In Deuteronomy 30:19–20, we find one of Scripture’s most direct communications regarding the choices we make and God’s will for His people: “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20, NLT).
As Moses nears the end of his ministry, he counsels God’s people to choose life. He outlines the way to do this: “Love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life” (Deuteronomy 30:20). Moses reviews the terms of the covenant, explaining to the people of Israel that walking in a covenant relationship with God means making a radical decision to commit themselves wholly to the Lord and His ways (see Exodus 19:3–9; Joshua 24:15–24). To choose the Lord is to choose life.
Choose life indicates that people have a choice, a decision to make. We choose life by choosing God. When we respond to the Lord in faith, love, and obedience, we receive life eternal. Under the Old Covenant, Israel received life abounding with all God’s goodness and physical blessings (Deuteronomy 11:26; 30:2–10; 15; Psalm 21:4–6). Under the New Covenant, believers in Christ receive abundant life (John 10:10; Ephesians 1:3–14).
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). We choose life when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and dedicate ourselves to following Him. He becomes our life (Colossians 3:4). The Lord gives His followers “a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, NLT). Our obedience to God brings life now in all its fullness, as well as life eternal (John 17:3; Psalm 16:11). But disobedience results in the greatest curse of all—death and destruction now and forever (Matthew 7:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:8–9; Hebrews 2:2–3).
The life God offers—the life Israel was to choose—was lived out in worship of God, in purity, justice, fairness toward the weak and poor, and through obedience to all the instructions Moses had laid out. Choosing life was choosing the Lord’s way above their own. Any other choice would lead to tragedy and death.
The call of Moses to choose life was not only about obeying rules. It was a call to the heart: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12; see also Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:13–14). Jesus issued this same call as the first and greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37–38).
Loving the Lord is the first step in choosing life. When we love the Lord, we desire to know Him intimately. We hear His voice and follow (John 10:3, 27). One feature of the relationship between a shepherd and his flock is that sheep always recognize their shepherd’s voice. As we get to know the Lord intimately, we become aware that He is our Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20). Whenever we might be tempted to turn away to the right or the left, our Shepherd is there, telling us the right way to go (Isaiah 30:21). We will obey and follow the voice of the Lord because we know and trust Him deeply.
We choose life when we choose God, who is the giver and sustainer of life (Acts 17:25). The Bible says God breathed the breath of life into humans (Genesis 2:7). Since our lives are a gift from God (Psalm 139:13; Acts 17:28), our highest aim ought to be living for Him. Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:39, NLT). We choose life by letting go of selfish desires and living for His sake. Then we can say like the apostle Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).