By Michael Smith

A Reading from Deuteronomy 30:11-20

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.


Moses could not be clearer in today’s passage from Deuteronomy. As he prepares God’s people to enter the promised land, he tells them that they have a choice. Either they choose life, prosperity, and blessings; or death, adversity, and curses. What kind of choice is that? Who would choose the latter over the former? But we human beings have a habit of becoming distracted, or deceived about our best intentions. It is easy for us to lose our way.

Choosing life requires that daily we love the LORD our God, walk in his ways, and obey his commandments. So far so good. But there are strange gods in the land. Some of the gods we face in our age come in the form of secularism, gods who require that we focus only on the physical and material, and entice us to forsake the spiritual and transcendent. Only if we acknowledge that there is more to reality than what we can see and feel can we come to know the life God holds out for us.

Although God’s warning is clear, one can almost hear the Lord cheering for us to make the right choice: “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

All Saints’, Beverly Hills, Calif.
The Diocese of North Carolina