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Sermon Outline

Present Truth in Deuteronomy
Choose Life
Lesson #8 for November 20, 2021
Scriptures:Genesis 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; 10:6-10; 1 John 5:12; Deuteronomy 4:19; 30:1-20; Revelation 14:6-12.
1. Always, it’s a sad story: a young person, in this case a 22-year-old woman, diagnosed with a deadly disease. Brain tumor. Even with all the marvels of modern medicine, nothing could be done until the inevitable. But this young woman, “Sandy,” didn’t want to die.
So, she had a plan. After she died, her head would be put in a deep freeze, into a vat of liquid nitrogen, in hopes of preserving her brain cells. And there it would wait, fifty years, one hundred years, a thousand years, until sometime in the future, when technology had advanced enough so that her brain, composed of neural connections, could then be uploaded into a computer. And yes, Sandy could “live” on, maybe even forever.
Sad story, not just because a young person was going to die but because of where she put her hope of life. Like most people, Sandy wanted life, wanted to live. But she chose a path that, in the end, surely won’t work.—Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Sabbath, November 13.
2. In this lesson we will discuss the choices placed before Adam and Eve and also before the children of Israel as well as the encouragement by God to choose life over death.
3. We did not have the opportunity to choose to be born. That choice was not in our hands. Who was the only Human Being in history that was able to choose His parents? Jesus! What do you think of His choices? (See Matthew 1.)
4. Even Adam and Eve did not choose to be created. We may have existence as they did and life as they did because God has made us free, rational beings, able to choose. Review what the Bible teaches about the history of the entrance of sin.
Genesis 2:8-9,15-17: 8 Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the East, and there he put the man he had formed. 9He made all kinds of beautiful trees grow there and produce good fruit. In the middle of the garden stood the tree that gives life and the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad....
15Then the LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it. 16He said to him, “You may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, 17except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do, you will die the same day.”—American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Genesis 2:8-9,15–17). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].‡
5. For those of us who accept all of Scripture, it is important to recognize that Revelation 12 talks about events that happened before the story of Adam and Eve. Notice these very interesting words from Ellen White about that time.
In the midst of Eden grew the tree of life, whose fruit had the power of perpetuating life. Had Adam remained obedient to God, he would have continued to enjoy free access to this tree and would have lived forever. But when he sinned he was cut off from partaking of the tree of life, and he became subject to death. The divine sentence, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” points to the utter extinction of life.—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy* 532.3-533.0.†
6. Satan actually believed that there was some magic in the tree of life and that if he and his angels could deceive Adam and Eve and get them to sin, then he and his followers might be able to get access to the tree of life, rule this world, and live forever!
His [Satan’s] followers were seeking him; and he aroused [31] himself and, assuming a look of defiance, informed them of his plans to wrest from God the noble Adam and his companion Eve. If he could, in any way, beguile them to disobedience, God would make some provision whereby they might be pardoned, and then himself and all the fallen angels would be in a fair way to share with them of God’s mercy. If this should fail, they could unite with Adam and Eve; for when once they should transgress the law of God, they would be subjects of God’s wrath, like themselves. Their transgression would place them also, in a state of rebellion; and they could unite with Adam and Eve, take possession of Eden, and hold it as their home. And if they could gain access to the tree of life in the midst of the garden, their strength would, they thought, be equal to that of the holy angels, and even God himself could not expel them.—Ellen G. White, Spirit of Prophecy,* vol. 1, 30.4.†‡ Story of Redemption* 27.3-28.0.¶ Compare Signs of the Times, January 16, 1879, par. 13; Teachings about Angels 50.2.
7. Right from the beginning, God wanted Adam and Eve to choose life. Those two trees in the Garden of Eden presented an existential choice: Choose life, and live forever; or, choose sin, and die and disappear completely.
8. It is interesting to notice that the tree of life mentioned in the early chapters of Genesis is also mentioned inRevelation 2:7 and inRevelation 22:2,14.
Revelation 2:7: “If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!
“To those who win the victory I will give the right to eat the fruit of the tree of life that grows in the Garden of God.”—Good News Bible.*†
Revelation 22:2,14: 2 ... Flowing down the middle of the city’s street. On each side of the river was the tree of life, which bears fruit twelve times a year, once each month; and its leaves are for the healing of the nations....
14 Happy are those who wash their robes clean and so have the right to eat the fruit from the tree of life and to go through the gates into the city.—Good News Bible.*†
9. How are we opting either for life or for death every day by our choices?
10. In what sorts of ways do our daily activities and choices affect our decision for life or death? When we make selfish choices each day, we are following the example of Satan; but, when we make loving choices, we are following the example of Jesus. Collectively, these choices influence the way we make future choices, including the final choice for life or death.
11. Why is it that the Bible seems to present only two options: Life or death? Notice these verses from Scripture.
John 3:16: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”—Good News Bible.*
Genesis 7:22-23: 22Everything on earth that breathed died. 23The LORD destroyed all living beings on the earth—human beings, animals, and birds. The only ones left were Noah and those who were with him in the boat.—Good News Bible.*
Romans 6:23: For sin pays its wage—death; but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.—Good News Bible.*
Romans 8:6: To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace.—Good News Bible.*
1 John 5:12: Whoever has the Son has this life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.—Good News Bible.*
12. What does it mean to choose the Son?
13. We are not given the option of sitting on the fence. There is no middle ground. We either choose life, or we choose death. We choose death by choosing to ignore or refuse God’s offer of life. What will we choose? Ultimately, that answer rests with us. So, what evidence do we have from Scripture about the final end of sin and sinners?
Obadiah 15-16: 15 “For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you.
Your dealings will return on your own head.
16 Because just as you drank on My holy mountain,
All the nations will drink continually.
They will drink and swallow
And become as if they had never existed.”—New American Standard Bible: 1995 update.* (1995). (Obadiah 15–16). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.†
Malachi 4:1-3: The LORD Almighty says, “The day is coming when all proud and evil people will burn like straw. On that day they will burn up, and there will be nothing left of them.... 3On the day when I act, you will overcome the wicked, and they will be like dust under your feet.”—Good News Bible.*†
14. Deuteronomy 30, our main section for study for this week, suggests that even when we are disobedient and refuse to listen to God, He will still come after us and seek to benefit us if we will repent and return from our evil ways. (SeeDeuteronomy 30:15-20.)
15. Will we choose life, goodness, and blessing? Or, will we choose death, evil, and curses? In actual fact, when we choose Satan’s way, we lose our ability to choose.
16. But, given the straightforward presentation of life or death, who would not choose life over death? It seems so obvious. So, why do so many people choose to rebel against God?
17. To Seventh-day Adventists who have a more-nearly-complete understanding of the great controversy between good and evil, and more specifically, between God and Satan over the character and government of God, when we study the book of Deuteronomy, it might be puzzling to realize that Moses did not mention anything about the Devil in that book. Why do you think that is?
18. However, Moses did make a clear connection between love–the very basis of God’s government–and obedience.
Deuteronomy 30:15-20: 15  “Today I am giving you a choice between good and evil, between life and death. 16If you obey the commands of the LORD your God, which I give you today, if you love him, obey him, and keep all his laws, then you will prosper and become a nation of many people. The LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are about to occupy. 17But if you disobey and refuse to listen, and are led away to worship other gods, 18you will be destroyed—I warn you here and now. You will not live long in that land across the Jordan that you are about to occupy. 19I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life. 20Love the LORD your God, obey him and be faithful to him, and then you and your descendants will live long in the land that he promised to give your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”—Good News Bible.*†
19. But, Deuteronomy 30 does not start out with talking about promises from God.
Deuteronomy 30:1-10: [Moses reminded the children of Israel:] 1 “I have now given you a choice between a blessing and a curse. When all these things have happened to you, and you are living among the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you, you will remember the choice I gave you. 2If you and your descendants will turn back to the LORD and with all your heart obey his commands that I am giving you today, 3then the LORD your God will have mercy on you. He will bring you back from the nations where he has scattered you, and he will make you prosperous again. 4Even if you are scattered to the farthest corners of the earth, the LORD your God will gather you together and bring you back, 5so that you may again take possession of the land where your ancestors once lived. And he will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your ancestors ever were. 6The LORD your God will give you and your descendants obedient hearts, so that you will love him with all your heart, and you will continue to live in that land. 7He will turn all these curses against your enemies, who hated you and oppressed you, 8and you will again obey him and keep all his commands that I am giving you today. 9The LORD will make you prosperous in all that you do; you will have many children and a lot of livestock, and your fields will produce abundant crops. He will be as glad to make you prosperous as he was to make your ancestors prosperous, 10but you will have to obey him and keep all his laws that are written in this book of his teachings. You will have to turn to him with all your heart.”—Good News Bible.*†‡
20. God knows what is coming. He understands the condition of human hearts. However, He offers promises of His love and care if they will simply return to their allegiance and obedience to Him. Shouldn’t that have been a very comforting thought? What do you suppose those who were going off into Assyrian or Babylonian captivity thought about these verses? Then, God went the extra step and said:
Deuteronomy 30:11-14: 11  “The command that I am giving you today is not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12It is not up in the sky. You do not have to ask, ‘Who will go up and bring it down for us, so that we can hear it and obey it?’ 13Nor is it on the other side of the ocean. You do not have to ask, ‘Who will go across the ocean and bring it to us, so that we may hear it and obey it?’ 14No, it is here with you. You know it and can quote it, so now obey it.”—Good News Bible.*
21. In ancient times, it was believed that different portions of the earth, even different individual countries, were given different gods to rule over them. It was believed that if one was taken into captivity in another country, s/he might have to worship the god of that country in order to get one’s prayers answered. This would pose a great problem for those already in captivity. But, God made it very clear inDeuteronomy 30:11-14 that He is always present; He is always with us. It is not necessary to send an emissary to bring God back to us.
22. Do we understand clearly God’s will for us? Do we understand fully what it would mean to cooperate with Him in every detail of our lives? What impact might that have on us?
As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.—Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons* 333.1.†
All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.—Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages* 668.3.†
23. As we know from reading Romans 9-11, Paul had a real burden for his Jewish compatriots. So, he chose to repeat the promises from Deuteronomy 30 to the Jewish Christians.
Romans 10:6-10: 6But what the scripture says about being put right with God through faith is this: “You are not to ask yourself, Who will go up into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down). 7 “Nor are you to ask, Who will go down into the world below?” (that is, to bring Christ up from death). 8What it says is this: “God’s message is near you, on your lips and in your heart”—that is, the message of faith that we preach. 9If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved. 10For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved.—Good News Bible.*†
24. Once again, we note that the only role that we can play in salvation is choosing to follow God in faith and obedience. So, what should be included in our following of God? What does it mean to worship Him? We have already noted in previous lessons that God is One; there is no other God. And He rejects the idea of any rivals. So, how do we explain this?
Deuteronomy 4:19: 19Do not be tempted to worship and serve what you see in the sky—the sun, the moon, and the stars. The LORD your God has given these to all other peoples for them to worship.—Good News Bible.*†
25. This is another evidence that the book of Deuteronomy does not recognize a second supernatural force or being. Whatever happens that is beyond the ability of man to accomplish was assumed to be done by the gods; we humans cannot fully understand what the gods are doing. That was the thinking of the people Moses was dealing with. God was not suggesting that He had given the sun, moon, stars, and other so-called gods to other nations to worship. He simply said that was what they themselves had chosen to do.
Deuteronomy 8:19: “Never forget the LORD your God or turn to other gods to worship and serve them. If you do, then I warn you today that you will certainly be destroyed.”—Good News Bible.*
Deuteronomy 11:16: “Do not let yourselves be led away from the LORD to worship and serve other gods.”—Good News Bible.*
Deuteronomy 30:17-19: 17 “But if you disobey and refuse to listen, and are led away to worship other gods, 18you will be destroyed—I warn you here and now. You will not live long in that land across the Jordan that you are about to occupy. 19I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life.”—Good News Bible.*†
26. What was the attraction of those other so-called gods? Was there ever any evidence that worshiping any of those gods had benefitted their worshipers? Would the real God ever allow Satan to bless his followers in any way? Like beating their enemies? Could that happen today? The religion of the fertility-cult gods used prostitutes, both male and female, to attract followers. Does that happen today?
27. Once again, notice these very clear comments.
Deuteronomy 4:24: “... Because the LORD your God is like a flaming fire; he tolerates no rivals.”—Good News Bible.*†
Deuteronomy 5:9: “Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, for I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.”—Good News Bible.*†
Deuteronomy 6:15: “If you do worship other gods, the LORD’s anger will come against you like fire and will destroy you completely, because the LORD your God, who is present with you, tolerates no rivals.”—Good News Bible.*† [What was the thinking of the other nations about Israel’s God?]‡
28. When reading verses like these from Deuteronomy, it is absolutely essential to understand that God’s anger or God’s wrath is simply His turning away in loving disappointment and grief from those who do not want Him anyway, thus, leaving them to the inevitable and awful consequences of their own rebellious choices.
Revelation 13:1-15:  1Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads; on each of its horns there was a crown, and on each of its heads there was a name that was insulting to God. 2The beast looked like a leopard, with feet like a bear’s feet and a mouth like a lion’s mouth. [Compare the beasts inDaniel 7:4-7.] The dragon gave the beast his own power, his throne, and his vast authority. 3One of the heads of the beast seemed to have been fatally wounded, but the wound had healed. The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast. 4Everyone worshipped the dragon because he had given his authority to the beast. They worshipped the beast also, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it?”
5 The beast was allowed to make proud claims which were insulting to God, and it was permitted to have authority for 42 months. 6It began to curse God, his name, the place where he lives, and all those who live in heaven. 7It was allowed to fight against God’s people and to defeat them, and it was given authority over every tribe, nation, language, and race. 8All people living on earth will worship it, except those whose names were written before the creation of the world in the book of the living which belongs to the Lamb that was killed. [This is the proof of God’s foreknowledge.]
9  “Listen, then, if you have ears! 10Whoever is meant to be captured will surely be captured; whoever is meant to be killed by the sword will surely be killed by the sword. This calls for endurance and faith on the part of God’s people.”
11 Then I saw another beast, which came up out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb’s horns, and it spoke like a dragon. 12It used the vast authority of the first beast in its presence. It forced the earth and all who live on it to worship the first beast, whose wound had healed. 13This second beast performed great miracles; it made fire come down out of heaven to earth in the sight of everyone. 14And it deceived all the people living on earth by means of the miracles which it was allowed to perform in the presence of the first beast. The beast told them to build an image in honour of the beast that had been wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15The second beast was allowed to breathe life into the image of the first beast, so that the image could talk and put to death all those who would not worship it.—Good News Bible.*†‡
29. After reading Revelation 13, is it clear to you why God responds as He does inRevelation 14:6-12? We Adventists believe that that is our main message to the world.
30. What could cause almost everyone on this earth to worship the Devil and/or his earthly associates? In our day, what do people worship? What would cause communists, atheists, evolutionists, Muslims, Hindus, etc. to worship any common being or thing? A pandemic? Notice that our Bible study guide takes us to Revelation to bring in the great controversy which is not really mentioned in Deuteronomy.
31. There is one thing we need to notice in looking at the great controversy in these passages in Revelation 13&14: God does not use force. The Devil will use force if he can possibly get away with it. But, God never uses force. God only attracts with love.
The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened. To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan. This work only one Being in all the universe could do. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known. Upon the world’s dark night the Sun of Righteousness must rise, “with healing in His wings.”Malachi 4:2.—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages* 22.1.†
32. Are we as Seventh-day Adventist Christians inclined to worship any other gods? What kind of god might we worship in our day? Remember that whatever we considered to be of greatest worth to us could be our “god”!
33. It is important to notice that even if someone were to choose to rebel against God, that one will not end up suffering eternal torment or in a never-ending lake of fire!
“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”Romans 6:23. While life is the inheritance of the righteous, death is the portion of the wicked. Moses declared to Israel: “I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.”Deuteronomy 30:15. The death referred to in these scriptures is not that pronounced upon Adam, for all mankind suffer the penalty of his transgression. It is “the second death” that is placed in contrast with everlasting life.—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy* 544.1.†
34. In that connection, consider this question: Does God directly punish those who rebel against Him? Even now in this life? Or, does He just allow consequences to take effect? Or, could it be both?
35. It is very interesting to notice that when she was asked repeatedly about the General Conference session held in 1888, Ellen White finally gave us this information:
The law of ten commandments is not to be looked upon as much from the prohibitory side, as from the mercy side. Its prohibitions are the sure guarantee of happiness in obedience. As received in Christ, it works in us the purity of character that will bring joy to us through eternal ages. To the obedient it is a wall of protection. We behold in it the goodness of God, who by revealing to men the immutable principles of righteousness, seeks to shield them from the evils that result from transgression.
We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death.—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages,* Book 1, 235.1-2.†
36. That 1888 General Conference session was probably the most important general conference ever held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
37. Have you ever sat down and thought what is implied by the fact that God calls upon you to choose life instead of death? He is the Commander. Is the call inDeuteronomy 30:19 to “choose life” still applicable to us as individuals?
38. God calls on witnesses to determine and watch to see whether or not His people are going to remain faithful and obedient to Him. And who were those witnesses? Who would God call on to be His witnesses?
Deuteronomy 30:19: “I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life.”—Good News Bible.*†
39. So, what have we learned in this lesson about the great controversy and how it should impact our individual lives? Since the beginning of human history, we have struggled as a human race between choosing God or choosing His enemies. We do not have the option of choosing some middle ground, including some of God and some of Satan or someone else. Just as there were only two trees “of choice” in the Garden of Eden, there are only two choices. Life or death is at stake.
God, however, does not force them. They have before them two ways: life and death. This is their prerogative–to make a choice. Moses is simply showing them the good reasons that the way of life is the right choice, and he urges them to make that choice. The solemnity of this appeal is–as in the ancient covenant treaties–supported by witnesses who guarantee the validity of the covenant. In this instance, the witnesses are cosmic–“heavens and earth”–as if the fate, the salvation of the world, was at stake. If Israel fails to make the right choice, the whole project of the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of the world, is compromised.—Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 107.†
40. Why does God challenge us to choose Him? Wouldn’t it have been better if He just made it obligatory that we choose Him? Would we be willing to give up our freedom and our ability to choose? Without freedom there is no opportunity for love!
Someone said that the difference between the philosopher and the biblical prophet is that the philosopher makes you think, while the prophet makes you choose.—Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 107.†
41. Is God asking too much of us?
Man lost all because he chose to listen to the deceiver rather than to Him who is Truth, who alone has understanding. By the mingling of evil with good, his mind had become confused, his mental and spiritual powers [107]benumbed. No longer could he appreciate the good that God had so freely bestowed.—Ellen G. White, Education* 25.3.
Genesis 3:22: Then the LORD God said, “Now the man has become like one of us and has knowledge of what is good and what is bad. He must not be allowed to take fruit from the tree that gives life, eat it, and live for ever.”—Good News Bible.*
42. What is wrong with wanting to be like God? And what does it mean to be like God, “knowing good and evil” or “what is good and what is bad”?
The only way to know good and evil is not, as the serpent said, to know (experience) the evil and the good, but to know only the good. Indeed, as soon as humans knew evil, they lost their capacity to discern between good and evil, and hence the sense of the “good” (see Jacques B. Doukhan in Genesis, SDA International Bible Commentary; seeGen. 3:22).—[as quoted in Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 108].‡§
43. Choosing God is always right! That is true simply because there is no other real God. (Deuteronomy 32:39) So, to make God a permanent choice is something that will impact our lives and everything that we do.
44. What about the puzzling expression inDeuteronomy 32:39, “I kill and I make alive”? We all recognize that God is the one who makes alive. But, what about the killing? In ancient Hebrew expression, it was common to talk about two opposites with the intention of implying everything in between. When God said, “I kill and I make alive,” He was essentially saying that He was responsible for everything, both living and dying. It was a way in Hebrew to signify monotheism.
45. We are totally dependent upon God for every breath.
The physical organism of man is under the supervision of God; but it is not like a clock, which is set in operation, and must go of itself. The heart beats, pulse succeeds pulse, breath succeeds breath, but the entire being is under the supervision of God. “Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” In God we live and move and have our being. Each heart-beat, each breath, is the inspiration of him who breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life,–the inspiration of the ever-present God, the Great I AM.—Ellen G. White, Review and Herald,* November 8, 1898, par. 13. SDA Bible Commentary,* vol. 1, 1081.6.¶
46. What has the totality of choices accomplished in your life? Can you turn to God and say that you choose Him every day in your activities? If not, what can we do to change our thinking and our living?
© 2021, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. †Bold type is added. ‡Text in brackets is added. §Italic type is in the source. ¶Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only. [email protected]
Last Modified: October 30, 2021
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