretend that nothing out of ordinary has happened! When we do something good, the Holy Spirit will strengthen us to do greater things that are pleasing to our Lord.

Loving the Lord
The Palestinian covenant demands devotion to our Lord God with all heart and soul. God demands whole hearted love. That is a love with all heart and soul (Deut: 30: 2 & 16). Half hearted love is not love. The supreme example of love with full heart and soul is found in Jesus Christ when he obeys the Father on the cross.

Have you ever thought or asked the question: Do I love my Lord? Most of us think the opposite.  God is love and He is my Father and therefore it is His responsibility to keep me safe and sound and grand my needs and even luxuries. If we do not get our needs or luxuries in time we turn away from the Lord and keep unhappy and start seeking other Gods. In Mark 12: 28 -31 we read a conversation between a Scribe and Jesus. Jesus is teaching him that the most important of the commandments is that “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength”.

Loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is very burdensome. It involves great sacrifice. All dimensions of life have to bear this concept of sacrificial love as Jesus’. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is requesting the Father to remove the agony of the cross; Immediately, Jesus submits in prayer and says ‘not my will but yours’ and got empowered to say “it’s finished” on the cross. This is the love and obedience model we should emulate.  When we seek our Lord, we should seek Him with a pure mind, concentrating on him, praising him with all our heart and soul. We have to devote our best for the Lord and do the things that please Him with all our strength. Then, we realize that the job or business we do in this world is for the glory of His name. And, we will begin to love others as ourselves. We will keep more and more of His commandments with full heart and soul and thus become friends of our Lord (If you love me, you will keep my commandments John 14:15).

Activities: 

Lesson Review: 

A. True or False:
1) Covenant is an agreement between two or more persons (True/False)
2) Palestinian covenant is also called land covenant (True/False)
3) Biblical covenants are made by man (True/False)
4)  If you love God, you will not obey His commandments (True/False)

B. Short Answers:
1)    Give the names of 5 Old Testament covenants?
2)    Summarize Palestinian covenant. Write a short answer giving 5 points
3)    Give two examples of punishments the people of Israel suffered due to their disobedience of the covenants

C. Essay Question: 500 words
Write an essay on the choices of Life and Death in Palestinian covenant
a) Introduction, the time and setting
b) Discuss the covenant, expectations of the Lord
c) Loving the Lord with all heart, soul and might
d) God has given freedom of choice
e) Conclusion

D. Group discussion or role playing

1)   Discuss the freedom of choice – its meaning and implication in your life
Examples: Telling the truth or a lie; opportunity to steal or restore a found item; opportunity to  give comfort to a sick person in public transit by offering your seat; praise somebody on  his/her achievement or keeping silence.
2)   You are going through a suffering like a fractured leg or waiting for a risky surgery. Can you choose to be happy or keep a complaining face and heart?
3)    What does loving your Lord mean in your life? When you are giving a birthday gift to your friend, are you giving the best gift possible? Are you thinking of that friend’s likes or dislikes before choosing a gift? Do you consider Jesus as your friend? Are you considering the likes and dislikes of Jesus before you do something for Him?

Values for Life: 

The Lord has sent us to this world. He is asking us, what will we choose today? Life or Death.

Life Response/My Decision: 

Let us love God fully, obey His commandments and choose life

Memory Verse: 

“If 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.” Deut. 30:16 (NRSV)

Closing Prayer: 
  1. Lord, I love you (Please remember to say this to your Lord in all your prayers).
  2. I love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
  3. You are my best friend. Please help me to continue this friendship forever. I will try my best to keep your covenants with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
  4. Please give me the grace to consult you before I make choices.
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