One of the things that has always made me happy has been hiking in the mountains. Being up in nature, feeling the sunshine on your face, the wind blowing through your hair, that piny mountain air, its great. Now there are some hike that you can go on that are nicely carved out, glaringly which way they are, really groomed trails with railroad ties for stairs in the steep parts and rocks lined up beautifully so that you don’t get lost. And they are other trails where you walk from trail marker to trail marker, from landmark to landmark trying not to get lost. Most trails that you are on though will break off to another trail. Again depending on where you are sometimes there will be a nice brown sign with deeply carved letter that say what is down that trail and how far, “Dragonfly falls 1.9 miles” and sometimes there is just a trail. No sign. No way of knowing which way you should go, so you have to make a decision. The paths are going to lead you to different places. You aren’t sure what the final destination is, but you must choose a path.
It’s a pretty easy jump to see the metaphor that this has for our lives. There are so many decisions that we face. There are many different paths that we have to decide which one should we go down. Our Lesson for today is from Deuteronomy. It is Moses speaking to his people. Moses has been leading the children of Israel for 40 years now. He has been their leader for a long time and he realizes that his time with the is coming to an end. So he makes this speech near the end of his career.
He knows that once he is gone he is going to be able to lead them any more. He is going to turn over the leadership to his apprentice Joshua. He is going to be able to tell the what choices to make. He isn’t going to be able to teach them more. And even though he isn’t going to be around these people. He loves them. He wants what is best for them. So he does what a good leader with a clear vision can do. He tells them about two paths that are right in front of them and that they are going to encounter over and over again. And he tells them exactly where each of these two paths lead. Let me read these 5 verses for you again from Deuteronomy 30.
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.
One path that leads to life and prosperity, one path that leads to death and destruction. That seems like the easiest choice there is. If I said when you exit church this morning everyone who exits out the door to the right will be walking toward life and prosperity and everyone walking out the other door will be walking toward death and destruction, I don’t think that anyone would walk out one of those doors. With those two choices there is no choice. You know where you want to go. You know what you want to avoid. It’s easy. So what’s the problem?
Why is it so hard for so many people to make the right choice? Why do so many people know what God wants them to do and then do something else? Why do we do that? Why do we walk along a wrong path?
There was a reason why Moses had to give this lesson to his people. It’s not like they hadn’t been taught it before. You think about what those children of Israel had seen. They had been rescued from Egypt through 10 amazingly powerful acts by God, and even while Moses was up on Mount Sinai just a few months after they had been rescued from slavery, they built golden calves to worship. They woke up every morning and had food literally from heaven. They were given water in the desert over and over and over again. God had blessed them and lead them through literal life and death situations over and over again and sustained them in the harshest of environments, and they kept doubting him. They kept looking at the path that God had placed before them and comparing it to the path that the world and their sinful nature was calling them down and they kept choosing the wrong path.
Which happens. It happens to us all the time. We have this sinful nature in us. That from the time we are born hates God. It hates anyone telling us what to do. It hates anyone telling us that we are wrong. It hates someone telling us which way to go even if it is the best way for us to go. And if God says go this way, this little voice in us says nope I am going the other way. That sinful nature, or old Adam as we sometimes call it, he stays at it. He keeps trying to persuade us to take the wrong path. Don’t go the way that God wants you to go, go the way you want to go. Life and prosperity, death and destruction. There are only two ways to go.
We look at the way to death and destruction, and it is full of fleeting happiness. Quick thrills, excitement as we lie and manipulate people, high risk that gets our heart pumping, living a life away apart from God seems like this easy down hill trail that is going to make everything in our life easy.
And the path that God lays out before us. We read our Gospel lesson for today,
You have heard it said you shall not murder, I tell you that anyone who calls his brother a fool is a murderer.
Do you want to have being a murderer on your conscience because you insulted someone?
Or you have heard it said that you shall not commit adultery, I tell you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart?
Adulterer, Murderer, Sinner! This is the lie. The world tries to convince you that if you walk away from God. If you walk away from his path. If you stop keeping his commands, and just walk so far away from him that you can’t hear what his word clearly says to you then you won’t be these things anymore. If no one accuses you, if no one convicts you, then you are free to do what ever you want! Living in a world without rules and laws, and guilt and shame where we can just chose whatever path we want is the false advertising on this path that leads only to destruction.
Because here is the thing. All paths lead to God. All paths of our life, from all places and all times all lead to us standing in front of our God on the last day as he sits on his judgement throne. You can’t sneak around that. You can’t hide in the mountains or under the sea on that day. There is no path in this life that is going to lead you away from your judge.
And our God has created one narrow path to avoid destruction. And the way down that path is just to follow him. This Bible that we have is a guidebook that teaches us how to follow our God. How to hold firm to the faith that he has freely given to us. How to avoid the pitfalls of this life. How to overcome the dark valleys and the tough climbs. How to rely on him to carry our heavy burdens as we keep trekking to our home. Because it is the only path that will lead you to heaven. If you are crossing a big rope bridge across over a deep valley with a big river at the bottom, you have to go across that bridge, you can’t walk near to bridge or around the bridge, you have to use the bridge it’s not only way. The same is true with our path to heaven. It’s Jesus and only Jesus.
Even though we are sinners, even though we have hurt people, or had impure thoughts, or gone down the wrong path from time to time, our God has brought us back here and placed us back on the right path. And he encourages you to stay on it. See this path that he has set out for you. Listen to his word. Hear what he commands. Follow him so that you and your children will live forever. It’s not a choice between seeing a water fall or a glacier, it's literally a life or death choice that God has given.