Expository Sermon from Deuteronomy | Life and Death | Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Life and Death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

As I’ve told you before, my earliest memory is of a tornado coming through the subdivision where I grew up. I vividly recall the terror and my dad’s looking for victims. I suffered from nightmares about tornadoes as a kid, and, if I have a nightmare now, 9 out of 10 times a tornado is destroying everything, and I’m trying to take cover. Some people suffer from the fear of spiders or snakes or flying or enclosed spaces—not I, it’s tornadoes.

It probably doesn’t surprise you, therefore, that 3 weeks ago, when the National Weather Service gave this area a 3 out of 5 probability for strong, long-track tornadoes, I paid attention. After lunch, I almost closed the office, but Peggy and I had things to do, so I didn’t—I just paid attention to the alerts.

When forecasters issued a tornado emergency—not just a tornado warning—for Deer Park, I sprang into action. Peggy was working in the World Bible School room, and I ran and told her it was time for action. She called Jimmy and I called RJ to make sure they took cover.

But Peggy and I needed to decide what to do. We’re not the sharpest tools in the shed, and we almost did the worst possible thing: get in our cars and drive home (you do not do that in a tornado). When we opened the office door, we knew it was too late to go home. If I had driven home, I would very likely have driven right through the tornado, and my car would have been thrown like a toy.

Peggy and I took cover in the handicap bathroom. But the bathroom has an exterior wall—this building doesn’t have an interior room and its made out of metal. My wife told me that I will not be in this building the next time there’s a threat of strong tornadoes!

On January 24, each of us had a possible life and death decision to make—where we were going to take shelter.

But you’ve made many more life and death decisions than hiding from a tornado, haven’t you? Did you ever find a lump somewhere on your body and go see a doctor to get it checked out? Have you ever heard about a strong hurricane coming this way and decide to leave town? Did you ever get in your vehicle and decide to wear your seatbelt and to drive safely? Did you ever go to the beach and decide not to wade into the water too far away from shore?

The Israelites faced a life and death decision. The Promised Land lay before them, and Moses neared his death. Therefore, Moses put God’s word before the people; he told them to reject idols and sin. Instead, the people should choose God. There’s a message there for us, too: “You must choose life in God.

Scripture (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

verse 15:

Moses presented the people with “life and good, death and evil.” Moses did not mean eternal life and eternal death. Instead, Moses meant “life and good” as enjoying divine blessings, and he meant “death and evil” as suffering divine curses.

The people had to choose their course—would they choose God and obtain “life and good,” or would they neglect God and incur “death and evil.” God would not force them to choose him, but the people could freely choose for themselves.

verse 16:

If they chose God, the people would obey the Lord in three ways:

They would love the LORD their God.

In the Old Testament, loving God meant following him with a single-minded devotion, to make God the sole focus—the center—of one’s life. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5).

They would walk in God’s ways.

“Walking” in Scripture refers to one’s lifestyle; walking in God’s ways would be a God-centered life.

They would keep God’s commandments and his statutes and his rules.

The one who follows God with a single-minded focus will obey “God’s commandments and his statutes and his rules.”

Should the people honor God, he would bless them in the Promised Land.

verses 17-18:

If the people didn’t want to choose God, they could turn their hearts away and serve pagan deities. If they did, God would curse them—they would perish and not live long in the land.

verses 19-20:

Moses called upon heaven and earth to witness this covenant. In the Ancient Near East, people would write down a list of gods who had witnessed a covenant or treaty. Here, Moses called upon the creation of Almighty God to witness the covenant.

Moses urged the people to choose a long life in the land God had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


You must choose life in God.” You might be thinking, “Justin, of course, I have chosen God—that’s why I’m here this morning, that’s why I give generously, that’s why I serve others, and that’s why I’m seeking to lead people to Jesus.” That’s great, and God sees your devotion.

But God also sees your heart. What does God see in your heart? Look deep in your heart and ask yourself, “Have I really—with everything I have—chosen God?”

You can choose God and choose life, or you can ignore God and choose death. In Deuteronomy, life was divine blessings and death was divine curses in this life. But your choice is eternal life or eternal death. At the end of the age, the wicked “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt 25:46). Will you choose eternal life or eternal punishment?

How can you really choose God and life? The Israelites who chose God would respond in 3 ways, and I suggest you respond in those 3 ways.

One: Love the Lord.

The Israelites could choose God by loving God (Deut 30:20), which meant making him the center of their lives. You must do likewise: When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matt 22:37-38).

Make God your life’s focus. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Give God honor above everything and anyone else.

What place does God have in your life? Does God have priority over your marriage? Does God have priority over your finances? Does God have priority over your career? Does God have priority over your recreation? Does God have priority over your possessions? What place does God really have in your life?

Two: Live for the Lord.

The Israelites were to live for the Lord by obeying God’s voice (Deut 30:20). If you want eternal life, you must obey God. Jesus said so: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). If you want life, you must choose God by doing his will.

You cannot substitute obedience to God with anything else. The Sanhedrin commanded Peter and John not to preach in Jesus’s name, but they didn’t stop. When the Sanhedrin called them in again, Peter and John said, “We must obey God” (Acts 5:29). You also must obey God—there is no other way.

How is your obedience to God? Do you set aside your own desires to do what God commands? Do you obey God with your time? Do you obey God with your possessions? Do you obey God with your mind? Do you obey God with your body? Do you obey God with your talents? What place does obedience to God really have in your life?

Three: Loyal to the Lord.

The Israelites were to be loyal to God by holding fast to him (Deut 30:20). In other words, they were to choose God and never let him go.

You, too, must be loyal to the Lord; some folks choose God and then decide to choose the world again. You cannot do that! “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:62). “My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:38).

You understand why you must be loyal, don’t you? Whoever turns back faces a far worse hell than one who never came to Jesus: 2 Peter 2:20-22.

Look at your life. Are you allowing yourself to backslide or are you remaining loyal to the Lord?


Let me tell you why I decided to be a preacher: Because there is nothing more important in all the world than helping people prepare for eternity. The words I preach every Lord’s day are a matter of life and death. If the Lord tarries, we shall all die, but shall you live eternally after this life?

What will it be for you: Will it be life or will it be death?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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