Joshua had just listed the opportunities and options the Israelites had for worship and service – contrasting the benefits of Jehovah with the other “gods” of the region. In challenging them to make a choice and to stand firm in that choice, he declared that regardless of what others did, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Moses had earlier set before them similar choices; follow God and be blessed or turn away and face hardship, even a curse. That seems simple enough; a choice between life and death, blessings or a curse. He further encouraged them, “…choose life, so that you and your children may live…”, prosperously and effectively as God’s chosen people. Deuteronomy 30:19:20
And yet Israel stumbled and fell repeatedly. If the choices to be made and the decisions to be followed through on were so simple, what was the problem? Baal, Molech, Ashtoreth and all the rest could be enticing as well as dangerous, but like modern advertising those weren’t highlighted. (Or the possibility of doing something outside the norm or even dangerous somehow made them more exciting.) There was a price to be paid to follow Molech, child sacrifice being practiced in his honor; but what was promised in return was prosperity and power. Baal promised victory in battle and influence in the marketplace but demanded strict obedience and sacrifice as well. Ashtoreth, a fertility goddess, enticed men to “commune” with temple prostitutes; promising fertility and fruitfulness in all aspects of life. They didn’t mention the loss of life in war, the bitterness between husband and wife as immorality spread nor the destruction of families as children were sacrificed. As it was, the used and abused were never considered of real import as the newly powerful exercised their “right” to dominate ethically, politically and commercially.
What was wrong with them? Couldn’t they see what was really happening? But wait a minute! Don’t we fall for the same advertising techniques? Cigars and cigarettes aren’t sold by showing people with lung cancer, yet we are tempted to smoke regardless of the statistics showing the truth. We sell sleek fast cars, with a pretty woman or athletic man behind the wheel, not people mangled in a wreck. Snuff and chewing tobacco will never be advertised by mouth or throat cancer patients. Alcohol likewise will never be promoted with close-ups of automobile accidents or testimonials from those dying of stomach cancer, liver disease or heart failure. Yet we are still tempted! Proponents of free love and uninhibited sex ignore the statistics on gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, HIV and AIDS. Not to mention the emotional hardship of realizing one has been used or even abused, particularly avoiding the topic of unwanted, unplanned and unprepared for babies; which often introduces the temptation to use abortion as a contraceptive. And even here, we change the terminology of personhood to soothe and facilitate this “choice.” Babies become embryos and fetal tissue; unwanted and easily discarded. Not shown are the dismembered bodies and burned skin of those babies who are surgically removed and chemically induced to abort. Nor are we shown the emotional distress many women experience after making this choice; often made under financial and emotional distress and peer pressure.
Alongside these rather profound choices and the impact of the decisions made, the seemingly mundane issues of whether we lie, cheat, gossip, steal or take advantage of people seems inconsequential, but in fact have life-long consequences to the people we deal with in these ways.
How about salvation and our Christian walk? Do we choose to be followers of Christ, or does he choose us? After we become his do we choose to follow his will or does that just come naturally? Paul says bluntly, “…you are weak in your natural selves.” Rom.6:19 But Paul wasn’t merely being critical or vindictive. He freely admitted his own struggles, saying that often, “I don’t understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” He attributed this confusion to his sinful nature, realizing that,”…I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” He had discerned a common failing in all or us. “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight I God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind…” This from probably the premiere Christian of his age or any other! It was he who declared, “What a wretched man I am!” Romans 7:14-25 He worked, he struggled, succeeding often but failing on occasion as well.
The flip-side to having choices is making well thought-out, intelligent, “Christian” decisions. Choices are what we want and get excited about. They are important and you should explore all your options at this point in your life. But the decisions you make as a result of reflection and study – or with flippant disregard – will often influence what you do for the rest of your life. The excitement we have over the multiplicity of choices often enticing us to consider inappropriate, even hurtful things; making us vulnerable to the influences of the “world” and its decision-making processes.
Check back next week for more on this challenge to choose wisely.
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