“You shall also say to this people, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.”’”
All of human existence comes down to choices. We choose whether or not to give heed to our alarm in the morning and so set the stage for whether or not we will be on time to work. We choose what to eat and what to wear and whether to speak or keep silent. Of all the choices we make, the one which is most pertinent; most relevant; most vital to our future is whether we choose the way of life or the way of death.
In the context of this verse, the options were quite literal. God was telling the Israelites that they could either do what He instructed and surrender to the invading king and live or they could rebel against what God had told them to do and fight the invader and die. The situation was also a practical illustration of how losing one’s life could result in gaining one’s life, but that is a topic for another time. In the most literal sense possible, God was offering the people in Jerusalem the choice between life and death. In modern parlance, we call that sort of decision a no-brainer, because it requires no thought at all to see which option we should choose. Many, perhaps most, of the people who heard this message chose death.
The whole situation is a microcosmic illustration of what goes on in the world every day. God’s message of life through Jesus is put out there day in and day out. People hear it. Some choose to surrender and find that surrender is the only way to truly Live. More — sadly, many more choose to rebel and kick and scream and fight. And Die.
In the time this verse was written, the choice was between life and death without capitals. A simple matter of physical consequences. In the parallel of being offered the choice of surrender to God and Life through Christ or Death through our own works, the capital letters comes out to play. We are now dealing spiritual matters. In the first instance, life or death were temporary. In the second, they are permanent.
Every day, there are choices that are between Life and Death. Some are about my words — Will saying this impart Life or will it bring Death? Others are about my action or inaction. Still others are about where I go. Not every decision is between Life and Death, but I need to have my eyes — physical and spiritual — open to discern which choices are between Life and Death and which are not.